Betting Guide for UFC Vegas 65
Last week's card at Madison Square Garden produced two new champions and a fight-of-the-year contender. How can we possibly top that back in UFC's backyard this weekend? A few of these guys will try.
UFC Vegas 65: Lewis vs. Spivac takes place from the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas on Saturday. Which MMA bets stand out on FanDuel Sportsbook?
Jack Della Maddalena and Charles Johnson to Both Win
(-118; 1.5 Units)
Even I was a bit taken back by how dominant Erin Blanchfield and Dan Hooker were in last week's two-legger. It cruised to 21-10 YTD with those two finishes.
This week, we'll turn to the biggest favorite on the card, but pairing him was somewhat tricky. I like Sergei Spivac (-220), but the powerful Derrick Lewis will always have a puncher's chance in the main event.
Let's start with Jack Della Maddalena (-590). He's a budding star, and UFC appears to know it. Amazingly, I think they've booked him with a weaker foe this week than his last fight.
Della Maddalena knocked out Ramazan Emeev (and his stellar 65% striking defense) in less than a round. Now, he'll face Danny Roberts in a battle of strikers, and "Hot Chocolate" Roberts has waffled to a -0.19 striking success rate and 51% striking defense in UFC so far. Della Maddalena's +3.56 rate has come against three fellow UFC winners, so not only does he have a significant edge, but it's pretty well-tested.
In lieu of Spivac, I'm going with LFA alum Charles Johnson (-172). Johnson's case is a bit tougher given he was, analytically, destroyed by superstar prospect Mohamed Mokaev in his debut. He landed just 0.80 significant strikes per minute in that fight.
However, given the competition, I was incredibly impressed with Johnson's 54% striking accuracy and 58% striking defense. It's worth noting he stuffed more takedowns (14) than he allowed (12). With just an 18% takedown accuracy, Zhalgas Zhumagulov won't be able to wrestle him nearly as effectively, and Zhumagulov (-0.72 striking success rate) has struggled at distance so far.
Ion Cutelaba to Win (+144; 1.0 Units)
Ion Cutelaba (+144) is one of the biggest knuckleheads in a sport with plenty of them.
He's been finished in six of his seven UFC losses -- usually due to a mistake -- and has had some bizarre weigh-in antics. I think both of those have contributed to a moneyline against Kennedy Nzechukwu that is out of control. It feels backward.
Cutelaba, through his faults, has still fought a currently-ranked foe in seven of his last eight bouts. The lone exception was a dominant win over Devin Clark where he scored eight takedowns. There are levels to this game, and while "The Hulk" has struggled at the top of this division, he's not facing it this week.
Against Cutelaba on Saturday, Kennedy Nzechukwu faces his first foe that was ranked at any point in their career. Nzechukwu had a dominant, five-takedown win over the now-cut Karl Roberson, but this is still a massive step up in competition.
Cutelaba's 76% takedown defense is strong, but it's also come against elite foes. I trust that mark more than Nzechukwu's 81% takedown defense, and Nzechukwu's defense will need to be on point. Cutelaba is one of the best wrestlers in the division, averaging 4.68 takedowns per 15 minutes with remarkable 63% accuracy.
There are levels to mixed martial arts. I believe Cutelaba to be on a significantly higher one than Nzechukwu entering their co-main event.
Dart Throw of the Week:
Jennifer Maia by KO/TKO/Submission (+750; 0.25 Units)
I'll be supporting Jennifer Maia (+144) on the moneyline with a full unit, but this dart is also particularly interesting.
In a similar story to Cutelaba, Maia is seeing a massive step down in competition this weekend. She's fought six straight ranked foes entering this battle with the newly-ranked Maryna Moroz. I've got way too many questions about Moroz to buy her favored status here.
From Ukraine, Moroz's win at UFC 272 was a special moment. However, her victory was on the back of wrestling and grappling against Mariya Agapova. Agapova's already been submitted since, and she sports an awful 47% takedown defense at an unranked level. I don't believe Moroz (and her 22% takedown accuracy) has found a universal solution to doing that to all challengers.
Maia's takedown defense is just 55%, but it's come at a near-championship level. Notably, flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko did most of that damage with a 5-for-6 effort in Maia's 2020 title bout.
On the feet, Maia -- again, facing a much higher level of competition -- has a higher striking accuracy (36%) and striking defense (54%) than Moroz. Plus, Maia secured an armbar on her only career submission attempt.
With a higher pedigree of recent competition and efficiency edges on paper, I expect Maia to win rather comfortably as an underdog. It might be a wide enough gap to result in an early stoppage.