After Leon shocked the world, Cyril Gane put on a show for his fans in Paris, and Nate Diaz rode off into retirement after submitting Tony Ferguson. The UFC stays in Vegas for a 14-fight card headlined by Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong. After an exciting few weeks, the UFC continues to roll, bringing us a main event built around strikers who can bang! Sandhagen has been to the top of the mountain and challenged for the vacant belt against Petr Yan, and although he came up short, UFC fans respected him for his incredible performance.
In the other corner is Yadong, who has been in the UFC since 2017 and is ready to challenge himself against his toughest test. This event may not have the star power that the previous fight weeks had, but it has the potential to be great.
I will be breaking down the main card fights and giving you my best bets. I will also break down the prelims and provide my best bets as well. All of the odds used for this article are from BetMGM Sportsbook.
Sandhagen vs. Song Odds
Cory Sandhagen (-190) vs. Song Yadong (+155)
Two of the top bantamweight fighters in the world face off in the main event this weekend when Song Yadong steps into his first five-round fight in the UFC. The only other time he was in a five-round fight was on the regional scene in 2016. In the other corner enters the sandman Cory Sandhagen, who returns to the Octagon after visiting the division's top and experiencing fights against former champions Petr Yan and Tj Dillashaw.
Oddly enough, even though Yadong has more fights on his record, he has yet to challenge for a belt. After making his debut at 19 in 2017, the Kung Fu Kid is ready to re-introduce himself to UFC fans and make history as the first Chinese male fighter to headline a UFC event. Song presents a tough challenge for Sandhagen in the form of a striker who is very aggressive, powerful and calculated. Song is very traditional in how he moves and fights but can, at times, get into trouble by brawling and having confidence that his power will prevail during an exchange.
Song has paths to victory, but he fights more in the moment and takes what is given to him, whereas Sandhagen takes a more scientific approach. Sandhagen tries to predict where his opponents will be to find a finish like he did to Frankie Edgar with a perfectly timed knee, or like he did to Marlon Moraes with a perfectly timed wheel kick.
All of the advantages go to Sandhagen in this fight, as he has five-round fight experience and a three-inch height and reach advantage. Cory opened as a -200 favorite and currently sits as a -190 favorite. Song opened as a +165 underdog and presently sits as a +155 slight underdog.
As much as I love Song as a fighter in this match, I have to go with Sandhagen to lean on his advantages and keep Song at the end of his punches and kicks. I expect this fight to be fantastic for as long as it lasts and ultimately expect Sandhagen to get back into the win column after two gut-wrenching defeats.
Bet: Sandhagen in Rds 4, 5, or Dec. -120
Njokuani vs. Rodrigues Odds
Chidi Njokuani (-120) vs. Gregory Rodrigues (-102)
The co-main event features two juggernauts in the middleweight division who can end a fight at a moment's notice. Although they may possess the same type of power in their strikes, they differ in how they approach their fights. Njokuani averages 3.76 significant strikes landed per minute, while Gregory averages nearly double at 6.00 significant strikes landed per minute.
Still, Chidi is more effective, as he lands 76% of the time with accuracy, while Gregory only lands with 55% accuracy. That is still good but doesn’t leave much room for error. Rodrigues also averages 2.47 takedowns per 15 mins, but he will be up against the 76% takedowns defense of Njokuani.
A path to victory for Gregory depends on if he can get this fight to the ground and mix in his takedowns with his strikes, because if he decides to stand and bang with Njokuani, it could end badly. Njokuani also has a five-inch reach advantage and a wealth of experience, as he’s been a pro since 2007, and I suspect he has seen his share of “robocops” in his career.
This fight is pretty much a coin flip with the bookmakers, and I’m going to side with violence here and say that this fight doesn’t make it out of the first round, and Chidi gets his hand raised.
Bets: Njokuani ML -120 / Njokuani vs. Rodrigues u1.5 Rds +105
Fili vs. Algeo Odds
Andre Fili (-130) vs. Bill Algeo (+110)
Two fighters with similar styles, height, and reach, Algeo and Fili differentiate themselves when it comes to the pace and output that each possesses.
Algeo averages 13 mins of fight time while landing 5.73 significant strikes per minute. He is also accurate 54% of the time and defends slightly over 50% of takedown attempts. Algeo fights with a lot of confidence, and his most recent fights show that he’s more than durable and capable of getting out of terrible spots. Against Jo Anderson Brito, he was an underdog and people thought Brito would walk through him. But after surviving the first round, Algeo turned the tide and dominated the rest of the fight.
Fili, on the other hand, suffered a much different fate when fighting Brito, as he was knocked out in the first round and the first fight of his new four-fight contract. Fili averages 3.82 significant strikes per minute but at a low accuracy rate of 36%. Where he makes up for it, though, is on the ground, where he averages 2.83 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 50% accuracy rate.
