Sports and gambling have always gone hand in hand and right now MMA is the wild west of the gambling world. Its one of the newer sports around so oddsmakers don’t have as much experience setting lines, and it’s one of the few sports in the world that has a great equalizer, the knockout or submission. Imagine if the Lakers are up 10 points against the Clippers midway through the 2nd quarter. The game has a whole 2nd half of action left but then Kawhi Leonard jumps over all five Lakers on the court for the greatest dunk in NBA history. It was so awesome that the refs decide to give him 11 points for it and end the game. That’s what MMA is all about and is the reason it’s the hardest sport in the world to gamble on.
I grew up around sports gambling and made my first bet with my dad when I was in 6th grade despite the strong disapproval of my mother. But this sparked a passion for sports that I have to this day and became a source of bonding between me and my father. Thankfully I didn’t develop a gambling problem at 12 years old but looking at sports from a gambling perspective made me appreciate the technique and intelligence it requires to be successful at the highest levels of any sport which is what made me fall in love with martial arts. And later, the thrill of betting on Martial Arts.
But enough backstory, now its time to get to the picks. I will be making five picks a week but with a twist. Four of the picks will be my most confident without picking heavy favorites, and one of them will be a major underdog that I think has a chance to hit. Then I will pick one parlay and one prop bet to round it out. A true smorgasbord of picks. Not to get ahead of myself but I also won’t be charging for any of my picks in the event I become an MMA gambling guru. Because one thing I have learned from a lifetime of sports betting is that anyone who charges for their picks is doing it because they need the money they aren’t making from their bets.
Confident UFC 250 Picks
Cory Sandhagen -105
Cory Sandhagen has quietly become one of the best strikers in MMA today and in just 5 fights in the UFC he has already proven to be a top 5 talent. His multiuse jab and switch-hitting ability are the best in the division, and he used to train with TJ Dillashaw who was the poster boy for elite footwork and switch-hitting for many years. Aljamain Sterling has come on as of late after his career took a bit of a stumble in 2016-2017. His wrestling has always been his bread and butter but now he has become an adequate striker who can use his skills on the feet to complement his grappling. But Sandhagen has some of the swiftest feet in the sport and I think his jab and feints alone could throw Sterling for a tizzy and not allow him to get a clean shot at his hips. Sandhagen’s defensive grappling is also very underrated although he hasn’t faced the level of grappler that Sterling possesses so it will be interesting to see how his defense holds up. But honestly, I don’t think it gets to that point. Sandhagen is too crafty on the feet to allow Sterling the chance to get the fight on the ground, and if it stays a striking bout, Sandhagen should run away with this one.
Raphael Assuncao +115
This card is a bantamweight tournament of sorts with the winners of Sandhagen vs. Sterling and Assuncao vs. Garbrandt most likely heading towards a title shot or title eliminator. For years every time I write about Assuncao I have to mention that he is one of the most underrated fighters of all time. He has taken on nearly every great bantamweight of the last decade and has beaten the likes of TJ Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes, and Aljamain Sterling. And even with an 11-4 UFC record including a 7 fight winning streak against top bantamweights, Assuncao was never even close to a title shot which is a crime looking back. Now at 37 years old and on the backend of his career, it’s hard to imagine him ever getting the title shot but a win over Garbrandt would prove he still has what it takes to contend with the elite. Garbrandt is a good boxer but not much else. And even then, his boxing has been exposed in his last few fights. He has quick hands and good combination boxing, but his willingness to stand and wildly trade in the pocket has been his downfall in his last 3 fights which have all been knockout losses. And other than Dominick Cruz, he doesn’t have a single notable win over top 5 competition. If he cleans up his defense and works on taming himself in the cage, he could be right back into title contention. But I think Assuncao’s awkward counter striking style and defense in the pocket will be too much for the former champion.
Neil Magny -145
Speaking of underrated, my next pick is the always forgotten Neil Magny. Since his UFC debut in 2013, Magny has amassed a 15-6 record and has become known for his evasive outside kickboxing game. The army veteran isn’t much of a finisher, only 5 of his wins have been via KO or submission but his ability to pick apart opponents from the outside and win an easy decision is impressive. His work in the clinch is also underrated and his length helps him control opponents along the cage. Martin on the other hand is a well-rounded fighter but doesn’t impress in any one thing. I love his use of the calf kicks as of late, but at the end of the day, Martin is all-around average. Magny could also be described as average especially since he is so hit or miss against the top of the division, but I think his length and improved boxing will be enough to take home yet another decision victory.
Chase Hooper -175
“The Dream” Chase Hooper is the youngest fighter on the roster and has all the assets to become a superstar in this sport. His striking is far from great and he often looks awkward and lost on the feet, but his grappling and top control are years ahead of where it should be. Check out my breakdown over Hooper for more details on his game. Caceres is a longtime UFC veteran and a true gatekeeper and unfortunately, he’s being thrown into this fight to lose to Hooper. But we have seen the UFC’s attempts to build up young stars fail miserably many times before and odds suggest this will be much closer than fans are expecting. If the fight hits the ground Hooper can make quick work of him, but Caceres’s cardio and movement could turn this into a kickboxing match where it’s a toss-up.
Underdog of The Week
Felicia Spencer +450 and rising
I may wake up Sunday morning feeling like a fool, but I think this fight should be much closer than +450. Spencer is a true featherweight and even made her debut at 155. Nunes hasn’t fought at 145 in almost two years and really had to beef up to make the weight. If Nunes doesn’t starch her early, I’m not sure if her cardio can hold up with the extra weight. I could see Spencer surviving the early onslaught and using her size and clinch game to lean on Nunes against the cage for the rest of the fight for a boring decision victory.
Parley of The Week
Jussier Formiga, Charles Byrd, Cody Stamann +347
Prop of The Week
Chase Hooper Via KO, TKO, DQ + 900
Hooper is known for his submissions but his ground and pound is just as dangerous. Two of his last three wins were via TKO, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him look to unload with his hands more rather than look for submissions.
Kevin Wilson is a freelance MMA writer who specializes in pre-fight breakdowns and analysis. He has been an MMA fan since 2007 and has been writing about combat sports since he was 17 years old. His work can be found on Sherdog, MMA Today, and now MyMMANews!