Prime Picks: UFC 269 ‘Oliveira vs. Poirier’

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday will stand and deliver at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday with a show that no major organization dares to counterprogram. All eyes will be focused on this high-stakes card in which roughly half the bouts could serve as headliners at UFC Fight Night events and lines range from pick ’ems to overwhelming favorites. A full 14 fights are slated for what should be a torrid and memorable string of matches, and this UFC 269 parade of palatable props on Prime Picks checks in on both championship affairs, two flamethrowers going at it and a grappler’s delight.

Dustin Poirier Wins Inside Distance (+100)

It appears that Poirier has done enough since falling short to the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov to wipe away the memory of his one-sided defeat to the then-champ. All it took was a “Fight of the Year” with Dan Hooker where both men displayed otherworldly chins and recoverability, and two knockouts of Conor McGregor—although Poirier could have taken a title shot early and elected to pursue the money fight. Questions have been raised about champion Charles Oliveira’s legitimacy on the throne, claiming the vacant strap by knocking Michael Chandler out. This bout will answer all of those questions at once, and although Oliveira has improved leaps and bounds, the tools that Poirier brings to the table will be too much for the Brazilian.

Much of Oliveira’s legacy was questioned as he displayed questionable heart in past fights, succumbing to submissions even though he was the wizard on the ground or surrendering due to an injury none could later identify. This run of nine wins, with eight finishes, is the kind of career reinvention that most fighters dream of having. Still, when looking at this win streak, the last three names can be considered he elite in the division, as the prior six adversaries were not ranked and a few were well past their primes when he submitted them. On the other hand, Poirier has not faced an opponent outside of the rankings in nine bouts of his own, winning all but the one against Nurmagomedov. Strength of schedule plays heavily in favor of the Louisianan.

The days of the specialist are all-but past, where one fighter can be so good at one aspect of his game that his tremendous proficiency shores up other weaknesses—Nurmagomedov’s striking may not have been top-tier, but he still unofficially dropped McGregor in the second round with a shocking right hand. Now, it takes a true well-rounded competitor to excel to the top of the division, where their skills in every area give them some wiggle room if things get hairy. Poirier is no slouch on the ground, and not the kind of fighter that Oliveira should take lightly no matter where it takes place. On the feet, Poirier has power in spades, and even off his back, “The Diamond” can threaten with maneuvers that put even the great Nurmagomedov in danger.

The Brazilian champ’s means-to-an-end striking has improved radically in the last few years, racking up clear-cut knockout wins instead of submitting his foes. For a period of the first round against Chandler, “Iron Mike” had Oliveira dead to rights with a few body shots that set up a crushing left hand. Chandler, a power punching wrestler that has submission chops of his own, nearly had Oliveira tapping to a guillotine choke. This has been a historical weakness of sorts for “Do Bronx,” putting his neck in danger when trying to ground his opponent or otherwise impose his will. Poirier is an opportunist at the highest level, and Oliveira will have to be at the top of his game for as long as he can.

As a professional with 40 fights under his belt, Oliveira has still never fought beyond the third round, win or lose. He has only gone the 15-minute distance three times in the last decade, spanning 23 UFC appearances, so it remains to be seen what he looks like after that marker. Oliveira himself took note of this in recent interviews, but is not concerned as he expects a finish will materialize in some fashion when the dust settles. The safest bet of the night easily lies with Fight Doesn’t Go to Decision at -295, but one can drill down that a little deeper to find better value in something beyond an attachment to a parlay. Fight Won’t Start Round 4 at -170 is getting more reasonable towards a straight bet, as it would be the first time in Oliveira’s career for this to happen while staring at a destroyer in Poirier across from him. Should you think that the Brazilian will instead defend his throne and bolster his legacy with a win over Poirier, while a straight moneyline pick has Oliveira at +150, the counter of Oliveira Wins Inside Distance is the one at a solid +240.