From a betting perspective, I don’t judge Fili based on a flash knockout in his last match, and I’ve never been a fan of MMA math as every fight is different. When you fight with 4-ounce gloves, anything can happen. I can see this fight being a close one where each fighter wins a round and goes into the third tied 1-1. In the third, the more experienced and well-rounded fighter will prevail, and I believe that to be Andre Fili.
Bet: Andre Fili ML -130
Amendovski vs. Pyfer Odds
Alex Amedovski (+350) vs. Joseph Pyfer (-500)
UFC newcomer Joseph Pyfer makes his official UFC debut after setting the tone for this season's Contender Series. After winning by KO on the Contender Series, Dana White went viral after telling future contenders that if they wanted a shot in the UFC, they would need to fight like Pyfer. Pyfer is 9-2-0 and makes his debut after getting a contract on the Contender Series. Pyfer has never seen the third round, and in this matchup against Alex Amedovski, I don’t expect him to see past the first round.
Amedovski has also never seen the third round and won most of his fights by stoppage. But since joining the UFC, he has yet to get a win and has been knocked out in two of three fights. Both fighters average slightly over five minutes of fight time, and Pyfer averages 3.45 significant strikes landed per minute compared to Amedovski, who averages a shockingly low 0.55 significant strikes landed per minute.
This fight will be chaos from the sound of the bell, and I expect Pyfer to leave with his hand raised when the dust settles.
Bet: Pyfer in Rd.1 -120 / Pyfer by KO/TKO -165
Boser vs. Nascimento Odds
Tanner Boser (-165) vs. Rodrigo Nascimento (+140)
The second fight on the main card features two heavyweights with very different styles and approaches. Boser is not your typical heavyweight and is undersized in most matchups, but he makes up for it with movement and speed that other heavyweights do not possess.
In this matchup, Boser is the same height as Nascimento and averages 4.23 significant strikes per minute while only absorbing 2.16 strikes. Nascimento averages slightly more at 5.46 significant strikes per minute but absorbs four times the amount of strikes that Boser does at 6.14.
Nascimento has been with the UFC since 2019 after getting his contract on the Contender Series. After two fights in 2020, Nascimento beat Dontale Mayes in his debut and then lost in his second match by knockout. Boser doesn’t possess one-punch knockout power, but with enough pace and volume, I believe he will do enough to overwhelm Nascimento and eventually find a finish or win unanimously.
Bet: Boser ITD (+125)
Hernandez vs. Barriault Odds
Anthony Hernandez (-175) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (+145)
The main card begins with two fighters who don’t necessarily excite fans because of their flashy head kicks or movement. These guys excite fans because they like to apply pressure and never take a step back while doing so.
An example is their output, as Hernandez averages 4.63 significant strikes per minute, and Barriault averages slightly more at 5.79. They also don’t mind taking a punch to give a punch, as Hernandez absorbs nearly four strikes per minute, and Barriault absorbs five per minute.
They differ most in their fight approach, as Hernandez implements a grapple-heavy style that keeps his opponents up against the fence and eventually onto the mat, where he lands vicious ground-and-pound or looks for his signature guillotine choke. Hernandez averages 5.43 takedowns per 15 minutes, while Barriault averages a mere 0.39 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Barriault is powerful and defends takedowns 68% of the time, and the longer this fight goes, the more it favors Hernandez. Because I see Hernandez having slightly more tools in his belt, I’m going to side with him to win by sub or decision. Barriault has only been stopped once in his career, and Hernandez does exhibit some power, but his bread and butter is on the ground, and I can see him taking that path to victory.
Bet: Hernandez by Sub or Dec. -135
Jackson vs. Sabatini Odds
Damon Jackson (+155) vs. Pat Sabatini (-190)
In the featured prelim of the night, Damon Jackson faces off against Pat Sabatini, easily one of my favorite fighters in the UFC and on this card. Usually, when two grapplers fight in the Octagon, they have a striking match because they respect each other's ground game.
In this matchup, I don’t see that being the case, as Sabatini will be looking to grapple from the sound of the bell. A good indication of that is how he only averages 1.03 significant strikes per minute but averages nearly triple the takedown attempts per 15 minutes at 3.84. Jackson only averages 2.04 significant strikes per minute but averages almost three takedowns per 15 minutes.
One thing to make a note of is the durability of Jackson, who can turn the tide if Sabatini gasses out or gets stunned with a random strike. From a betting perspective, I am going to side with the better grappler. If there is anything to worry about, it would be that Sabatini has been gassed in the past and faded late in the fight, and Jackson, who thrives in those situations, can spell danger for Sabatini.
Still, that’s only a precaution, and I think Sabatini rolls here. Maybe he doesn’t find a finish immediately or at all, but he’s better than Jackson at his own game, which is grappling.
