Welcome to my betting breakdown for UFC Vegas 45: Daukaus vs Lewis.
After an epic event last weekend at T-Mobile Arena, the UFC will remain in Las Vegas this weekend and host their final card of 2021 at the Apex facility. We currently have a fourteen-fight card scheduled to go down on Saturday night, headlined by a heavyweight matchup between Chris Daukaus and former two-time title challenger Derrick Lewis. The co-main event is also a fight of interest this weekend, with fan favorites Stephen Thompson and Belal Muhammad scheduled to fight three rounds Currently, I have bets on four separate fights totaling nearly ten units risked. You can find all my plays for free in the FTN Bets Tracker.
I’ll be writing this column weekly, with extended breakdowns for up to three of my best bets, and occasionally some leans if I don’t have three plays. I will be in the FTNBets Discord for about two hours before the early preliminaries this weekend to answer any questions that readers might have. We'd love to continue building the community through Discord.
If you’re interested in DFS and betting takes for every fight on this card, you can check out The Undisputed MMA Show with Jon Kelly and me.
Pennington enters this fight on a two-fight win streak dating back to June of 2020. The former title challenger was on a 1-3 stretch, including her loss to Amanda Nunes back in 2018, but has bounced back strong. Stylistically, Pennington enters virtually every fight with the same gameplan: push her opponents against the cage and try to take them down to the mat. If she’s unable to get opponents down, Pennington historically has done an excellent job at forcing fights against the fence, where she does some of her best work. Pennington is not an especially high-output striker or grappler and her finishing ability is virtually zero, but she uses her wits to create advantageous positions and win fights.
Chiasson began her UFC career with an impressive 3-0 run that included three finishes, but sputtered against Lina Lansberg in 2019 and lost the first fight of her career. Since then, Chiasson has won consecutive fights and is looking to make it three in a row this weekend despite being a small underdog. Physically, Chiasson is extremely large for the 135 weight class that she’s historically fought at (she fights at 145 pounds this weekend against Pennington and missed weight). Chiasson is a solid striker with her best strikes coming from knees up the middle. When it comes to grappling, Chiasson has shown the ability to out-muscle some women that she’s shared the cage with. However, against higher-level wrestlers, Chiasson has been put on her back and showed little resistance to takedown attempts.
Originally, this was not a fight that really caught my eye from a betting perspective. However, I was scouring the odds board this week and found a number I liked on the total in this fight. I played the fight to go to decision at -230. Although -230 is a chalky number to pay, there is still value in this spot. In twenty combined UFC fights, Pennington and Chiasson have gone three full rounds 75% of the time, which indicated a -300 betting line would be accurate here. Additionally, recent trends have been strong in this matchup with Pennington's last finish coming in 2015 and Chiasson's finishes being front-loaded towards the front of her career, and her fight style has become more conservative of late
Raquel Pennington/Macy Chiasson Fight Goes The Distance -230 1x until -235 (Placed Thursday at Fanduel)
Tafa had just three professional bouts on his record prior to making his UFC debut in 2019. The Australian heavyweight has had a rough start to his UFC career, going 1-3 inside the promotion and making history on Friday morning as the first heavyweight to miss weight in UFC history. Despite his record, Tafa has shown a few promising signs in the UFC. He clearly possesses a ton of knockout power, as shown in his knockout of Juan Adams. Additionally, Tafa is willing to throw lots of volume, averaging over five strikes per minute.
Hunsucker had a chance to crack the UFC roster in November of 2021 on the Contender Series, but was knocked out in round one against Jared Vanderaa. After picking up a win on the regional scene, Hunsucker made his UFC debut earlier this year and was quickly knocked out by Tai Tuivasa. If there’s a positive in Hunsucker’s game it’s that he’s deceptively quick in his striking. However, pretty much all of the rest of his game can be considered a negative. He is not able to wrestle offensively and his cardio is extremely poor. He’s never been out of the first round and oftentimes gasses out before the round is over. Additionally, Hunsucker’s durability is a major concern as he’s been knocked out in the first round four separate times in his career.
This is a spot that screams low-level heavyweight violence to me. Tafa is a hard hitter who is comfortable moving forward and taking the fight to his opponents. Meanwhile, Hunsucker is clearly not a UFC-quality fighter and has been getting knocked out early in fights for the entirety of his career. I expect Tafa to land a few early leg kicks in this fight and immobilize Hunsucker, leading to a knockout. However, if we play the under in this spot, we can still win should Hunsucker meet his win condition and land an early knockout himself. Regardless of who wins, somebody is going to sleep here.
Justin Tafa/Harry Hunsucker Under 1.5 Rounds -150 2x until -150, 1.5x until -167, 1x until -186 (Placed Monday)
Thompson is a long-time veteran within the UFC and will enter his 12th fight inside the octagon this weekend. “Wonderboy” was seemingly working his way to a third title shot at 170 pounds but came up short against Gilbert Burns this past summer in a fight where he was unable to keep the fight standing. Stylistically, Thompson is one of the more unique fighters in MMA, as he’s a karate specialist who keeps a wide stance and keeps his hands very low. That style has always worked extremely well for Thompson in striking fights as he is very rarely out-struck by opponents. However, most people try to take Thompson down, and he has struggled in some fights where opponents were able to rack up control time against him.
Muhammad had put together a nice four-fight win streak leading up to his first main event slot earlier this year against Leon Edwards, but the fight ended due to an accidental eye poke early in round two, which was a disappointing result. Muhammad bounced back into the win column in June against Demain Maia. Stylistically, Muhammad is essentially above-average at every skill needed for MMA, but he lacks athleticism and physical attributes that would allow him to be a legitimate contender. Muhammad has solid striking metrics and good offensive and defensive wrestling paired with impressive cardio. That being said, he carries minimal power for a higher men’s weight division.
The market has really moved against me this week as I bet on Stephen Thompson at -240, and the line currently sits at -210. It’s not often that I place a bet early in the week and the line movement goes against me, so it’s clear that there are influential people in the market who have an interest in betting Muhammad in this spot. However, I’m not sure I see the case. Wonderboy is a really hard puzzle to solve and I’m not sure Muhammad has the skillset to do so. Theoretically, you would think Belal’s game plan in this matchup is to force takedowns early and often. However, that’s easier said than done against Thompson, who is great at utilizing lateral movement to avoid attacks of his opponents. In terms of the striking, I think this is going to be a fairly large mismatch. Thompson is somebody who utilizes a heavy dosage of kicks in his game and Muhammad struggled to defend calf kicks against Dhiego Lima earlier this year. I’m a fan of Muhammad’s game in general as he has no true weaknesses and great cardio, but this is a step-down in competition for Thompson and historically he has outclassed opponents in matchups similar to this one.
Stephen Thompson -240 1x until -255 (Placed Monday at Caesers)
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!