Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC on ESPN+ live on your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
The Octagon returns to Newark, New Jersey, this Saturday afternoon for UFC on ESPN 5. Twelve fights have been scheduled for this event, and although there aren’t many tantalizing betting options, some are still worth checking out. Below are our top plays in the UFC on ESPN 5 edition of Prime Picks.
Colby Covington (-245)
Headlining this card is a major welterweight battle between former interim titlist Covington and former champion Robbie Lawler. It’s no secret what either man plans to do when they meet face-to-face, as Covington fervently hunts for the takedown while Lawler attempts to sprawl-and-brawl.
Covington is riding a six-fight win streak, having beaten Rafael dos Anjos, Demian Maia and Dong Hyun Kim in his last three. In his 10 Octagon appearances, Covington has taken his opponent down in nine of those -- opting not to put Demian Maia on his back when they fought in 2017. Instead, it was Maia who tried to force the takedown, but the Brazilian was wholly unsuccessful, going 0-13 in his attempts. Meanwhile, Covington's opponent Lawler has dropped his last two, and three of his last four over the past three years. Most recently, Lawler suffered a loss to Ben Askren by a controversial bulldog choke with a stoppage that generated a great deal of debate in the MMA community.
Covington's only career blemish came at the hands of guillotine specialist Warlley Alves, who capitalized on Covington's forward-heavy wrestling attack to sink in the choke in under 90 seconds. Lawler does not even remotely possess a submission threat, with his lone submission victory a first-round armbar of Jeremy Brown in 2005. Lawler vastly prefers the knockout, with 20 of his 28 wins ending due to strikes. Across Lawler's 31 bouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Strikeforce, Pride Fighting Championships and EliteXC, Lawler has never even attempted a submission.
While Covington may have a takedown success rate of about 50 percent, when he averages over nine attempts per fight, it is practically a foregone conclusion that Lawler will be put on his back on Saturday. As the fight goes on, some audiences might hear the words of former UFC commentator Mike Goldberg's famous line "Embrace the Grind" echoing in their heads, as Covington doggedly pursues yet another takedown en route to a potential decision win.
Clay Guida vs. Jim Miller Goes to Decision (-165)
Instead of picking a winner in this fight — Miller is currently a -165 favorite against the comeback of Guida at +140 — the smart money may instead be on a particular prop bet. Given their histories and the style matchup, this co-main event could very well go the distance.
Miller will be entering his 33rd UFC bout compared to Guida's 28th, in a fight that likely holds the most combined experience under the UFC banner. Despite this massive amount of experience between the two, they have never met inside the Octagon. Both gameplans are well-known and well-scouted, and if you have seen either of them fight you likely know what to expect in this one.
Coming into their bout, the two share a surprising amount of statistical similarities. According to UFCStats.com, their total cage times are separated by about 90 seconds, with Miller fighting for a little over five hours and 20 minutes while Guida has logged just over five hours and 19 minutes. In terms of total strikes landed at lightweight, they are separated by merely eight strikes, with Miller scoring 1,252 against Guida's 1,244. Miller has been awarded 10 post-fight bonuses vs. Guida's nine. Miller is one inch taller and has one inch more in the reach than Guida. Despite their wealth of experience, neither man has ever competed for UFC gold.
While Miller has not reached the scorecards in each of his last four, his level of competition has fluctuated wildly from top-15 talents Dan Hooker and Charles Oliveira to younger prospects such as Alex White and Jason Gonzalez. Guida's current level looks to be between those two categories, and even at 37, "The Carpenter" consistently shows he has the cardio to go three full rounds, as six of his last seven wins have come by decision. If anyone busts this bet, it would be Miller, who has attempted more submissions than any other fighter in UFC history, but we believe this one will go all 15 minutes.
Trevin Giles (-170)
Giles ran into a wall in his last time out against Zak Cummings at UFC Fight Night 152 in May, finding out quickly that Cummings would be no easy out. Giles' eventual tapout due to a guillotine choke was his first career defeat. As is often said, fighters that suffer their first loss may not come back with the confidence that previously led them to victory. Sometimes, it takes the right opponent to get them back to their winning ways, and this style matchup appears to favor Giles.
Several factors could have contributed to Giles' loss, including a nearly 18-month layoff, Cummings being the first southpaw “The Problem” faced and his somewhat tentative performance. Until Cummings landed a huge left hand that dropped Giles, the fight was competitive, but Cummings took the neck and would not let go until he got the tap. In this matchup against Meerschaert, Giles is making a much quicker return, but is again facing a southpaw. Of note, "GM3" enjoys throwing body kicks to the liver of his opponents — as evidenced by Meerschaert's knockout of Eric Spicely — and he will be positioned to do so if he wishes.
Unfortunately for Meerschaert, he has adopted a "live by the sword, die by the sword" approach, where as a grappling specialist he has submitted 20 foes. On the other side, he has tapped out eight times himself. Giles holds a very well-rounded game, with exactly five wins by knockout and five by submission across his 11 victories. If Meerschaert is to take home the win, it is likely by a quick submission, but look for Giles to stay patient and pick up a decision or late stoppage.
Kennedy Nzechukwu (+110)
As our underdog pick, we see Nzechukwu as a prospect that can bounce back from a late submission loss to Paul Craig by beating Serbia's Stosic. It should be noted that Nzechukwu was just 40 seconds away from a clear-cut victory until he fell into a trap set by Craig that has ensnared fighters in the past.
Nzechukwu was signed after demolishing Dennis Bryant with a head kick and punches in under two minutes at Dana White's Contender Series. His debut against Craig demonstrated an impressive defensive wrestling game, only getting grounded once after well over a dozen attempts by Craig. When he faces Stosic, the Fortis MMA product will hold a reach advantage of about seven inches and can utilize that effectively against the former heavyweight. Stosic would prefer to get on the inside and strike, which is where that reach can make a major difference. As long as Nzechukwu does not engage in risky exchanges and wild brawls, he should cruise to a win as a slight underdog.