Bet: Sabatini ML -190
Giles vs. Cosce Odds
Trevor Giles (-200) vs. Louis Cosco (+175)
Two fighters coming off devastating losses last year step back into the Octagon this weekend hoping to get back in the win column. Louis Cosce got his opportunity after finding a finish in the first round of his fight on the Contender Series. Up until his last fight, where he lost in the third round by KO, Cosce had never passed the four-minute mark of the first round in any of his fights.
Cosce is a wrestler at heart but has fallen in love with knocking people out and collecting a quick check. Owner of seven first-round finishes, Cosce averages 8.02 significant strikes per minute while absorbing an astounding 9.04 strikes per minute. He is the type of fighter Dana White and the fans love.
Trevor Giles, on the other hand, is a former football player turned fighter who fell in love with the sport after playing football at the highest level in college. A smooth operator, Giles sometimes seems too relaxed in fights and looks to counter his opponents but does not have enough volume himself. Giles averages 3.04 significant strikes landed per minute and doesn’t initiate exchanges much and instead sits back and waits for the counter. When he does decide to lead with a combination, it has left him exposed in the past. And in his most recent fight, when he fought from the outside he did okay. But the second he decided to throw a combination, he was knocked out by a counter right hand and finished on the ground.
I see two fighters on opposite ends of their careers. Cosce has been on the shelf for the past two years, improving and now living in Vegas, while Giles is coming off two knockout losses that some may argue has left his chin vulnerable. If Cosce can incorporate his wrestling and stay clear from any brawling, I believe he can get a win and cash as an underdog.
Bet: Cosce ML +175
Ogden vs. Zellhuber Odds
Trey Ogden (+350) vs. Daniel Zellhuber (-325)
Zellhuber is a prospect with loads of potential. At 6-foot-1 with a 77-inch reach, he presents many problems for fighters in the lightweight division. A fighter who predominantly fought out of Mexico during his regional run, Zellhuber is now fighting out of Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. Zellhuber’s toughest test to date is Trey Ogden, and he steps into his second appearance for the promotion after losing a split decision to Jordan Levitt.
Ogden has been a professional since 2015, and after making his debut against the monkey king, it proved that his grappling was up to par with the sport's elite and can be a path to victory for him in this fight.
Zellhuber, now training in Vegas, should be much more well-rounded and be able to defend some takedowns and get the nod. From a betting perspective, I’ll be placing him in a parlay and taking him to get the win by decision.
Bets: Zellhuber ML (Parlay piece) / Zellhuber in Rd 3 or Dec +140
Gravely vs. Basharat Odds
Tony Gravely (+250) vs. Javid Basharat (-165)
After witnessing his brother get a contract on the Contender Series, Javid Basharat makes his trip to the Octagon to fight Tony Gravely. Another matchup between grapplers, this fight is a litmus test for Javid, as most good fighters dominate on the regional scene. But as soon as they step into the UFC and get tested, they sometimes fold.
Basharat doesn’t fall into that category, as he has been UFC-ready since his fight on the Contender Series. After displaying his well-roundedness there, Basharat quickly built a following, and now Gravely will look to derail the hype train.
Gravely is a wrestling-heavy fighter averaging 6.65 takedowns per 15 minutes, and he doesn’t care whether you know the game plan. Gravely is going to find himself wrestling a lot more in this fight, because when comparing the duo’s striking ability, Basharat averages almost three times the amount of strikes that Gravely throws at nearly 60% accuracy. I don’t see Gravely winning this fight, and even if he gets Javid onto the mat, I don’t expect him to keep him there.
Bet: Basharat ML -164
Motta vs. VanCamp Odds
Nikolas Motta (-210) vs. Cameron VanCamp (+165)
Nikolas Motta has been a professional since 2012. Considering he’s only 29 years old and just recently getting to the UFC, his time of becoming a title contender could be slipping if he doesn’t find his way into the win column this weekend. After suffering a loss to the “should be” retired Jim Miller, many questioned the durability of Motta and whether he would ever indeed be elite.
Motta averages 2.87 significant strikes per minute and possesses power, but he doesn’t have stopping power and can find himself in trouble in this fight if he doesn’t find the chin early. Cameron VanCamp was good on the regional scene and averaged a fight time of eight minutes. After making his debut in the UFC against Andre Filhao, he quickly learned that there truly are levels to this game.
A flash knockout can happen in this sport to anyone, but when you are matched up against a power puncher like Motta, if VanCamp doesn’t keep this in the cage or the mat, he could find himself staring up at the lights of an ambulance. I don’t like either fighter enough to bet them straight up, so I will go with a violent prop and take this fight not to reach the judges.
Bet: Vancamp vs Motta FDGTD -175