After nearly a month off, the UFC is back!
UFC Vegas 84 takes place on Saturday as the first fight card of 2024. Headlined by a light heavyweight rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker, this weekend’s card features 12 matchups with a mix of high stakes and high-upside prospect debuts. Let’s dive into the best bets for Saturday.
As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Table of Contents
Jim Miller -148
After nearly looking like his career was over a few years ago, Miller instead has put together a lovely little career renaissance. Sure, he loses every now and again, but it’s usually to better fighters than Gabriel Benitez.
More importantly, if Miller suffers some sort of injury or terrible knockout loss, that would jeopardize his spot on UFC 300, which everyone is rooting for. The MMA Gods demand we support Miller in this pivotal moment and I, for one, will not be the one who ruins his shot at UFC 300 by denying them.
Taylor Lapilus +225
In best fights of the entire evening, Lapilus takes on hot shot prospect Faris Basharat on the undercard, and I like his chances at playing spoiler. Basharat is a brilliant tactician and a really impressive fighter, but he’s not quite the same level of threat as his brother, and I worry how he will fare against better athletes as he moves up the ranks.
Lapilus represents just that as he’s a strong defensive wrestler with super fast hands, and he should be able to sprawl and brawl pretty effectively here. If Basharat has tricks to get the takedowns, Lapilus could be in trouble. But the Frenchman is on a great run, and I believe he’s rounding into form right now.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker Over 2.5 Rounds, +120
For years, I have contended Ankalaev is the best light heavyweight in the world, but circumstances keep conspiring to prevent him from claiming the title (he honestly might be cursed). But even in my unending support for him as an athlete, Ankalaev is a bit of a decision merchant. Four of his past five bouts (not including the no-contest with Walker) have gone to the scorecards, and while Walker is always a threat for the finish, Ankalaev should win this fight. Originally, I bet Ankalaev by Decision at +750, but that line has moved so far down I don’t think it’s worth a play. Instead, this alternative over is still a solid bet, and gives you the out of a later stoppage.
Manel Kape To Win By KO/TKO/DQ, +165
This is the year I’ve predicted Kape to claim the UFC flyweight title, and it all starts here. Matheus Nicolau is a good fighter, who won their first encounter, but Kape is ascending at the moment. “Starboy” has really found his groove since losing that split decision to Nicolau, and he’s out for vengeance in this one, especially as an emphatic win may put him next in line for a title shot. Knowing that, I think Kape goes for that emphatic win and gets it.
Parlay of the Week
I’m a sucker for a gimmick parlay, and this one in particular I can get behind. Both Silva and Nolan were some of my top choices for prospects to watch from the most recent season of Contender Series (with Nolan actually being the top of the class), and the UFC is giving these boys perfect set-up opportunities. Silva takes on Westin Wilson, whom he should have no problem with, and Nolan faces Nikolas Motta, who won’t take him down and thus will be finished violently. I fully expect both men to deliver sensational “Welcome to the UFC” performances.
Parlay these four bets together for -238 odds.
Long Shot of the Week
Andrei Arlovski To Win By Decision, +900
Here’s the downside: Arlovski is almost 45 years old and is on a two-fight losing streak. But here’s the upside: Waldo Cortes-Acosta is not very good. “WCA” is 3-1 in the UFC, but all of those wins are over bottom-tier talent. At this point in his career, Arlovski is right there in line, but he’s also got a lot more savvy and guile than the Jared Vanderaa’s of the world.
Simply put, “WCA” should not be this big of a betting favorite over anyone, and why take Arlovski straight up when you can get him by decision? Arlovski’s previous 10 wins have all come by way of the judges, and Cortes-Acosta has never been stopped in MMA. Getting an extra +400 on this prop from the Arlovski straight line is too tempting to pass up.
New Year, new us! Excited to be back in the swing of things after nearly a month off. Let’s start things off with a winning week!
Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck, and gamble responsibly!
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