UFC Fight Night Betting Tips

UFC Fight Night: Santos v Ankalaev Predictions

Leading light heavyweight contenders Thiago Santos and Magomed Ankalaev will look to punch their ticket to a title shot when they headline UFC Vegas 50 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The co-featured bout of the milestone event at the UFC Apex is a meeting of elite bantamweights with Marlon Moraes squaring off against Song Yadong.

Nigerian-born Sodiq Yusuff takes on featherweight veteran Alex Caceres, Khalil Rountree and Karl Roberson rumble in the light heavyweight division and Drew Dober dukes it out with Terrance McKinney at lightweight.

The main card promises to start with a bang as Alex Pereira, the only man to ever knock out middleweight king Israel Adesanya, steps back inside the Octagon opposite Bruno Silva.

MAIN CARD (from 2 AM Sunday SA time):

Thiago Santos (5.00) v Magomed Ankalaev (1.16) (Light Heavyweight)

It’s only fitting that a high-stakes showdown headlines the milestone 50th event at the UFC Apex. The margin for error is slim and the reward massive as the fifth and sixth-ranked contenders at 205 pounds (93kg) collide. 

Higher-ranked Santos (22-9) has had a shot at the gold before, while Ankalaev (16-1) is champing at the bit to finally fight for the belt. 

The surging Russian is on a stellar seven-fight win streak, the latest seeing him defeat former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir by decision last October, and he’d be hard to deny if he gets past another staple of the light heavyweight elite.

Ankalaev fights with controlled aggression and throws heat, which has earned him eight knockouts. His striking keeps evolving and the head kick at the end of combinations is a particularly potent and successful weapon. 

Having said that, it’s in the grappling department where he shines. A sambo master, he ties opponents up, wears on them and takes them down with an array of throws and trips. He prefers position over submission on the ground, another energy-sapping tactic. 

Santos is a master blaster boasting 15 knockouts. The massive sledgehammer tattooed on his chest is an artistic expression of the blunt force trauma he carries in his fists. 

However, “Marreta” hasn’t been the same since he came within a hair’s breadth of dethroning Jon Jones in 2019. The Brazilian put it all together on the night and came the closest to defeating the consensus GOAT, succumbing by split decision. 

He had to undergo double knee surgery after the championship war and returned with notably less explosiveness and intensity. What followed were losses to current champion Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic before he got back on track with a decision win over Jonny Walker last October. 

He still carries fight-finishing power, but at 38, Santos is past his prime, slower and more tentative due to his knee surgeries. Ankalaev is a 29-year-old star on the rise with momentum, superior mobility and conditioning. 

It’ll be a closer fight than the line suggests, but the threat of the takedown and Ankalaev’s ability to seamlessly mix striking and grappling will keep Santos guessing and should ultimately lead him to a decision win.

Prediction: Ankalaev via decision.

Best Bet: Ankalaev by decision at 2.40.

Alternative Bet: Ankalaev by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.10.

Marlon Moraes (3.10) v Song Yadong (1.36) (Bantamweight)

Top-15 bantamweights on contrasting career trajectories battle it out in the co-main event. Former title challenger Moraes (23-9-1) has lost three in a row, all by knockout, to drop to 10th in the rankings, while Yadong (18-5-1) has won two on the trot to move up to 14th.

Both men have solid submission skills but are mainly strikers and two of the hardest hitters in the division. The power he possesses is what took Moraes to a title shot in 2019. It’s earned “Magic” 10 knockouts and makes him a very real threat despite his slump.

One of the youngest and fastest-rising prospects in the promotion, Yadong carries heat in his own right, his head kick finish of Julio Acre in his last fight his sixth knockout win. He throws at a higher output and will have a speed advantage.

That high pace should see “The Kung Fu Monkey” overwhelm Moraes, who’s known for coming out guns blazing and gassing if he can’t get an early finish. 

Prediction: Yadong via knockout.

Best Bet: Yadong by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.90.

Alternative Bet: Yadong by KO/TKO/DQ/submission at 1.83.

