Best bets for UFC 293: Adesanya vs. Strickland


Best bets for UFC 293: Adesanya vs. Strickland

Last week, UFC favorites charged to another impressive showing going 10-1 on the night. Chalk has been on a tear the last month pushing the yearly rate of favorites winning UFC fights to 64.7%.


The international tour continues with the UFC headed to Australia, home to two current champions. We’ll get to see one of them defend the title at steep odds, but we’ll look for better betting value further down the card.

Israel Adesanya -650 vs. Sean Strickland +480

Middleweight Championship (170 pounds) Main Event

Finocchiaro: In Strickland, we have one of the most fearless, aggressive, confident fighters in the organization. He’s a high-risk taker who’s often reckless and chooses to ignore the game plan for a throwdown, once fists, elbows and spinning heels connect.

Strickland has been in the octagon against the elite of the division and has shown considerable aptitude. However, he hasn’t been in the cage with the ruler of the division Adesanya.

Throw away Strickland’s horrendous fight IQ, and we have an athlete who has fared competitively against the top ten of this division, and who has the physical tools to compete against anyone, though he is a touch undersized for the division.

After dismantling Nassourdine Imavov two fights back, Strickland showed his durability in his last fight. He was handed a tough, determined, Russian upstart who won the first round before entering the second where Strickland’s aggression, guile, experience and volume attack dominated Abus Magomedov.

Strickland has been in with the likes of Jared Cannonier, Alex Pereira and Jack Hermansson, so while stepping up in every form against Adesanya, it can’t be said that Strickland is not ready for this opportunity or that he doesn’t have a path to victory.

When he’s flowing, Strickland displays refined boxing, great cardio and he’s able to compete anywhere a fight goes. He’s a cat that spends more time in the cage sparring/fighting/trash-talking than he does outside of it, to be honest.

That stated, Strickland’s largest area of improvement is to address his fight intelligence, his lack of focus, and his reckless nature as his instincts to ‘kill’ interfere with the set plan of attack he and Coach Eric Nicksick have set for this bout.

It’s only in his recklessness that I find fault with Strickland’s mixed martial arts trajectory and his status within this division.

In Adesanya, we have a modern age striking savant. While Adesanya is not as complete as others in the division, his unique combination of height, length, athleticism, striking accuracy and competitive nature are supplemented by one of the great minds in MMA, Eugene Bareman at City Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand. Together, Bareman and Issy deliver one of the most dominant middleweight tandems in UFC history.

Adesanya’s world-class kickboxing base has now been complimented by a purple belt in BJJ as Adesanya’s professional drive forces him to improve his MMA arsenal to solidify himself among his peers. He’s focused, driven and is able to embrace a fight plan which is where this bout gets interesting.

Leading up to this bout, look for Strickland to use every mental ploy to try to get Issy charged for this bout. It’s his best way to try to even the tables.

From distasteful, inappropriate dialogue, to threats, accusations or buffoonery, Strickland’s shield against intensity and pre-fight nerves is to make light of the situation. He’s as awkward in pre-fight confrontation as Adesanya is laser-focused, and he’ll badger the champ with gibberish.

Adesanya should be a solid favorite in this fight. That said, this line seems a touch too high based on Strickland’s physical fight arsenal. However, based on Strickland’s past mental breakdowns in the cage, when the lights go on, it’s difficult for me to trust him to adhere to any form of plan.

Has he learned from the Pereira bout when he attempted to walk a devastating power striker down and was immediately KO’d for his trouble?

Will the somewhat undersized Strickland attempt to wrestle in this fight? One thing is certain, Adesanya is upset, and he wants to destroy Strickland in this fight.

One question I have for Issy is this: Will he attempt to overwhelm the challenger and take him out immediately or will he employ the old Muhammad Ali response to opponent Ernie Terrell when Terrell refused to address Ali by his real name and batter his opponent mercilessly for five full rounds?

One way or another, it’s Adesanya based on skills, experience and size.

Total in this fight: 4.5 Rds. Under -120

Points: n/a

Kuhn: It’s not exactly the title defense we were hoping for Israel Adesanya, but with Sean Strickland welcoming the role of “heel” and fighting a home cage booking for the champ, perhaps fans will still get a satisfying show.

