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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday hoists a twin title billing atop UFC 263, with an event built well from the ground up. Many solid betting options present themselves, mostly regarding minor favorites that provide value on their current lines. This edition of Prime Picks turns the tables by tossing in a sharp parlay, a fired-up fighter rearing for a finish and two men who should make quick work of their opponents.
Israel Adesanya (-255)-Deiveson Figueiredo (-210) Parlay (+106)
As both champs present themselves as better than 2-to-1 betting favorites—and for good reason—a smarter option than pursuing the chalk on Adesanya or Figueiredo is to combine the two. This two-defense parlay will pay out plus money, all while following conventional wisdom and respecting the skills the two champions display. It goes without saying that a loss to either would break this parlay; if you believe that Marvin Vettori or Brandon Moreno becomes champion, you should pursue their lines of +215 or +175, respectively. The smart money for the time being is that both titleholders retain at the end of UFC 263.
The headliner is a rematch from a just over three years ago, when Adesanya made his sophomore appearance in the UFC and Vettori was shaking off a draw to Omari Akhmedov. Although Vettori strongly believes he won, only he, much-maligned judge Chris Lee and a pair of scorers from other media outlets agreed. The Italian did manage to secure a round thanks to his ground game, as he chained takedowns and kept the flashy kickboxer on his back for much of the final frame. Should Vettori wish to spring one of the larger upsets of the night, he will need to do what he did in his last fight to Kevin Holland. This is easier said than done, as Adesanya has never surrendered more than three takedowns in a match.
Adesanya’s striking is by far the difference-maker, but it is more than simply the blows he lands that will bring him over the edge. The footwork, timing and speed Adesanya wields has flustered many a man over the years, as he strings unusual combinations together to do damage high and low and keep his counterparts guessing. Vettori has recently turned the corner with his hands, as he was previously in the realm of a “means to an end” striker who favored clinching up and dragging the fight down. This may all go out the window, as Adesanya enraged the volatile Italian at the presser, and Vettori could very well charge out of his corner like a bull trying to rampage his newfound enemy.
While emotions are high for the headliner, the same cannot quite be said for the Figueiredo-Moreno battle. Figueiredo did seem to have a chip on his shoulder, claiming that Moreno made light of his alleged stomach illness in their first encounter, but it paled in comparison to Vettori’s furious facade. Like Adesanya, Figueiredo’s surprising speed and ferocious power will make the difference. The flyweights needed far less time than the middleweights to run it back, as their first meeting came a mere six months ago. Little will be developed, gained, improved upon or otherwise honed in that time, and the difference may very well be that both men will get full camps and not have to cut weight twice in the span of three weeks. This vastly favors the man known as “Deus da Guerra,” or “God of War.”
It may be a bit of a stretch to claim that Adesanya and Figueiredo will become the first fighters to stop Vettori and Moreno, respectively, but the possibility is there. These lines are not severe enough to require a narrower prop to draw out value, but it speaks to their skills that the finishes that may materialize will come from both of these selections. If Figueiredo’s story is to be believed that he was hospitalized a day before the event—firstly, their December fight should not have gone on if that were the case—then he will come in at full power and not make the mistakes that cost him the win last time. Every media member that scored the contest had it objectively in favor of Figueiredo in some fashion, but his lost point for a brutal groin strike in Round 3 pulled it to a draw from half of those who submitted their 10s and nines. Both champs should fare better in their rematches, winning decisively and cashing in a smooth parlay to end the night with a bang.
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Jamahal Hill Wins Inside Distance (-130)
With Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad both rightful prohibitive favorites on the main card, other than a flier on Demian Maia, the opener of the pay-per-view sees another profitable option. Like both Edwards and Muhammad, Hill is out of the range at -290 where throwing scratch on him is worthwhile. When you narrow it down with a parlay of Hill getting the stoppage against Paul Craig, there is a path to victory for savvy bettors. As the line of Hill winning by TKO/KO is almost identical to him getting a stoppage, it allows for the unlikely situation of Hill snatching up a sub after he has done some damage, all while retaining its appeal.
The unbeaten Hill passed the tricky test of Ovince St. Preux in December, and he was rewarded with a ranking next to his name and another thorny task ahead in Craig. Hill walked through leg kicks and body shots to put the screws to St. Preux, and while St. Preux is a much heavier hitter than Craig, the man known as “Bearjew” is a remarkable opportunist. If Hill gets careless, throwing himself off-balance and into a clinch where Craig can pull guard into his vaunted triangle choke, he will find himself in a hairy spot. “Sweet Dreams” can put Craig to bed with his power, as the Scotsman’s chin has been tested repeatedly in his UFC tenure. Coupled with how Hill has developed as a fighter and the liability that Craig is on the feet, Hill should look to feast on this matchup and force a stoppage, potentially by strikes.
Eryk Anders (-150)
Like the main and co-main attractions of this card, Anders-Darren Stewart is a rematch of a fight that did not end with all parties thrilled at the result. Anders and Stewart frantically battled in March, and although Anders was getting the better of the exchanges, a mental mistake cost him the win. Close to going out on his feet, “The Dentist” nearly had his teeth knocked out from an illegal knee when he was grounded, and referee Herb Dean waved the fight off shortly after it landed. This fight, run back three months after the no contest, should likely look similar to its first iteration without the foul.
One meaningful change from the first fight is that the two sluggers agreed to not cut weight, and as such, the bout will be contested at light heavyweight instead of 185 pounds. This may favor Anders, whose power carried with him when he smote Vinicius Moreira in 2019. Both men brought a similar approach of trying to impose their will by dragging the fight down, and that game plan gave way to a reckless brawl that did Stewart more harm than good. Fight IQ has never been either man’s strong suit in their sub-.500 UFC tenures, but that does not make their matches any less entertaining. Barring Anders getting caught crashing in to try to change levels, this should be his fight to win.
Steven Peterson (-120)
In his last fight in December—on the same card as Figueiredo-Moreno—Chase Hooper pulled a rabbit out of the hat when Peter Barrett fell victim to a rolling submission that resulted in a heel hook. Before then, Hooper was well behind on the scorecards, unable to get the fight to the ground for long and taking damage all the while. “Slippery Pete” may have been known to fall into a submission in his career, but Peterson has yet to tap out to anyone. About 10 years separates Peterson from his youthful adversary, and with his age comes experience and wisdom that Boston’s Barrett had apparently not picked up.
It has been said that Hooper could have used some more time developing on the regional scene before joining the UFC roster, but two finishes in three appearances have shown he is at least better than some others signed to the promotion. Alex Caceres did expose Hooper’s limited skillset for what it was, thwarting takedown attempts and styling on “The Teenage Dream” on the feet for all three rounds. Peterson might not be as crafty a striker or as savvy a grappler, but his well-rounded skills should place him above that of Hooper as almost exclusively a ground specialist. Much like the aforementioned Hill-Craig battle, Peterson should have the upper hand unless he gets caught in a web and submitted. “Ocho” may even have the chops to dare Hooper to attack him off his back, if he attempts to take the fight down to ply his wrestling trade against Hooper’s offensive guard. The Texan should have the wherewithal to survive any Hail Mary attempts and outwork Hooper to get the victory as a small favorite.
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