Brutal one last weekend at UFC 286, as we got one bad break after another for our first losing PPV since January. After finishing 2021 and 2022 up +43.9 units, it’s only natural for some regression, and anyone who posts how they win week after week, month after month (sup “Gambling Twitter”) is straight-up lying to you.
As I’ve said before, if that’s what you’re looking for this isn’t the place for you; I’m always going to be transparent about my wins… and losses.
That said, it still f'n sucks.
Since starting the premium version of this newsletter this year, I’ve felt unwarranted pressure to give at least 5+ picks on every card. While I’ll still include at least five write-ups with at least leans, I’m going to start getting pickier on official selections until we can claw back some units. The odds for these fights come out so early now, sometimes by fight week there just isn’t much value left.
As for UFC 286, we got screwed out of the gates with a draw on Klein despite him leading on the scorecard in significant strikes, head strikes, control, and takedowns. Sam Patterson then got straight up KO’d in the opening minutes of his bout, before O’Neill lost a close decision, but indeed got outworked. Dolidze also lost a closer decision, but at nearly +500 odds, I still feel that was the right side.
The Usman fight was also a toss-up, and getting it down to nearly even money with the Nelson parlay, I don’t feel terrible about this one. Leon is a savage, and I shouldn’t have looked past that again, but I can live with that result in a fight that truly could have gone either way,
Premium subscribers, who received a selection on every single fight went 7-5 on the night, just breaking even at +.65 units despite some juicy losses. This week only, due to last week’s shitty performance, I’m offering this one completely for free to give free subscribers a glimpse into what the paid section looks like.
To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Prelims: 4:00 PM EST - ESPN+
Main Card: 7:00 PM EST - ESPN+
This is another quality fight night card away from the UFC Apex, this one completely free on ESPN and live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. At the top, we have a banger of a bantamweight bout between Cory Sandhagen and Marlon Vera, with a women’s bantamweight bout between Holly Holm and Yana Santos serving as the co-main.
Unlike we’ve seen so far this year, we are starting to get more into the meat of the UFC roster, as just two fighters will be making their UFC debut on this card. Let’s dive into a few spots I like on this card.
Manuel Torres vs. Trey Ogden
This was really the first bout that jumped out to me on this card, with it being hard to see a scenario this one goes the distance. Of Torres’ 15 professional fights, only one (not a typo) has gotten out of the first round, as “El Loco” is an empty the gas tank kind of guy. Thus far, that strategy has worked relatively well, as he comes into this fight having won four straight including statement wins in both DWCS and his first UFC fight in May of 2022.
As for Trey Ogoden, don’t let his recent two decision results fool you, as the four previous fights ended inside two rounds himself. At 1-1 in the UFC, Ogden is a split decision away from being on a five-winning streak, and if we can weather the first-round storm, I think actually has the edge in this fight.
For me, this plays out one of two ways; Torres gets another first-round finish, or Ogden outlasts him and takes him to the ground for the choke in the later two rounds. While I lean toward Trey Ogden, the play here is this one ending inside the distance.
Pick: Goes to Decision - No (-220 at BetUS) to risk 1.5 units
Steven Patterson vs. Lucas Alexander
In what was one of the best fights of 2022, Steven Peterson lost a split decision vs. Julian Erosa, stopping a two-fight win streak in the process. Now 3-4 in his time with the UFC, I think Patterson is being discounted here given he hasn’t strung together a string of wins since joining the promotion.
He should be able to here, however, drawing a fighter in Alexander who dropped his UFC debut in October to a guy in Joanderson Brito who got all over him early. While he admittedly did take that fight on short notice, Brito isn’t a guy that should have dominated him as he did.
I think also hurting here is Alexander’s relative inexperience at this level, with just 10 professional fights and just one in the UFC. Add in Peterson fighting in front of his family and friends at home in Texas, and I have this number well over -200.
Pick: Steven Peterson (-180 at BetUS) to risk 3.6 units
Chidi Njokuani vs. Albert Duraev
A pair of 34 year old middlweights will go at it to open up the main card, and I like for Chidi Bang Bang to pull this one out. Only joining the UFC last year, Njokuani already has some big wins, with first round victories over both Marc-Andre Barriault and Dusko Todorovic in dominating fashions.
