It’s been just over seven years since the Ultimate Fighting Championship debuted on Fox, and this weekend the promotion will end its partnership with the television giant with its final event, UFC on Fox 31.
The Octagon heads to the new Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee and the UFC has put together an exciting slate of fights for the fans. The sportsbooks have released odds for all 13 fights on the card, and here are my top picks in the UFC on Fox 31 edition of Prime Picks.
Dan Hooker (-105)
The best matchup on the whole card is the co-main event, a lightweight bout between Hooker and Edson Barboza. Considering both of these guys like to stand and strike, this should be a very crowd-pleasing affair. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching Barboza fight over the years, though, I think he’s finally starting to slow down and Hooker is catching him at the right time. Hooker (17-7) was a middling featherweight in the UFC with a 3-3 record, but he’s looked like an elite fighter since moving up to lightweight. The young New Zealander is 4-0 at 155, with stoppages over Jim Miller, Gilbert Burns, Marc Diakese and Ross Pearson. Not only is Hooker dangerous on the feet but he can also finish his opponents on the ground, making him one of the most dangerous up-and-comers in the lightweight division. He’s always been durable (only two submission losses and zero knockouts) and a finisher (16 finishes in 17 wins), but Hooker looks like he’s really taken the next step forward in his career since moving to lightweight, and that’s exciting. The UFC has given him the fight he called for against Barboza and the Brazilian veteran should put up a good fight, though I don’t see him winning. Barboza (19-6) has been one of the slickest strikers in UFC history and has numerous highlight-reels throughout his career, but he’s 32 now and all the damage he’s taken throughout all the wars he’s been in has really added up. In his last two fights, Barboza was dominated bell-to-bell by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee and the beatings he took in those fights can’t be good for his health going forward. I think Hooker is catching Barboza at the right time and I think he wins this fight, maybe by knockout. Give me Hooker at -105.
Dwight Grant (-290)
There are a number of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series veterans on this card, but the one I’m looking forward to the most is Grant, who takes on Zak Ottow in his UFC debut. Grant (8-1) has picked up six wins by knockout, including one on the Contender Series that got him signed to his UFC deal. He’s 34 so he’s a bit of a late bloomer, but he is a very impressive athlete with explosive knockout power and should be a great addition to the UFC welterweight division. Grant was originally matched up against Erik Koch, but Ottow took the fight on short notice. Ottow (16-6) is just 3-3 in the UFC and two of his losses have come by knockout, including getting finished by Sage Northcutt in his last fight. Ottow is actually a fairly well-rounded fighter, but his chin is a massive question mark in a matchup like this against a power puncher. I feel like this is the UFC setting up Grant for an impressive KO win in his UFC debut, and at -290 he’s a nice play for parlay bettors.
Juan Adams (-425)
Also for the parlay bettors, Adams is going to be a very popular play. Adams (4-0) is one of the top heavyweight prospects in the UFC. He’s won all four of his fights via knockout since making his pro debut in 2017, including a TKO win on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series that got him signed to a UFC contract. At only 26, Adams is among the latest in a line of young heavyweight prospects to emerge, and he’s a very exciting addition to the UFC roster. The matchmakers have been kind to him here, giving Adams a very winnable matchup in his debut. De La Rocha (5-2) is already 39 and he’s just 1-2 in the UFC with two knockout losses. He did win his last bout against Rashad Coulter via TKO, but it was an ugly fight that he only won because he had a little more cardio than Coulter did. I would pick pretty much everyone in the heavyweight division over de la Rocha, and Adams is no different. Adams should be able to get the win here via TKO, so definitely keep an eye out for that prop, but for moneyline bettors Adams makes a nice parlay piece at -425.
Gerald Meerschaert (+165)
For an underdog play, give me Meerschaert to defeat Jack Hermansson. I believe Meerschaert is one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC and he never gets respect from the sportsbooks, despite how often he gets his hand raised. Meerschaert (28-9) has won 26 of his victories by stoppage and he’s 4-1 in the UFC with four finishes. He has displayed knockout power and submission prowess throughout his career, and overall is just an extremely crafty veteran who is hard to put away. He does have a number of submission losses on his resume, but most of those were early in his career. His lone knockout loss came against Thiago Santos, and there’s no shame in that. Meerschaert is a local Milwaukee native who will no doubt be fired up by the home crowd, giving him another advantage in this fight. That’s not saying it will be easy, though. Hermansson (17-4) has a 4-2 record in the UFC, including three wins by stoppage. In his last fight, he fought through adversity as he was injured against Thales Leites early on only to storm back late and get a third-round TKO. He showed a lot of heart in that fight, but the fact he was in such a bad position against a fighter like Leites, who was on his last legs is troubling. I think Hermansson is a dangerous striker but he’s not much of a submission expert and that’s Meerschaert’s biggest weakness. I think Meerschaert can expose Hermansson’s ground game and win this fight by submission or maybe get a TKO. Give me Meerschaert at +145 odds.
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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