Betting Guide for UFC Vegas 44

Jimmy Crute battles Jamahal Hill in a bout between two of UFC's brightest light heavyweight prospects. What's the best way to bet their scrap?

The UFC returns from a holiday break with a loaded, 15-fight card that's main event pits the analytics community against the MMA film junkies.

UFC Vegas 44: Font vs. Aldo takes place Saturday from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. Where is the sharpest place to wager on Saturday's card using UFC odds?

Alex Morono to Win by Decision (+110)

UFC told you what they think of Mickey Gall (+180) by selecting him to be the one to fight former WWE superstar CM Punk in a publicity stunt.

Gall is an accomplished grappler, so as no surprise, he submitted the paid actor in the first round. The problem is that might be the highlight of Gall's UFC career. Gall's career wins have come over opponents with a 9-14 cumulative record, and none are still with the promotion.

On the other side of Gall this weekend is Alex Morono (-220). Morono has a +1.25 striking success rate behind solid volume (5.14 significant strikes per minute). Though athletically limited, Morono can strike, and importantly for this matchup with Gall, he has never been professionally submitted.

Morono should have plenty of windows to inflict damage on Gall's 44% striking defense. While Morono's 52% takedown defense is a slight concern, Gall hasn't been particularly efficient (28% takedown accuracy) at getting his opponents to the mat.

Morono is a sizable favorite, so picking him to win is not sneaky. It was just surprising to see the most likely outcome he defeats Gall available at plus money. Six of Morono's nine UFC wins have come by decision because he doesn't have much power (only 3 knockdowns in 13 total fights), and Gall's only been finished once in 10 pro fights.

The pick is that Morono and Gall see the distance in a fight "The Great White" controls.

Maki Pitolo to Win (+138)

"Coconut Bombz" is the top underdog on the board.

Maki Pitolo (+138) entered the UFC with a quick knockout of Charles Byrd, but questions about his true skill were more than fair after two convincing losses on the ground. Pitolo, though, returned in 2021 with arguably his best performance. Even though he was miraculously submitted by rising star Julian Marquez, Pitolo took Marquez down five times and controlled him for 9:07 of their fight.

Now, the Hawaiian appears to have a slick wrestling game in addition to his power on the feet. He's got a tremendous matchup this weekend to save his UFC contract against Dusko Todorovic (-170).

Similar to Pitolo, Todorovic has cooled from a debut knockout to two straight losses. It's far from "tough luck," though. Todorovic has posted just a 48% striking defense and a 50% takedown defense. Those defensive woes have offset his plus volume.

While Pitolo doesn't have stellar striking defense (55%) and takedown defense (55%) marks, Todorovic is less of a challenge when building a plan of attack. His wrestling just hasn't been UFC caliber (5% takedown accuracy; lowest of any UFC fighter with 15-plus attempts), so it's all about his striking.

With a power advantage and newfound grappling chops, the pick is Pitolo uses one or the other to handle the struggling Todorovic and dispense him a third straight loss.

Dart Throw of the Week: Jimmy Crute by Submission (+380)

Light heavyweight is arguably UFC's least prestigious division, so it's no surprise Jamahal Hill (+148) made it to the rankings missing two of the three key elements (striking, grappling, and wrestling) of MMA.

Hill's an elite striker. His +3.90 striking success rate is the very best mark on this card, and it's why he's not a massive underdog to Jimmy Crute (-184). However, Hill's wrestling and grappling were essentially untested until his last fight in June against Paul Craig.

The test didn't go well.

Craig scored three submission attempts before dislocating Hill's elbow on the final try. Hill spent a grand majority of the fight hanging on for dear life, and he has to be concerned about this matchup with Crute.

Jimmy Crute actually submitted Paul Craig in a prior matchup of the two. Crute also averages 1.20 submission attempts per match in totality. If that isn't reason enough to believe in Crute finding a way to his ground game, Crute (+1.09 striking success rate) is a much more voluminous, efficient striker than Craig (+0.20 striking success rate). He's even less likely to wade into a knockout punch than "Bearjew" Craig was.

This surely isn't the longest dart in the guide, but it's also one of the best of the year. We've seen Crute's excellent grappling with two submission wins in UFC, and Hill is just six months removed from a really poor showing. It's rare these opportunities are available at such long odds when a fairly basic process could also arrive here.