We are probably getting him at a discount in this spot given the last time we saw him was a second round loss to Gregory Rodrigues, a savage in his own right who was 4-1 in the UFC at the time.
For Duraev, an opening UFC-bout win over Roman Kopylov was overshadowed by a June loss to Joaquin Buckley, a fight he got pieced up in before a doctor stoppage at the end of the second round.
The metrics also heavily skew to Njokuani, who through three fights (and two for Duraev), doubles up his opponent in knockdown average, significant strikes landed per minute, and significant striking accuracy. Though the ground game would be somewhere I’d worry about Njokuani, his 4” size advantage should help prevent takedowns as this fight carries on.
Pick: Chidi Njokuani (-165 at DraftKings Sportsbook) to 1.65 units
Holly Holm vs. Yana Santos
Fresh off a staggering six-fight extension by the UFC, 41-year-old Holm will begin one final march toward the top of the bantamweight division with a tough fight against Yana Santos. With just one fight since 2020 (controversial split decision loss to Ketlen Vieri), Holm has been relatively inactive over the past couple of years.
Even still, when we saw Holm in 2020, she knocked off Raquell Pennington and Irene Aldana, both by decision, but both convincingly. Decenton the ground, Holm is a boxer at heart, and ascended to the top of the division because of her striking skills first and foremost.
Coming into this one, Holm’s age disadvantage I think is cancelled out by the ring rust Santos is dealing with. Taking time away from the octagon for the birth of her child, we haven’t seen Santos fight in nearly two years, and when we did, it wasn’t pretty.
On the undercard of UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3, Santos was knocked into oblivion in the first round by Irene Aldana, halting a two fight winning streak in its tracks. While she’s a tough veteran who does a lot of things well, I can’t see Santos matching Holm’s pace and think she loses this one by a unainomous decision as Holm largely picks her spots.
Lean: Holly Holm by Decision
Marlon Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen
I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile, as it pits a pair of top-five bantamweight against one another with the winner likely getting a title shot later this year or early next. Starting with Sandhagen, despite being only 30 years old he’s a veteran of the UFC, having joined in 2018 and racking up a record of 8-3 in the time since.
While he’s shown flashes throughout, he’s always been level short, losing to the division’s best in Aljamain Sterling, TJ Dillashaw, and Petr Yan; all former champions. A very well rounded fighter, Sandhagen does everything well, but nothing at an elite level. In fights that have gone over three rounds, Sandhagen is just 1-2.
That worries me against a guy in Vera who may have the best cardio in the promotion.
Also just 30, Vera is also a veteran of the UFC, going 14-6 under the banner since joining in 2014. Struggling somewhat early in his career, Vera has been on a run since 2020, going 5-1 since losing to Yadong Song in May 2020, picking up wins against Sean O’Malley, Rob Font, and Dominik Cruz (former champion) in the process.
With a combined 31 fights in the UFC between them, I’m also leaning on the metrics here. While he trails slightly in significant striking volume, Vera leads in knockdown average, submission average (3x), takedown accuracy (2x), and takedown defense.
While I probably wouldn’t touch this if it were three rounds, I think a five round fight skews this towards Vera as he wins a close one taking Sandman into deep waters.
Pick: Marlon Vera (+140 at DraftKings Sportsbook) to 1 unit
BMP of the Week (Beer Money Parlay) sponsored by BetUS
Tamires Vidal + Preston Parsons + Tucker Lutz + Andrea Lee (+1652)
Manuel Torres/Trey Ogden - Goes to Decision - No (-220 at BetUS) to risk 1.5 units
Steven Peterson (-180 at BetUS) to risk 3.6 units
Chidi Njokuani (-165 at DraftKings Sportsbook) to 1.65 units
Lean: Holly Holm by Decision
Marlon Vera (+140 at DraftKings Sportsbook) to 1 unit
*All odds as of the day of posting.
Unsure about something you see above? Check out the FAQ to likely find your answer or reach out on Twitter.
All Fights - Picks w/ Confidence Levels & Modeled Odds
YTD Record: 67-40 (63%)
Rough week again Johnny. It’s a cruel game bro