Coming off an entertaining night of fights in front of a sold-out crowd in Houston, Texas for UFC 262, the UFC is back at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Garbrandt. The #3 ranked bantamweight, Rob Font, takes on the former bantamweight champion and #4 ranked bantamweight, Cody Garbrandt in the main event. The winner of this fight is all but guaranteed to be one fight away from a title shot. A title-shot could be on the line for one fighter, as the #3 ranked, Yan Xiaonan, takes on the #4 ranked Carla Esparza in a strawweight co-main event. The rest of the card, particularly the main card, has some intriguing and meaningful fights for their respective divisions. But before we take a look at some key betting opportunities on this card, as always, let's take a look back at UFC 262: Oliveira vs Chandler and review our best bets. You’ll find my full list of fight picks for both the main card and the preliminary card at the bottom of this article as well.
All lines below provided by DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing. All stats provided by UFCStats.com
Last Week's Recap - UFC 262: Oliveira vs Chandler
All Fight Picks: 7-5
Official Plays: 2-1
It was a pretty solid night on the betting front. I wish we would’ve swept the board, but I’ll take any profitability. Andre Muniz (-108) got the night started by breaking Jacare Souza (-115)’s arm with an inverted armbar in the first round of their bout. Muniz became the first person ever to defeat Souza by submission in his 36-fight career. As I stated going into UFC 262, Shane Burgos (-141) vs. Edson Barboza (+114) had “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Both fighters did not disappoint, as their fight indeed won “Fight of the Night”, unfortunately for our fighter, Burgos, he was on the wrong side of the KO/TKO loss. Finally, in the main event, Charles Oliveira (-134) weathered an early storm from Michael Chandler (+110) to come back and knock him out in the second round to become the new lightweight champion. His victory not only made our night a profitable one, but also lines him up to face the winner of the upcoming Poirier vs. McGregor trilogy fight. This week’s card offers up some intriguing betting opportunities so let’s turn our attention towards UFC Fight Night: Font vs Garbrandt.
Rob Font (-110) vs. Cody Garbrandt (-110)
We have a fight of the night candidate headlining the card when Rob Font takes on Cody Garbrandt in an important bantamweight bout. These guys LOVE to push forward, throw leather, and knock their opponents out. Font lands a healthy 5.21 strikes per minute while absorbing 3.83 strikes per minute. His opponent, Garbrandt, eats as many shots as he throws with 3.35 strikes thrown and 3.33 strikes absorbed per minute. This fight will take place primarily on the feet as both fighters have relatively low takedowns in their career. Font attempts 1.20 takedowns per 15 minutes while Garbrandt only attempts 0.84 takedowns per 15 minutes. I expect these guys to trade big shots on the feet until one of them eventually falls.
These guys are pretty evenly matched. Both of them are slick boxers on the feet and they use their athleticism, foot movements, and feints to frustrate their opponents and keep them guessing. They have good head movement and slip punches pretty well. Even with that, they both can be hurt on the feet. Garbrandt’s chin, in particular, has been notoriously questioned after succumbing to three straight knockouts earlier in his career. His chin will ultimately determine who wins this fight.
Font is the more technical boxer in this matchup. He throws some beautiful, crisp combinations and uses his jab really well. He, too, is susceptible to the big punch and Garbrandt packs some serious power on the feet. In Garbrandt's last fight, he proved that he can still take a punch and land a knockout punch himself. He is the better all-around fighter here. He’s faster, has more power, athleticism, explosiveness, and better movement on the feet, all mixed in with some technical striking. He also has the wrestling background to tap into defensively or even offensively if need be, although I don’t believe he’ll focus on the latter. It's pretty straight forward, the key is the durability of Garbrandt's chin and I believe it holds up. I see him knocking Font out and at a pick'em, I can not pass up this opportunity to back the former champion who looks primed for another run. I have Cody Garbrandt (-110) winning this fight and I put two units on him.
Yan Xiaonan (-125) vs. Carla Esparza (+100)
Depending on if the UFC decides to make a championship rematch between Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili, the winner of this bout could be next in-line for a title shot. This fight will be a clash of styles as Yan Xiaonan will look to keep the fight on feet and Carla Esparza will look to get the fight to the mat. The stats highlight that. Xiaonan lands a healthy 6.42 significant strikes per minute while only getting 1.00 takedowns per fight. In contrast, Esparza only lands 2.29 significant strikes per minute, but gets 3.44 takedowns per fight.
This one is pretty simple and stylistcally reminds of the Marina Rodriguez vs Carla Esparza matchup from 2020. In that matchup, Esparza was able to land enough takedowns and control time, to squeak out a split decision win. She’ll look to repeat that gameplan here. However, I do not believe she’ll be as fortunate to squeak out a win this time around for a couple of reasons. First, Xiaonan is much better at defending takedowns and stronger in the clinch than Marina Rodriguez was. Xiaonan has a 75% takedown defense accuracy. Secondly, she’s been working with Team Alpha Male (known for their wrestling acumen) specficailly on her takedowns and takedown defense, Marina Rodriguez has not seemed interested in patching up that hole in her game. I personally scored the Rodriguez/Esparza fight for Rodriguez and it was because of all the damage Esparza absorbed. She was a bloody mess at the end of that fight.
