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UFC International Fight Week is upon us, bringing with it an exciting pay-per-view event in Las Vegas this Saturday night. UFC 290 promises to deliver thrilling action, with two world title fights headlining the card.
The main event will see featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski take on interim champion Yair Rodriguez in a highly anticipated unification bout. Volkanovski is coming off his first loss in over 20 fights, where he moved up to lightweight to challenge 155-pound champion Islam Makhachev. Despite losing by unanimous decision, Volkanovski showcased his ability to compete toe-to-toe with the champion in the division above.
Meanwhile, while Volkanovski was vying for success in the lightweight division, Rodriguez seized the opportunity to face Josh Emmett for the interim belt. Rodriguez secured victory with a triangle choke submission in the second round, earning him the title and setting up the showdown with Volkanovski.
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In the co-main event, flyweight champion Brandon Moreno will defend his title against Alexandre Pantoja. Pantoja holds a decision victory over Moreno from 2018 and brings a three-fight winning streak into the bout.
After a series of challenging events for our monthly Best Bets column, we managed to regain some momentum with a 3-2 record at UFC 289. Our overall record for the year is now 18-16.
Without further ado, let’s delve into our top picks for the UFC 290 pay-per-view main card.
Bo Nickal vs. Valentine Woodburn
When Woodburn stepped in on short notice due to injury, Nickal opened as one of the biggest favorites in UFC history. Woodburn boasts an undefeated record of 7-0 and has faced decent opponents, but he lacks the preparation time to take on one of the UFC’s top prospects. While Woodburn possesses knockout power, relying on a lucky shot to catch Nickal off guard would be a gamble. The odds are heavily in Nickal’s favor, making it an unappealing choice to support his victory as a -2800 favorite. Furthermore, any potential line for a quick finish is unlikely to yield significant returns. With unfavorable odds and various uncertainties, we cannot recommend a play in this matchup.
Dan Hooker vs. Jalin Turner
Jalin Turner (-280) vs. Dan Hooker
Here, we find ourselves playing a higher-priced favorite than usual for our Best Bet column, but there are valid reasons for doing so. Hooker used to exhibit durability against significant damage and incoming offense. However, his recent performances have shown a decline in defensive resistance. Turner represents the wrong type of opponent to face when your ability to withstand attacks is waning. While there are intriguing lines for Turner to win by knockout or submission, it is challenging to predict the exact method of victory. Turner has never won by decision, registering nine knockouts and four submissions. Recent improvements in his overall game have seen him secure three submission wins in his last five fights. Considering these factors, the safer choice is to place a bet on Turner’s moneyline, potentially as part of a parlay.
Robert Whittaker vs. Dricus du Plessis
Robert Whittaker via decision (+180)
Despite acknowledging that du Plessis may be somewhat overlooked in this fight, we cannot justify placing a bet on him when Whittaker is the superior fighter. The favored outcome according to the odds is Whittaker winning by KO/TKO/DQ. However, Whittaker has not secured a stoppage victory in his last eight fights, and du Plessis is a durable fighter capable of making the contest challenging enough to last the full three rounds. Whittaker is likely to tactically dismantle du Plessis over the course of 15 minutes, earning a victory on the judges’ scorecards. The appealing line of +180 to +220 for a decision win is too enticing to pass up.
Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja
Over 3.5 rounds (-175)
Moreno and Pantoja both possess dangerous fighting styles that can lead to finishes. However, an interesting statistical observation is that the combined 11 losses between them have all come by way of decision. Both fighters have faced a range of top-tier UFC flyweights without suffering a stoppage loss. While there is a possibility that this could change on Saturday night, it appears unlikely. Opting for the fight to last over 3.5 rounds (-175) provides an extra layer of security against a late stoppage, in addition to better odds than betting on the fight to go the distance (-105). This feels like the logical play.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez
Fight to go the distance: No (-120)
Volkanovski may not be known for his finishing ability, but he possesses the capacity to overwhelm opponents, as evidenced by his performance against The Korean Zombie. Rodriguez is a flashy and dangerous fighter, and he is the more proficient finisher of the two. However, there are concerns about Rodriguez’s gas tank and his ability to maintain a high pace for five rounds against an opponent like Volkanovski. While Rodriguez could secure a stoppage victory, it is highly likely that Volkanovski will wear him down and ultimately find a way to finish the fight. Therefore, betting on the fight not reaching the final bell makes sense.