Betting Guide for UFC Vegas 54
UFC's light heavyweight division has perhaps the smallest margin between its champion and an unranked fighter. That makes this weekend's main event intriguing. How does the former belt holder fair against one of its brightest prospects?
UFC Vegas 54: Blachowicz vs. Rakic takes place Saturday from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. Where are the sharpest places to wager on the card using FanDuel Sportsbook?
Davey Grant and Virna Jandiroba to Both Win (+102; 1.0 Units)
At UFC 274, Loopy Godinez dominated and Brandon Royval found a first-round submission. That bumped the two-legger up to 8-4 in 2022.
I nearly left it in the barn this week, but it wasn't because of Davey Grant (-310). Grant is my favorite win pick of the weekend as he drops from an insane level of competition in 2021 (Jonathan Martinez, Adrian Yanez, and Chito Vera) to the thoroughly-unreliable Louis Smolka this week.
Considering the strength of schedule, Grant's +0.80 striking success rate was pretty surprising. Smolka's is lower (+0.67), and his lack of defense -- especially when wrestling (31% takedown defense) -- has seen him finished in the first round by even smaller flyweights before. Outside of a come-from-behind win over the now-cut Jose Quinonez, Smolka was swiftly finished by both Casey Kenney and Vince Morales in his new weight class at 135 pounds.
The second leg was the issue. I've stumbled into Virna Jandiroba (-188) despite the fact she's taking on one of my favorites, Angela Hill. Hill has been unlucky to drop three split decisions in her last five bouts, but at the end of the day, Angie is 0-9 against currently-ranked fighters in her MMA career. Jandiroba, slotted 12th in UFC's official rankings, will be her 10th try.
Hill has never been knocked out, but she's been submitted twice by Rose Namajunas and Randa Markos. Jandiroba, averaging 1.40 submission attempts per 15 minutes in UFC, is arguably her toughest grappling opponent ever. Jandiroba broke Kanako Murata's arm before a knockout win two fights ago.
I've backed this week's two-legger down to just a unit. Hill should be a better striker than Jandiroba, and Davey Grant has made some mistakes grappling historically. Still, these two are in prime spots to execute their own offense and potentially score a finish.
Jan Blachowicz to Win (+164; 1.0 Units)
I feel like the wrong guy is favored this weekend, but Jan Blachowicz (+164) prefers to be the underdog anyway.
He cashed as an underdog at odds of +200 or longer against Luke Rockhold, Corey Anderson, Dominick Reyes, and Israel Adesanya on his run of obtaining and defending UFC gold. In Abu Dhabi, Blachowicz was swallowed whole by the wrestling and grappling of Glover Teixeira, but he'll have a very different test this weekend.
Aleksander Rakic is hard for me to get my arms around. He dropped a split decision to the fading Volkan Oezdemir, suffered a -13 striking differential to Thiago Santos, and posted just 44 strikes on the defensively-challenged Anthony Smith. For context, Teixeira posted 138 strikes on Smith north of 40 years old. I have serious doubts about Rakic's prospects at the top of 205.
With Rakic's excellent takedown defense (90%) and his unwillingness to wrestle offensively (just 0.75 takedowns landed per 15 minutes), this one should be a striking match. Rakic (52%) has an edge in striking accuracy over Jan (49%), but Jan's defensive mark (53%) is higher than Rakic's (52%).
Considering Blachowicz's efficiency marks have come against championship-level competition, and Rakic's have come in supreme, lower-level matchups, I tend to favor he who wields "Legendary Polish Power" in this one -- especially at plus money.
Dart Throw of the Week: Ryan Spann by Submission (+750; 0.5 Units)
I've upped the dart to make up for the smaller two-legger, and it's because this line is absurd for -- in my opinion -- the single most likely outcome of this fight.
Ion Cutelaba is a gladiator-style warrior in UFC. He will dump all of his power and energy into brutalizing his foe and scoring a finish. Ryan Spann has been knocked out in 3 of his 26 pro fights, so it is possible "The Hulk" blitzes him. However, when it hasn't come, Cutelaba has been a fatigued, unskilled mess.
Five of Cutelaba's six losses have come with him getting finished instead. Cutelaba has never beaten a ranked UFC light heavyweight, and Spann sits 13th entering this weekend. If Spann survives, this outcome is incredibly likely.
That's because "Superman" Spann is one of the most skilled 205'ers on the mat. 11 of his 19 pro wins have come via submission in a division in which slugging it out on the feet is tradition. The only 2 losses for Spann in his last 11 fights came to 5th-ranked Anthony Smith and 12th-ranked Johnny Walker. He's handled unranked foes with ease.
Spann attempts 1.60 submission attempts per 15 minutes, so he'll be willing to finish this fight there if Cutelaba gets tired per usual. However, don't discount the crafty grappler finding an armbar or a triangle as Cutelaba charges in headfirst.