Sodiq Yusuff (1.40) v Alex Caceres (2.90) (Featherweight)

Nigerian-born Yusuff (11-2) will look to bounce back from his first loss inside the Octagon, which came at the hands of Arnold Allen (by decision) last April.

Twelfth-ranked “Super” remains one of the best up-and-coming featherweights on the roster with his power (six knockouts) and explosiveness, which have him favoured over the surging Caceres (19-12).

The veteran is on a career-best five-fight win streak, two of which came by submission including his most recent triumph over Seung Woo Choi this past October.

The veteran, who’s climbed up to 15th, will go to his grappling again to try to ground his dangerous foe. However, as the stronger man and superior athlete, Yusuff should be able to keep it on the feet and end Bruce Leeroy’s run by decision.

Prediction: Yusuff via decision.

Best Bet: Yusuff by decision at 2.40.

Alternative Bet: Fight to go the distance at 1.74.

Khalil Rountree (2.15) v Karl Roberson (1.71) (Light Heavyweight)

Keep your eyes glued to the screen when these two southpaws slug it out in what’s set to be a stand-up battle. Back-to-back losses at middleweight see Roberson (9-4) move up to light heavyweight. It’s a curious decision as he lost his only previous bout at 205 pounds and has a tall task ahead of him.

“Baby K” is fleet of foot and should be the faster fighter. Being gun-shy has cost him in the past and he’ll likely be extra careful/hesitant against the brutal buzzsaw that is Rountree (9-5).

“The War Horse” is a punishing power puncher with some of the most wicked leg kicks in the business. With a two-and-a-half-inch reach advantage and three-inch reach advantage when it comes to kicks, I’m backing Rountree to lead the dance and get Robertson out of there.

Prediction: Rountree via knockout.

Best Bet: Rountree at 2.15.

Alternative Bet: Rountree by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.15.

Drew Dober (1.51) v Terrance McKinney (2.55) (Lightweight)

McKinney (12-3) steps up on short notice in place of the injured Ricky Glenn (22-6-2) intent on causing more waves. The 27-year-old produced the fastest finish in UFC lightweight history when he knocked out Matt Frevola in just seven seconds in his promotional debut last June and is fresh off a submission win over Fares Ziam late last month.

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Late replacements are always at a disadvantage given their opponents have been in dedicated fight camps for weeks. That he fought so recently will stand McKinney in good stead and if anyone can finish a fight early, it’s him. As well-rounded as he is aggressive, all but one of McKinney’s wins are first-round stoppages, so I expect some betting action on him. 

Having said that, Dober (23-11) is a complete (10 knockouts and six submissions) and intelligent fighter with a great chin. He’ll play it smart, weather the early storm and gradually take over as McKinney fades to get his hand raised. 

Prediction: Dober via decision.

Best Bet: Dober at 1.51. 

Alternative Bet: Dober by decision at 4.00, McKinney at 2.55 or McKinney by KO/TKO/DQ/submission at 3.00 (see above).

Alex Pereira (1.52) v Bruno Silva (2.50) (Middleweight)

This battle of Brazilians is one you cannot afford to miss. Pereira (4-1) is still young in his MMA career but has built a reputation as a kickboxing supernova. 

As mentioned above, his striking prowess earned him the distinction of being the only man to ever knock out middleweight champion Adesanya back when they met in a kickboxing ring in 2017, a year after he’d outpointed “The Last Stylebender” in their first fight.  

“Poatan” made sure he maximised his UFC debut last November, starching Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee to extend his 100% KO rate in MMA.

He’ll have a willing and dangerous dance partner in Silva (22-6), who’s on a seven-fight knockout streak, three of which came inside the Octagon. “Blindado” boasts 19 knockouts in all and won’t take a backwards step.

At 6’4″, Pereira’s a huge middleweight. He’s four inches taller than Silva and will have a five-inch reach advantage, which for an elite striker like him, is like having a spear against an unarmed man. 

Prediction: Pereira via knockout.

Best Bet: Pereira by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.74.

Alternative Bet: Pereira at 1.52.

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Author: editor

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