Xiaonan’s striking is on par, if not better than Rodriguez’s. The difference and the X-factor for me in this fight is her piston of a jab. She not only uses it offensively to do damage to her opponent, but she also uses it defensively as a deterrent and a range buffer against wrestlers. She fought a wrestling/grappling based fighter in her previous fight and emerged with her undefeated record in tact. I believe she does the same Saturday night. Of course, Esparza can land takedowns and grind out a boring decision victory if Xiaonan’s takedown defense and get up game falters, but I just do not believe that will happen here. Especially afterwatching her last performance against Claudia Gadelha who tried to implement a grappling heavy gameplan. Xiaonan is the more talented fighter and on a trajectory towards a title fight. We’re getting such a close line because of the stylistic matchup, but talent vs talent, this is a bargain price to back Xiaonan. I have Yan Xiaonan (-125) winning this fight and I put two units on her.
Jack Hermansson (-162) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (+130)
This is another intriguing stylistic matchup on the card and it takes place in the middleweight divsion. Jack Hermansson is grappling heavy fighter who also has a solid standup game. Edmen Shahbazyan is a super talented striker and prospect in the UFC who's gonna want to keep this fight standing. He was undefeated until losing to a wrestling/grappling heavy fighter in his last fight. Hermansson's best path to victory is stick to a grappling heavy gameplan to tire Shahbazyan, who tends to slow down as the fight progesses.
Also, he's going to want to avoid Shahbazyan's power and varied strikes on the feet. For Shahbazyan, the question is, can he keep this fight at range and stop enough takedowns to win the fight? I believe the answer is yes. His striking precision and power is superior to Hermansson. Also, he has shown that he can stuff takedowns or at the very least work to get up when he is taken down in previous fights.
Is the hole in his game wrestling? Yes, but Hermansson’s grappling/wrestling is not upper echelon nor is his top control. He does not react well to power shots either. What it comes down to me is, based on the time off and what I've seen in training, I believe that Shahbazyan learned from that first loss and will be able to do enough in the wrestling/grappling department to keep this fight standing. The line is too wide in my opinion. I do not feel that Hermansson should be lined as a -162 favorite. This is a dog or pass situation and ultimately a value play for me. I have Edmen Shahbazyan (+130) winning this fight and I put one unit on him.
“Live Dog of the Night” - Norma Dumont Viana (+150)
Last week, for my “of the Night” pizza/fun bet, I focused on Viviane Araujo (+115) who I believed was a live dog against Katlyn Chookagian (-139). She unfortunately did not cash as she lost via unanimous decision. For this week’s pizza bet, I’m going back to the well with another live dog at +150 odds this time in Norma Dumont Viana.
This line is confusing to me and I believe it is fueled by Felicia Spencer's resume more than her pure skills or matchup advatage. She's has fought the two greatest women's fighters of all-time in Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg. There is no denying her toughness as she went the distance with both of them, but there's no reason she should be this big of a favorite in her relatively short UFC career.
Both of these women are skilled in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Spencer is a black belt and Dumont is a brown belt. Spencer is persistent with her takedown attempts and is very dangerous if she gets the back of Norma Dumont Viana (+150), but that's about it. Not to mention, Dumont is good about not just accepting defensive positions on the ground, she looks to scramble and improve her positions, where as Spencer is more likely to jsut accept them.
Dumont is more techincal on the feet, throws more volume, and hits harder. Spencer is super tough and durable, but she gets hit way too often to win rounds. Her only real path to victory is to get Dumont's back and choke her out. Yes, Spencer is good at doing that, but if Dumont can avoid that, she wins. This line is just too wide in my opinion.
All Picks For UFC Fight Night: Font vs Garbrandt
Main Card (7PM EST on ESPN+)
Rob Font (-110) vs Cody Garbrandt (-110)
Yan Xiaonan (-125) vs Carla Esparza (+100)
Justin Tafa (-190) vs Jared Vanderaa (+150)
Felicia Sencer (-186) vs Norma Dumont Viana (+150)
Ricardo Ramos (+100) vs Bill Algeo (-125)
Jack Hermansson (-162) vs Edmen Shahbazyan (+130)
Preliminary Card (4PM EST on ESPN+)
Ben Rothwell (-335) vs Chris Barnett (+250)
Court McGee (-113) vs Claudio Silva (-110)
Bruno Silva (-400) vs Victor Rodriguez (+300)
Josh Culibao (-250) vs Shayilan Nuerdanbieke (+195)
David Dvorak (-550) vs Juancamilo Ronderos (+400)
Yancy Medeiros (+105) vs Damir Hadzovic (-129)
Rafael Alves (+400) vs Damir Ismagulov (-560)