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The Octagon returns to Target Center in Minneapolis this Saturday for UFC on ESPN 3. The card features a number of solid matchups including a terrific heavyweight main event between heavy hitters Francis Ngannou and Junior dos Santos. All together there are 13 scheduled bouts and the sportsbooks are offering odds on all of them. Below are my top plays in the UFC on ESPN 3 edition of Prime Picks.
Roosevelt Roberts (-245)
In lightweight action, give me Roberts (8-0) to beat Vinc Pichel (11-2). Just 25-years-old, “The Predator” is one of the best prospects at lightweight on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster. After earning a contract after a win on the Contender Series, Roberts has put together back-to-back dominant wins over Darrell Horcher and Thomas Gifford. His ground game is exceptional and if he can improve the other aspects of his game he could go far in this division. He now faces his toughest opponent yet in the form of the 36-year-old Pichel. A former “The Ultimate Fighter” contestant, Pichel has a 4-2 overall record inside the Octagon and was unbeaten between 2014 and 2018 before losing to Gregor Gillespie in his last fight. The fact he was submitted there is a cause for concern considering he is now taking on a submission ace in the form of Roberts. Though Pichel has more experience, he’s one of the oldest fighters in the UFC lightweight division and is now taking on a very talented prospect here in Roberts. I believe Roberts dominates this fight with his ground game and may even win by submission. At -245 odds, give me the younger fighter to get the win.
Alonzo Menifield (-330)
In a light heavyweight bout, I heavily favor Menifield (8-0) to defeat Paul Craig (11-3). When you talk about the upcoming wave of light heavyweight prospect, Menifield has to be at the top of the list along with guys like Aleksandar Rakic and Johnny Walker. The 31-year-old is unbeaten as a pro with all eight of his wins coming by stoppage. After getting a UFC contract after an eight-second KO win over the Contender Series, Menifield laid waste to Vinicius Moreira in his UFC debut, finishing him in the first round with a brutal knockout. He now gets a step in up competition against Craig, who has been something of a prospect killer inside the Octagon so far. The 31-year-old Scot is 3-3 in the UFC with three wins by submission, including late, Hail Mary subs over Kennedy Nzechukwu and Magomed Ankalaev. However, he’s also been finished in all three of his UFC losses and if it wasn’t for those miracle submissions he would be riding a five-fight losing skid right now. Like most, I’m looking for any opportunity to fade “Bearjew” and this is another situation where I’m picking against him. Menifield is the superior athlete and has a far superior striking game, and he likely knocks Craig out. At -330 odds give me Menifield to get a huge win here.
Joseph Benavidez (-165)
In an important flyweight rematch, give me Benavidez (27-5) to beat Jussier Formiga (23-5). These two previously met in 2013, with Benavidez winning by first-round TKO. I wish this was a five-round interim title fight, but as it stands the winner will likely become the No. 1 contender for Henry Cejudo’s flyweight belt. Benavidez has been an absolute stud in the UFC since making his Octagon debut back in 2011. He has an overall record of 14-3 in the UFC and was the last man to beat Cejudo back in 2016. Benavidez has won eight of his last nine fights and is currently riding a two-fight win streak over Alex Perez and Dustin Ortiz. Despite being 34, he remains an incredibly well-rounded fighter who is still fighting at a high level and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Formiga has also had a great UFC career with a 9-4 record inside the Octagon. He’s also 34 but like Benavidez is fighting at a high level as he’s currently riding a four-fight win streak including notable victories over Sergio Pettis and Deiveson Figueiredo. Formiga is a great fighter, but Benavidez matches up well against him. We’ve seen these two fight before and there’s no reason to believe this rematch will go any differently. At -165 odds, Benavidez makes for a solid play.
Maurice Greene (-110)
In a heavyweight bout with pick ‘em odds, I favor Greene (7-2) to defeat Junior Albini (14-5). This is mostly a straight fade on Albini, who I do not believe is UFC caliber, but Greene has also impressed me. Greene is 2-0 in the UFC so far with victories over Michel Batista and Jeff Hughes. The former Glory kickboxer is a massive heavyweight who stands at 6’7”. He’s a powerful striker with legitimate knockout power and he also has an underrated ground game for a big man. At 32-years-old he appears to be in the prime of his heavyweight mixed martial arts career. He now takes on Albini in what should be a favorable matchup. Albini has not been impressive at all in the UFC. Since beating Tim Johnson in his UFC debut, Albini has lost three straight fights and is coming off of back-to-back stoppage losses to Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Alexey Oleynik. His chin is questionable, and his ground game needs a lot of work. Albini is just 28 so he is one of the younger heavyweights on the UFC roster, but he has too many holes in his game to be a contender in this division. Greene is better everywhere, especially in the striking department, and he should have a good chance to get a knockout win here. I’m surprised the odds are as close as they are for this bout as I favor Greene quite a bit. At -110, give me Greene to defeat Albini.
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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