Welcome to my betting breakdown for UFC Vegas 31: Makhachev vs Moises!
After a crazy UFC 264 card at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas last Saturday, the UFC will move back down the road to their Apex facility for this week’s fight night on ESPN.
In the main event, we have Islam Makhachev, who many have pegged as a potential future champion, lined as a massive betting favorite over Thiago Moises, who gets his first main event spot and has been improving massively in recent fights.
In our co-main event, we have a bizarre dynamic between Miesha Tate, who will be making her return to the octagon nearly five years after her retirement, and Marion Renau, who will officially be retiring from MMA following Saturday night regardless of whether she wins or loses.
This card has just 11 total fights and although the card certainly lacks the name value that last week's massive event featured, there are some solid betting spots on the card and I currently have a bet on five of the 11 scheduled fights for Saturday. You can find all my plays free in the FTN Bets Tracker.
I’ll be writing this best bets article weekly with extended breakdowns for up to three of my best bets and occasionally including some leans if I don’t have three plays. I will be in the FTNBets Discord for about two hours before the early prelims this weekend to answer any questions that readers have, we’d love to continue building the community through Discord.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Billy Quarantillo Betting Odds
Odds: Benitez (-175) vs. Quarantillo (+150)
This should be a captivating stylistic matchup between counter striker Gabriel Benitez and the pressure-heavy Billy Quarantillo in the opener for this weekend’s main card. Benitez is 6-4 in the UFC and has faced a solid strength of schedule, but most of his losses have come upon taking steps up against higher-level opponents. Quarantillo was undefeated at 3-0 in the UFC prior to his last time out when he dropped a clear decision to Gavin Tucker.
Stylistically, Benitez is primarily a striker, with extremely powerful leg kicks in addition to a precise counter game that has led to a massively impressive 70% striking defense. Benitez has found most of his victories by avoiding opponent’s strikes and firing back with significant power in addition to a sneaky submission game. For Quarantillo, his style is largely based around going forward and throwing insane amounts of volume. Quarantillo has landed over 7 strikes per minute through his UFC career with 1.28 takedowns/15 minutes mixed into his game as well. That provides a lot of benefits in terms of scoring points and tiring his opponents out, however, Quarantillo has very poor striking defense and absorbed 106 significant strikes his last time out.
I think this fight is fairly basic to handicap in terms of how these two styles will clash. Quarantillo will move forward like a zombie while Benitez is on the back foot and firing back counter strikes. While Quarantillo’s volume metrics are extremely impressive, if he can’t land takedowns in bulk against Benitez, he is clearly up against it in the striking realm. Benitez is the much cleaner, more powerful striker and is facing somebody who blocks punches with his face. This line originally opened with Benitez as an underdog, which was completely insane, and hopefully, those with @FTNAlerts Twitter notifications are sitting on those prices, as the current price is much closer to accurate than that original line.
Bet: Gabriel Benitez +115 3x until +100, 2.5x until -110, 2x until -125, 1.5x until -135, 1x until -155. (Placed June 26)
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jeremy Stephens Betting Odds
Odds: Gamrot (-210) vs. Stephens (+180)
In our featured bout of the evening, we have a matchup between Gamrot, who is 1-1 inside the UFC and had a ton of hype behind his name as a prospect coming into the UFC, against Stephens, who has a whopping 33 UFC fights under his belt. Gamrot dropped a close decision to Guram Kutateladze in his UFC debut last October, which is his only MMA loss, but rebounded with a KO victory over Scott Holtzman earlier this year. Stephens was scheduled to fight Drakkar Klose in April but that fight fell through on fight night, and it’s been over three years since Stephens' last win in 2018. Granted, Stephens has dropped four consecutive fights to Jose Aldo, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez and Calvin Kattar, which is an elite strength of schedule, but he needs a win badly.
