The UFC is back at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw this Saturday night. The headliner features an intriguing and meaningful matchup as the highlight reel machine, Cory Sandhagen, takes on former bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw who’s back after a two year USADA suspension. The winner of this bout is guaranteed to be the number one contender and all but guaranteed a title shot against the winner of the Sterling/Yan title fight rematch. There are some other intriguing matchups on this card, but before we get into those betting opportunities, let’s take a look back at UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3. Don’t forget that you’ll find all of my picks for UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw 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
UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3 Betting Record:
All Fight Picks: 10-2
Official Plays: 3-1
MMA is one of the tougher sports to handicap due to the high variance and moneyline wagers. In saying that, we had a good night record wise with a 3-1 official play and 10-2 straight play night, but we only took home 1.74 units. A positive night is a positive night so I won’t complain but the focus is to bring home more units. Michel Pereira (-170) got the night started with an unanimous decision victory over Niko Price (+150). He continues to get better each time out and is poised for ranked opponent in his next bout. Next up was Irene Aldana (-115) who didn’t let a bad weight cut stop her from knocking out Yana Kunitskaya (-105). She just might have solidified herself as the number one contender in the bantamweight division after a performance like that. Stephen Thompson (-160) spoiled our perfect night with an unanimous decision loss to Gilbert Burns (+140). Thompson may have let the last of his title shot hopes slip through his fingers. Dustin Poirier (-135) took a 2-1 lead in his rivalry with Conor McGregor (+115) with a TKO (doctor stoppage) victory after the first round. Some may say, Poirier’s win is tainted, as McGregor broke his leg, but I say Poirier was dominating the fight early and was poised to continue that domination. Two of the three judges scored the first round, 10-8 for Poirier. Poirier will be fighting Charles Oliveira for the lightweight title before the year ends. Let’s now turn our attention towards this week’s card, UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw.
Cory Sandhagen (-195) vs. TJ Dillashaw (+165)
Cory Sandhagen is looking to cement himself atop the bantamweight division as its number one contender while the former champion, TJ Dillashaw, is out to prove that he’s still the division’s best after a two-year layoff due to a suspension.
Sandhagen is an absolute artist on the feet. He’s a technical, varied striker who does a good job of attacking every aspect of his opponent’s body while remaining defensively sound. He lands an incredible 6.85 strikes while only absorbing 3.89 strikes per minute. His foot movements and feints are big part of his game. He’s a master at cage control and keeping his opponents at range where he can pick them apart and frustrate them. That is exactly what he’s going to need to do Saturday night against the savvy Dillashaw.
Dillashaw is a talented, well-rounded fighter that also utilizes his foot movements and feints to keep his opponent guessing. He’s a good boxer, especially in the pocket, where he throws three-four punch combinations looking to knock his opponent out. He has great cardio and loves to push a high pace. Like Sandhagen, he throws a lot of punches and kicks on the feet while remaining relatively defensively sound. He lands 5.37 strikes while only absorbing 3.03 strikes per minute. He also likes to mix in his wrestling to keep his opponent off guard. He has good timing on his level changes. On the ground, he will look to transition and land ground and pound.
When breaking this fight down, skill for skill, these guys are pretty similar. The real difference is Dillashaw’s wrestling which I believe gives him a slight edge skill wise in this matchup. Sandhagen has issues stopping takedowns. When previous opponents have wanted to take him down, they did and the numbers show that. Sandhagen’s takedown defense accuracy is a paltry 30%. But there’s more factors at play in this matchup. Dillashaw was popped for some serious performance enhancing drugs (EPO) after his last fight in January of 2019. As a result, he’s sat out for two-plus years serving a suspension. Naturally, there are a lot of questions. Is he the same fighter he was when he was stripped of his bantamweight title? How much did the EPO really help him? Will he have ring rust entering this bout? The questions are endless. However, for me, the most pertinent question is, why is this line so wide? I get that we have questions about Dillashaw’s comeback. I listed some of them out, but for Sandhagen to be a -200 favorite, I just don’t understand it. It could be due to recency bias as Sandhagen is coming off a couple of highlight reel knockouts and we haven’t seen Dillasahw in over a two-years. Not to mention, that the last time we saw him, he was being knocked out by Henry Cejudo, losing his quest for double champ status. Whatever it is, it’s wrong in my opinion. I’m siding with Dillashaw and the value here. I believe that his grappling and wrestling will ultimately be the difference in this fight. As long as he doesn’t eat a crazy spinning or flying attack from Sandhagen, I believe he will do enough to get his hand raised Saturday night. The pick and play is Dillashaw (+165) and the unit count is 1 unit.
Miranda Maverick (-155) vs. Maycee Barber (+135)
These flyweight prospects are looking to crack the top 10 with a win, but seem to be trending in opposite directions.
The UFC put a ton of hype behind Maycee Barber and for good reason. She entered the UFC off of a couple of vicious TKOs and then proceeded to knockout her first three opponents in the UFC. However, as the competition got tougher and the opponents were more well-rounded, her deficiencies were revealed. She comes into this fight on a two-fight losing streak looking to right the ship. She’s will look to use her boxing to do so. She has legit one-punch knockout power on the feet. She typically likes to rush forward, while throwing multi-punch combinations, looking to overwhelm her opponent. She’s strong in the clinch where she can pin her opponent up against the cage and land big knees and elbows.
