This weekend at UFC Vegas 55, we see the return of one of the most prolific fighters in Women's MMA history as former UFC Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm (-250) returns from a long layoff to take on rising Brazilian contender Ketlen Vieira (+190) in the main event. Before that, we have a full card of sneaky good fights to break down, including a Welterweight fight between Santiago Ponzinibbio (+100) and Michel Pereira (-128) sure to produce fireworks and a couple of Middleweight bouts where I disagree with the oddsmakers.
*All Odds Provided by Stake.com Accurate as of 5/18/2022 4:15 PM EST
In the main event, we see a matchup that gives us some ugly betting lines to work with at first glance, with a 40-year-old Holm sitting as a heavy favorite against her much younger foe. I usually find it very difficult to back a fighter of this age who is also on a rather long layoff; however, after looking at each of these fighters' recent body of work, I find myself surprisingly confident in Holm to get the job done. The numbers may suggest playing a fighter in her position has not been a profitable venture in the past, but numbers don't always tell the whole story. Holm has been a mainstay at the top of the division since her rise to the top, capped off with her famous (infamous?) head kick of Ronda Rousey. She has only lost to the best of the best in Cris Cyborg, Amanda Nunes, Germaine de Randamie, and Valentina Shevchenko and has shown to be a step ahead of the rest of the division behind her. Viera is 2-2 in her last four, and her only wins come over an aged Miesha Tate and Sjara Eubanks, which is not an impressive run by any stretch. I have a tough time seeing her path to victory over five rounds against Holm, as grappling will be challenging to implement and taxing on cardio over a long fight.
The only reason to not bet Holm in this fight is the age difference and layoff, which I believe is negated because she has had late pullouts and has not been out of camp for long during this layoff. Take Holm, but with the ML at that price, I think the decision is the play at -116.
Pick: Holm ML -250 (DougLasVegasBets.net Best Bet) O/U: Over 4.5 -256
Just a few years ago, Ponzinibbio was the next big thing at Welterweight, and now we can get him at underdog money against an unranked opponent? This is surprising to me as I understand the momentum beginning to build behind Pereira with his last win already aging very well; however, he is a very flawed fighter, to say the least, with a tendency to gas out in the later stages of fights due to his wild style and lack of pacing. Ponzinibbio is still a legit talent and was favored his last time out against Geoff Neal in what turned out to be a very close fight that could have gone either way.
Getting Ponzinibbio at an underdog price here is enough for me to be willing to take a chance, as we have seen that he can adjust in fights like the Baeza fight, and I can confidently say if this goes to a third-round, Ponzinibbio will be the fresher fighter in a good position to take a potentially deciding round.
Pick: Ponzinibbio ML +100 (DougLasVegasBets.net Play) O/U: Over 2.5 -175 (DougLasVegasBets.net Play)
Chidi Njokuani makes his second octagon appearance after his incredible debut KO over Marc-Andre Barriault as he takes on Dusko Todorovic. Njokuani will look to keep this one standing as he will have a clear advantage in the stand-up portion of this fight. The question is will he be able to defend the grappling of Todorovic?
I believe he will, but I am not confident enough to put my money on this fight. We haven't seen much from Njokuani to suggest he is worth being this size a favorite over Todorovic, who has seen a lot of respect from oddsmakers throughout his UFC career, having never closed as an underdog to this point.
Pick: Chidi Njokuani ML -233 O/U: Under 1.5 +127
Here we have a women's Strawweight fight that is lined pretty evenly, and I think that's fair as this fight could easily go either way. Both women have high finishing rates for the division. Still, each of their grappling credentials makes them tough to submit, and I believe this fight will take place mainly on the mat resulting in limited striking opportunities.
This is a fight where I feel either woman could win on their best day, so I will lean with the underdog, but I see no value in putting my money on this virtual coin flip.
Pick: Viana ML +103 O/U: Over 2.5 -167
This line caught my eye, to say the least, as Eryk Anders comes in a sizeable underdog against The Iron Turtle in this Middleweight scrap. Anders was at a similar price in his last fight against Andre Muniz, who I am very high on. Yes, he lost that fight badly, but that speaks much more to Muniz than Anders, and I think we know what we are getting from Anders based on his prior UFC fights. As for the Park side, where has all the respect come from on this line? He has had a very mediocre UFC run, to say the least, going 3-2 with relatively weak competition in my eyes.