Stylistically, we have a massive sample of who Jeremy Stephens is as a fighter and what skillset he brings with him every time he steps in the cage. Stephens carries a ton of power in his hands, which is clearly shown with 19 of his 28 career victories coming via knockout. Stephens has also been able to offensively wrestle in some matchups but has historically had massive struggles defending takedowns with a poor 65% takedown defense that has been exposed many times before. Gamrot is less one-dimensional than Stephens, with the ability to compete on the feet with opponents, but mostly just in order to set up his wrestling game, which features a beautiful single leg takedown that he utilizes in nearly every fight.
I mentioned earlier how Stephens needs a win in the worst of ways coming into this weekend, but unfortunately for the self-proclaimed hardest-hitting 145er in the world, I think he’ll find himself in an uphill battle vs. Gamrot this weekend. Stephens has always been reliant on knockouts to win fights and is now moving up to lightweight, where guys carry more natural power are more able to highlight Stephen’s wrestling holes. Gamrot has all the skills necessary to be a top-10 fighter at lightweight, in my opinion, and is being underpriced in the market due to a lack of a “signature win.” There has been a decent amount of Stephen's love in the market this weekend, which I don’t really understand since he has one real path to victory against a much more well-rounded guy in Gamrot. If this line continues to plummet, I’ll likely add to my wager.
Bet: Mateusz Gamrot -245 1x till -255. (Placed June 26)
Islam Makhachev vs. Thiago Moises Betting Odds
Odds: Makhachev (-700) vs. Moises (+450)
After Max Holloway was forced to withdraw from his bout against Yair Rodriguez that was originally scheduled to headline this card, the UFC was forced to pivot to Makhachev vs. Moises as a short-notice main event. While this fight is certainly underwhelming in terms of headliners, I do think there is some value in the betting market despite the wide moneyline prices. Many people, myself included, consider Makhachev to be a future title holder at lightweight, and he’ll clearly have to pass a test like Moises to get there. Moises is a young, experienced fighter who seems to be improving with each time out while training at an elite gym, but just doesn’t have the tools to create too many issues for Makhachev this weekend.
Makhachev brings that elite Dagestani-style wrestling on the ground, just like Khabib, landing over 3.4 takedowns per 15 minutes. Makhachev’s striking certainly isn’t his best asset, but he is extremely defensively sound, and the threat of a takedown seems to always make his opponents extremely hesitant. Makhachev has been hit less than one time for every minute of cage time he has in his career. Moises is a high-level BJJ practitioner, but will likely find himself on his back for large portions of this fight.
Expecting Makhachev to win minutes is relatively easy to project in this matchup, and Moises likely needs to land a one-punch knockout on the feet early in the fight or throw up a submission off his back to get the victory as a massive underdog. Of course, the market is all over Makhachev being a large favorite in this spot, so my favorite way to attack this fight is through the prop market. Makhachev has finished four of his eight wins and despite not having the same sort of ground and pound game as Khabib, he does possess a strong submission game from top control. However, Moises has never been finished in his MMA career and has historically been a very durable fighter. Additionally, he is likely the better pure BJJ player in this matchup and is extremely difficult to submit. Because of this, attacking Makhachev to win in Rounds 4 and 5, or by decision makes sense here. I expect him to dominate from the opening bell, so I wouldn’t be surprised if his pressure wears on Moises and leads to a late finish, but it’s more likely that he doesn’t become the first man to finish Moises.
Bet: Islam Makhachev to Win in Rounds 4,5, or Decision -145 1.5x until -150, 1x until -170. (Placed July 16)
A student at the University of Colorado and +EV bettor, Jonah will be contributing both MMA betting and DFS content at FTN. He’s studying journalism and sports media at CU, and this is his first job in the betting industry. Jonah is the MMA Dog of The Night Challenge champion amassing a 90% ROI in the contest and has been a profitable MMA bettor with tracked results. He is known for betting early lines and getting out ahead of the betting market, and looks forward to helping subscribers do the same!