The Octagon heads back to San Antonio this Saturday night for UFC on ESPN 4. A total of 13 fights have been scheduled for the event, with the sportsbooks offering odds on all of them. Below are my top plays in the UFC San Antonio edition of Prime Picks.
Leon Edwards (-120)
The main event of the evening is a tremendous welterweight bout between top contenders Edwards and Rafael dos Anjos. Both men are quality fighters vying to get into title contention, but I believe Edwards is going to get his hand raised. I’ve been nothing but impressed with Edwards so far in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and in many ways, he may be the most underrated fighter in the weight class. “Rocky” has put together a terrific 9-2 record inside the Octagon which includes his current seven-fight win streak. He has really sharp striking skills but what makes Edwards so special is that he has excellent wrestling as well. Most British fighters get ragged on for their lack of grappling abilities, but Edwards can hold his own on the mat against anyone. He’s just 27-years-old and in the prime of his career. He’s waited a long time for an opportunity to headline a card, and now he has it against dos Anjos. I think it is a test that he passes. This is no disrespect to dos Anjos, who has proven for more than a decade in the UFC that he is an incredible fighter who may one day be in the UFC Hall of Fame. The Brazilian is coming off of a tremendous victory over Kevin Lee that showed he’s still a top fighter at 170 despite being 34-years old. He really is a great fighter and beating him would be a big achievement. This is less about fading the former UFC lightweight champion and more about being extremely high on Edwards. He’s just such an impressive talent and he has looked better and better every time he steps in the Octagon. I think this is his time to shine and I like the matchup for him here. At -120 odds, give me Edwards to get the biggest win of his career and jump into title contention in the stacked welterweight division.
Ben Rothwell (-185)
There are multiple heavyweight fights on the card, but the one I like most for a play is Rothwell to defeat Andrei Arlovski. This is actually a rematch as the pair first met back in 2008 at Affliction Banned, with "The Pit Bull" knocking Rothwell out. Much has changed since then, and now 11 years later Rothwell is favored to win this rematch despite the fact he was finished in the first fight. The reason Rothwell is favored here is because you can’t trust Arlovski at this point of his career to get his hand raised. The former UFC heavyweight champion is currently on a four-fight winless stretch and is 2-8 with one no contest over his last 11 fights overall. His chin is always a liability and he hasn’t knocked anyone out in years. At 40, it appears that Arlovski is on his final legs. To be fair, Rothwell is also coming off of two straight losses, though at least they came against top-15 fighters in Junior dos Santos and Blagoy Ivanov. Rothwell is still very durable and has shown new aspects to his game in recent year such as improved submissions. He also has a ton of knockout power. I think you have to fade Arlovski here and take Rothwell. He should be able to connect on Belarusian’s chin and once he does the fight should be over quickly. At -185, go with Rothwell to get the win here.
Domingo Pilarte (-320)
Another favorite who I favor is Pilarte, who takes on Felipe Dias Corales in a bantamweight bout. "Son of Fire" hasn’t lost since 2014, going 5-0 during a winning stretch in which he won a UFC contract by tapping out Vince Morales on the Contender Series. Considering Morales has looked pretty good so far in the UFC, that’s a quality victory. Pilarte hasn’t fought since last summer due to injuries, but now that he’s healthy he’s ready to make his UFC debut and much is expected from him here after he showed off a well-rounded game on the regional scene. Although he’s just 29, Pilarte has been a pro since 2009 so he has plenty of experience and should be ready now to make a run in the UFC. He takes on Corales, who lost a decision to Geraldo de Freitas Jr. in his own Octagon debut. "Cabocao" was undefeated on the regional scene leading into this bout, but the holes in his game were exposed during that fight. These were namely in the grappling department, an area of the game where Pilarte excels. The American is going to get this fight to the ground and once on the mat there’s a good chance Pilarte wins this fight by submission. At -320, Pilarte is someone to consider for a parlay.
Steven Peterson (+125)
For an underdog pick, give me Peterson to defeat Alex Caceres in what should be a fun featherweight bout between two guys looking to secure a spot on the UFC roster. Although Peterson is just 1-2 so far inside the Octagon, you have to keep context in mind. He made his UFC debut against Brandon Davis and though he lost, it was a “Fight of the Night” performance against someone who has turned out to be a quality fighter. He then defeated Matt Bessette by split decision before dropping a decision to Luis Pena in his last fight. Remember though that Pena badly missed weight for that fight and the fact Peterson even took the fight is commendable. He was a former champion in Legacy Fighting Championship and has a ton of experience. At age 29, it’s make-or-break time now for “Ocho.” He takes on Caceres, the former “The Ultimate Fighter” contestant that has managed to stick around the roster since 2011 despite a losing 9-10 record with one no contest. "Bruce Leeroy" has looked really good at times, but he’s struggled to find any sort of consistency. He’s just 2-4 in his last six fights and has barely clung onto his roster spot by beating low-end competition. He has also been finished on numerous occasions both on the feet and on the mat. At 31, it appears as though Caceres is past his prime. This is a good opportunity to fade Caceres and take Peterson at plus money. At +125 I like Peterson to pull off the upset here.
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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