The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 239 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
The Octagon heads back to Las Vegas this Saturday night for UFC 239. It’s one of the best cards of the year featuring a ton of big-name talent as well as two title fights at the top of the bill. The sportsbooks are offering odds on all 12 scheduled fights, and my top plays are listed below in the UFC 239 edition of Prime Picks.
Amanda Nunes (-365)
As far as the favorites go, I really like Nunes to beat Holly Holm and defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title. At this point, Nunes is on track to be the greatest female mixed martial arts fighter of all time. She’s currently riding an eight-fight win streak that includes victories over Ronda Rousey, Cristiane Justino, Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko and Sara McMann. Every time she steps into the Octagon she looks better and better. Her striking is high level and has knockout power. She can wrestle her opponents to the ground and submit them. Her cardio means she can take them the distance and her diverse skills have been proven at multiple weight classes. She’s a legend of the sport who is at the top of her game right now. On the other side of the cage stands Holm, the former champ who has really struggled the last few years. Since beating Rousey in 2015, Holm is just 2-4 and at 37-years-old appears to be on a steep decline. Though Holm hasn’t been knocked out in MMA yet, she has been knocked out in boxing before. I think if "Lioness" can overwhelm Holm early she can get the stoppage here and become the first person to knock Holm out in the sport. I really like Nunes to win this fight and at -365 she makes for a solid parlay piece.
Ben Askren (-225)
Another favorite I like to win is Askren, who I favor quite heavily to defeat Jorge Masvidal. As good as Masvidal looked against Darren Till in his last fight, we can’t forget how inconsistent he’s been during his UFC run. He’s lost many decisions in his career and that plays right into the game of Askren, who will look to put his opponent down on the mat and grind him out. The wrestler is a perfect 19-0 with one no contest in his MMA career and has won championships in both Bellator MMA and One Championship. He wants to add the UFC title his mantle, and I believe he’s heavily motivated to have an impressive performance here against Masvidal and steal a title shot from Colby Covington. “Gamebred” is a tremendous talent, but he’s very hard to trust with your money as he tends to lose a lot of close fights, while “Funky” is the model of consistency who always gets his hand raised. Anyone who has bet on Askren throughout his career would be a very rich man as he’s a born winner. I believe Askren utilizes his incredible wrestling game and gets Masvidal to the mat where he grinds him out for a decision win. At -225 odds, give me Askren to win this fight and he’ll surely be a popular parlay pick this weekend.
Edmen Shahbazyan Wins Inside the Distance (-130)
For a prop, I like Shahbazyan to defeat Jack Marshman inside the distance. Shahbazyan, who is just 21-years old, is a perfect 9-0 in his young MMA career with eight of those wins coming by way of vicious knockout in the first round. After winning a split decision over Darren Stewart in his UFC debut, he brutally knocked out Charles Byrd in the first round in his last fight. If anything, this matchup against Marshman is a step down in competition. The Welsh fighter is coming off of a very controversial split decision win over John Phillips that snapped a two-fight losing skid. He’s just 3-3 in the UFC and hasn’t been able to achieve any kind of consistency in the Octagon. “The Hammer” has also been knocked out four times in his career, including a knockout loss to Thiago Santos in the UFC, and if Shahbazyan can touch him on the right spot I believe he knocks him out as well. The American will win this fight, of that I have no doubt, but the question is how he does it. I believe he does so by knockout once again. Considering the moneyline odds on Shahbazyan are at -600, there’s not much value to bet him that way. Instead, I like the prop on him to win inside the distance at -130, as I believe he finishes this fight more often than not and the prop provides much better odds for bettors.
Jan Blachowicz (+195)
For an underdog picks, I like Blachowicz to upset Luke Rockhold. The Polish fighter has been at the top of the light heavyweight rankings for the last few years while Rockhold is making his debut at the weight class. While Rockhold was a former champion at middleweight, he had serious chin issues that led to him deciding to move up a weight class in hopes he would be more durable. Blachowicz is not known for having knockout power, but he’s still a very technical striker and he also has an underrated ground game as well. He’s also been fighting at 205 and succeeding there, while Rockhold’s performance up a weight class is still a mystery at this point. Odds are this fight stays standing, and while the American Kickboxing Academy product is a solid striker himself I do tend to favor Blachowicz on the feet as I believe he hits harder. For me, this underdog pick is mostly about fading Rockhold’s chin. I just don’t trust him to take a punch anymore after being brutally knocked out in two of his last three fights. If the “Prince of Cieszyn” can touch him on the chin I think he can put his lights out. At +195 odds, I’ll take a stab on Blachowicz at these underdog odds.
Adam Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of “The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His favorite fight of all time is Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua and he wishes Pride never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.
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