Amanda Nunes Wins in Round 1 (+150)

It is not a matter of disrespect when the question of “Who You Got” between Nunes and Julianna Pena turned from one of a discussion about the winner to the method in which Nunes prevails. At this stage in their careers, and Pena on a one-fight win streak beating a woman that has lost three of her last four, the fight does not make much more sense than the next in line for “The Lioness” coming off a win. As of now, Nunes is anywhere from -800 to -1000 depending on the book observed, and even her getting a finish (-265) or winning on the scorecards (+395) are not worth pursuing. Even the hinted line in one of our companion pieces for Nunes to win within two rounds at -134 is not quite far enough. Going to plus money for the dominant champ and one of the greatest fighters in the sport today requires a first-round stoppage, which is part and parcel with what Nunes brings to the table.

Had the -134 line of Nunes prevailing by the 10-minute mark been available by more books, we might have led with that, as it would provide a slight cover should Pena survive to the second. Nunes, however, has a history of handing women their first career stoppage loss in the opening round over more battle-tested names than the winner of Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” like Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. It cannot be overlooked that she is the first and only one to knock Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino out. The outlier of Nunes’ run of domination comes in the form of Raquel Pennington surviving to the midpoint of the fifth round before falling victim to strikes—otherwise, it has been Nunes by clear decision or first-round finish. Already near 135 pounds in her weight cut, the Brazilian champ looks to have all the momentum on her side to steamroll her next opponent. Pena could break up this play by outlasting the onslaught that will come immediately by using her wrestling, but Nunes is the hardest hitter Pena has faced by a significant degree. The champion’s strength advantage on top of that will allow her to make the challenger pay for ever attempting to ground her, in a match that will not likely hear the first round’s horn.

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Bruno Silva Wins by TKO/KO (-160)

Thirty of the combined 33 wins for Silva and Jordan Wright have ended inside the distance for these two proud finishers. As a pro, Wright has never even fought beyond the 5:48 mark, and that streak may continue as he comes up against a bruising brawler with power for days. There are glaring weaknesses that Silva has displayed in his two UFC outings, but he still managed to escape the worst of the situations, pull off a wild comeback and rack up a pair of knockouts for his work. Although there are those at 185 pounds that can take advantage of Silva’s weaknesses off his back, Wright has not displayed the acumen on a major stage to achieve this. As “The Beverly Hills Ninja” is quite hittable for a karateka, and Silva likes to put hands on his opponents, his heat-seeking missiles will find their home before too long.

To land a takedown for Wright would be his first under a banner above Legacy Fighting Alliance, and Silva appears to be quite susceptible to this as Andrew Sanchez controlled him for nearly eight minutes before running out of gas. The jury is still out on the extent of Wright’s gas tank, but Silva has displayed the ability to take a beating and turn the tide late in a fight, doing so against Sanchez and Artem Frolov in recent memory. Unless the California native manages to grind and work Silva over to completely deplete his punching power in uncharacteristic fashion, Wright’s chin will be tested one too many times for his liking. Should you believe the alternative will occur and Wright gets it done, Wright Wins Inside Distance at +425 is juicy but fraught with peril.

Ryan Hall Wins by Submission (+140)

This blast of a stylistic matchup on the early prelims practically screams of some wild scrambles and comical exchanges on the ground for as long as it lasts. While his approach of spamming Imanari rolls to hunt for a leglock did not materialize against Ilia Topuria, in Darrick Minner, Hall will face an opponent much more willing to play on the ground with him. The striking game for both featherweights is little more than to set up takedowns or otherwise close the distance, with Hall throwing spinning heel kicks and Minner charging face-first with leaping hooks. Even if one hurts the other with one such blow, the likelihood that either man elects to finish the fight by strikes is extremely low. As Minner is a proud “live by the sword” type of grappler, Hall figures to find some opportunity as his opponent fatigues and get the job done by tap.

Topuria did not bother with Hall’s attempts to get the fight down and go for sweeps, instead hopping out of the way and yanking his leg out of danger any time Hall tried to engage. Stinging Hall with strikes allowed Topuria to capitalize, before clubbing Hall until Jason Herzog stepped in. This power is not held by Minner, who would likely prefer to meet Hall on the way in and tackle him to the mat. This may end up being a test of two unorthodox submission specialists trying recklessly to finish the other, and Hall has historically shown superior chops to not fall prey to a Minner choke. For Minner to submit Hall would be the first to do so, and the other outcome of “The Wizard” getting it done seems far more likely to have value at plus money.

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