But what we won’t see is much value in the odds. Strickland has always been primarily a point striker. He’s certainly a tricky opponent for anyone on the feet, but much less of a threat of power. Meanwhile, Adesanya seems to thrive against aggressive strikers and puts a lot more heat on his counters. So this scenario feels tailor-made for Adesanya to play to his strengths and find the right moments to land the more damaging strikes.

Pick: Israel Adesanya for parlays. Lean FDNGTD.

Anton Turkalj -115 vs. Tyson Pedro -105

Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) 

Finocchiaro: Pedro trains with Mr. Bareman at City Kickboxing, so his training is top-notch; the opponents he faces are world-class in nature, and he comes from a family with deep-rooted MMA in its DNA.

Tyson is decorated with a black belt in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, a black belt in Kempo, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With such decorations, one would expect Pedro to be a lethal effective fighter. However, my study has found that he often is under-conditioned and struggles mightily with anyone who can withstand his furious first few minutes.

5-4 in the UFC but 2-3 in his last five fights has put Pedro in a situation where he may be fighting for his UFC status in front of his regional fans.

Swedish mixed martial artist Turkalj, AKA “The Pleasure Man,” arrives at this fight after having faced two different Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stalwarts in Jaiton Almeida and Vitor Petrino—two top-fifteen level fighters.

He lost to each, which I regard as no insult whatsoever. In fact, I believe those two killers prepared Turkalj quite well for this bout against an athlete in Pedro who in no way shape or form possesses the violent tools those other two men possess.

Turkalj opened -125, then the favorite switched to Pedro -125. On Saturday afternoon, I released Turkalj +110 with the specific note that there was no way that any plus price on The Pleasure Man would last.

Turkalj, the younger, taller athlete is also the more complete mixed martial artist in this bout as I handicap it, and I believe he has the ability to withstand Pedro’s early barrage and come out on the other end with his hand raised.

The current price on Turkalj is -115 (DraftKings). My recommendation is to take him before that price goes any higher.

Pick: Turkalj -115

Total in this fight: 2.5 Rds Under -220

I’ll also scour props for Turkalj that include ‘via finish’ and ‘via submission.’

Points: n/a

Jamie Mullarkey -250 vs John Makdessi +210

Lightweight (155 pounds)

Kuhn: A lot of contrasts in this matchup. Between the traditional Uber Tale of the Tape differences, and also my Uber Tale of the Tape performance metrics, these guys show up very differently on paper.

The first main callout is anthropometric in nature. Mullarkey is much bigger in frame, and also much younger. The range advantage will certainly play a factor when combined with the sometimes-hesitant counter-striking preference of Makdessi.

Makdessi is returning from a long layoff, while Mullarkey’s most recent outing was a TKO loss just 98 days ago. Both are red flags. For Mullarkey, it’s a question of recovery in time to face a fighter whose primary path to victory is landing a big punch. But that’s where the range and youth advantages of Mullarkey will help, as will his much busier wrestling.

Round to round, Mullarkey can play both levels to win on the cards. He just needs to take the threat of Makdessi’s punches seriously.

Pick: Mullarkey to win. Lean the Over 2.5 rounds.

Carlos Ulberg -265 vs Da Woon Jung +215

Light Heavyweight (205 pounds)

Kuhn: This one feels like a trap. It could play out as a striker’s duel, with both men being offensively dangerous, but also vulnerable in different ways. Ulberg uses a much more pressuring pace of striking, with superior accuracy. But his defense is porous, and he routinely eats punches while landing his own.

Jung could take advantage of that by being put in the position of counter-striker. His defense is also poor, but not as bad as Ulberg’s, whose is the worst of any fighter on the card.

Ultimately, it feels like the combination of weapons and vulnerabilities just means there’s an elevated likelihood of a striking finish, regardless of which side gets it. So don’t overpay for Ulberg, even if that’s the lean. Instead, use an FDNGTD prop for your multi-leg parlays.

Last week, the ‘Bout Business Podcast swept the board!  This week, the podcast drops Friday morning to account for the mid-afternoon start time Saturday from Sydney of 3:30 p.m. PT.

Enjoy the bouts and thank you for reading.