Anders is in one of my favorite fight camps at Fight Ready, and I believe they will have him more than ready to go out and win this fight. Take Anders at this high price tag.
Pick: Anders ML +165 (DougLasVegasBets.net Play) O/U: Over 2.5 -213
Here we have a Middleweight bout between Ugly Man Joesph Holmes and Alen Amedovski. Holmes looked pretty bad in his last fight against Jamie Pickett, and I immediately find him impossible to back at this price against nearly anyone in the UFC. On the other hand, Amedovski has been off for over two years and is coming off a first-round loss to the very unimpressive John Phillips.
Holmes has decent experience before that Pickett fight in which he was favored, and he has a very high finishing rate, so I would expect him to be able to get the finish, but there is no way I am risking my money on him in any fight after his last performance.
Pick: Holmes ML -204 O/U: Under 1.5 +105
There has been some interesting line movement on this one as we have seen Almeida go from -667 on Monday to -714 on Tuesday back to -625 on Wednesday at Stake.com. This line may be justified as Almeida has a lot of quick finishes to back up his hype train, and despite the recent win streak from Parker Porter, he is nowhere near the level of grappler that Almeida is, and he does not pose much of a threat on the feet either.
It's tough to get value from Almeida because his advantage is clear, and the bookies know this. We must also account for the statistical randomness of Heavyweight fights, and with that, this fight is one to proceed with extreme caution when betting on.
Pick: Aleida ML -625 O/U: Under 1.5 -152
This should be an entertaining fight between two talented strikers who will be willing to stand across from each other. Medic will be forcing the action here, but I am not sure it will work for him as it has in his past wins as Morales has much more experience. I expect that to be the difference as Medic has never gone the distance while Morales has spent many rounds in the octagon against the higher-level competition.
I believe Morales is a justified favorite and should be able to use his experience to avoid the pressure of Medic and land more effective strikes; however, he has not gotten a finish in the UFC, and with none of Medic's fights having gone the distance something has to break if Morales is going to win this fight. I am not willing to bet against those trends at this price.
Pick: Morales ML -167 O/U: Under 2.5 -172
Bantamweight is the best division in the UFC, and this is an excellent example of that as two unranked fighters with plenty of experience go at it early on the card. Martinez uses a very kick-heavy game which has been a problem for Morales, as we saw in the Gutierrez fight, and for this reason, I think Martinez has a clear advantage in this fight and is a well-justified favorite.
At the current ML price, it's difficult to play Martinez straight, but I will be using him as a critical piece in my card parlay.
Pick: Johnathan Martinez ML -227 O/U: Over 2.5 -238
Here we see Chase Hooper return for the first time in 10 months against Felipe Colares, who returns to the Featherweight division once again. Hooper was very hyped after an impressive debut at a very young age. Still, since then, Hooper has shown his lack of experience and has proven to be a grappling specialist who needs a clear grappling advantage to win. Colares comes into this one as a favorite for the first time in his up and down UFC career, which has had one consistency: all of his fights have gone the distance. Colares is also a grappler with black belt credentials, and his submission defense was shown when Domingo Pilarte was glued to his back for a round and could not take advantage of that control time.
This one will be very grappling-heavy, and I expect Hooper to accept worse positions to attempt submissions resulting in him being controlled for the majority of the fight and Colares leaving with a decision victory.
Pick: Felipe Colares -185 (DougLasVegasBets.net Play) O/U: Over 2.5 -167
An interesting bout to start the night off here sees two Strawweights who have had their respective struggles in the UFC but are coming off good wins. Last time we saw Reed was UFC London, where she was a considerable underdog but was able to pull out a split decision victory to the surprise of many, myself included. Hughes looked to be on the way out before turning things around late in her last fight to win the majority decision to keep her UFC dream alive.
To be blunt, neither of these women are very high caliber, and I'm certainly not willing to risk my money on either of them, but with the grappling defense and competent striking that we saw from Reed her last time out, she should be able to win this fight.
Pick: Elise Reed -179 O/U: Over 2.5 -370
Personally, I do not believe parlays are a great path to long-term profit. However, there are some great opportunities to create value on this card, so let's try to do this the smart way. We have a few big favorites on this card that I am unwilling to play at their ML price, but I still believe these fighters have clear advantages and are safe plays. Let's combine these three sizeable favorites to get better value from each line.
Martinez, Almeida -149 Martinez, Almeida, Holm +134