Enter Miranda Maverick who’s looking to breakthrough herself. She’s looked pretty impressive in her first two UFC bouts. She’s a smart, well-rounded fighter who likes to use her striking to win fights. She varies her strikes and throws with bad intentions each time. She has vicious step-in elbows that cause serious damage to her opponent’s face. She likes to utilize fakes and feints, but her jumping knee fake, is very unique and allows for her to follow it up with a flurry of punches.
I anticipate an action packed fight, quite possibly the fight of the night, as both women love to get into exchanges on the feet. Maverick lands 6.00 strikes and absorbs 2.85 strikes per minute while, Barber lands 5.21 strikes and absorbs 3.00 strikes per minute. They both are tough and durable as well. If the fight does happen to hit the ground, I give the edge to Maverick as she’s a brown belt in BJJ and defensively does a good job of working her way back up to her feet. For me, I’m on the Miranda Maverick hype train. I’ve been impressed with this women ever since I watched some of her Invicta fights. She’s a cerebral fighter who continues to put in the work and get better each and every time she enters the cage. I really like her game along with her well-roundedness and toughness as a fighter. I believe that these women are headed in opposite directions and I believe the UFC sees that as well by matching them up against each other. Maverick’s crisper boxing will be the difference here and will allow her to win the majority of the exchanges on the feet. I believe she will work on the outside and consistently pick Barber apart, while also landing some big shots as Barber looks to close the distance. The pick and play is Maverick (-155) and the unit count is 2.5 units.
Nassourdine Imavov (+135) vs. Ian Heinisch (-155)
Both of these of middleweight fighters are looking to get back into the win column after dropping their last bout.
Nassourdine Imavov’s nickname is the “Russian Sniper” and for good reason. The guy is a precise striker who throws crisp, straight punches down the pipe. He has good movement on the feet that uses to cut angles and walk his opponent’s into his power shots. He does not like to be pressured, but he does a solid job of striking while being backed up. Ian Heinisch will surely test those skills.
Heinisch is a pressure fighter who loves to stay in the face of his opponent. He has fast hands and throws in flurries as he closes the distance. He likes to throw big overhand rights with decent power behind them and hooks to the body and head. He’s strong in the clinch and looks to drag his opponent to the ground where he can land ground and pound.
The key for me in this matchup is the pressure and clinch work of Heinisch. Imavov just does not like to be pressured or having to fight in the clinch. That was on full display in his last bout, a loss to Phil Hawes. He wants to fight at range where he can utilize his superior striking. I don’t believe Heinisch will allow him to do that. For what it’s worth, Heinisch’s resume is superior to Imavov’s. I feel like this is a step down in competition for Heinisch. I expect Heinisch to stay in Imavov’s face while mixing in takedowns in route to a decision victory. The pick and play is Heinisch (-155) and the unit count is 1.75 units.
“Underdog of the Night” Pizza Bet - Darren Elkins (+130)
Darrick Minner normally comes out guns blazing in the first round, looking to lock up an early submission. If he doesn’t, then he gasses. Darren Elkins will take a punch to give a punch. He’s tough, durable, and will put pressure on his opponent for 15 minutes. With Minner’s propensity to gas in his fights mixed with Elkins durability and relentlessness leads to picking Elkins as my “Underdog of the Night.” I believe that this will be a close back and forth fight but that Elkins’ craftiness and durability allow him to outlast Minner.
“Prop Bet of the Night” Pizza Bet - Darrick Minner/Darren Elkins Does Not Go The Distance (-120)
Darrick Minner has only been to four decisions in his 37-fight career. Four! The guy either gets a submission or gets submitted. Minner averages 3.00 takedowns per 15 minutes while Elkins averages 2.70 takedowns per 15 minutes. This will provide numerous opportunities for these guys to lock something up. Minner averages 3.6 submission attempts per 15 minutes and Elkins averages 1.2 submission attempts per 15 minutes. There will be plenty of submission attempts in this fight and we just need one of them to be locked up. Given all of the opportunities, I believe that we have a solid prop bet for the night.
“Parlay of the Night” Pizza Bet - Adrian Yanez & Julio Arce (+116)
Adrian Yanez (-225) is “Mini Masvidal.” The kid is special and I believe he’ll have no problem avoiding Randy Costa’s power while putting on a striking clinic en route to a convincing win.
Julio Arce (-200) is talented in his own right and he’s facing a guy that is simply inconsistent with glaring weaknesses. Ultimately, Arce can utilize his wrestling as Andre Ewell is just not good on the ground.
All Picks For UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs. Dillashaw
Main Card (7PM EST on ESPN)
Cory Sandhagen (-195) vs. TJ Dillashaw (+165)
Kyler Phillips (-280)vs. Raulian Paiva (+225)
Darren Elkins (+130)vs. Darrick Minner (-150)
Miranda Maverick (-155)vs. Maycee Barber (+135)
Adrian Yanez (-225) vs. Randy Costa (+185)
Preliminary Card (4PM EST on ESPN)
Punahele Soriano (-115) vs. Brendan Allen (-105)
Nassourdine Imavov (+135) vs. Ian Heinisch (-155)
Mickey Gall (+150) vs. Jordan Williams (-170)
Julio Arce (-200) vs. Andre Ewell (+170)
Sijara Eubanks (-350) vs. Elise Reed (+270)
Diana Belbita (-110) vs. Hannah Goldy (-110)