This week’s UFC card has two title-fight rematches, with the question being whether the outcome will be different in either or both. But there are also several future title contenders inside the Octagon on Saturday, and I like one in particular in the light heavyweight division.
Magomed Ankalaev (-460) vs. Anthony Smith (%plussign% 370)
Identifying a parlay anchor is always useful. You can pair one with other heavy favorites for a better return or with one mildly priced fighter to get even or plus money. This week, Ankalaev falls into the anchor role.
Ankalaev will have a variety of advantages over the veteran Smith, and a win over another former title contender might be all he needs to put him in line for a title shot. Though Smith has been a willing striker, even against top talent, he’ll likely be outclassed by Ankalaev. The Dagestani fighter is more accurate, takes less damage in return and has nearly twice the knockdown power of Smith. You’ll also see him use a heavy mix of body kicks.
Up close, the advantages are stronger for Ankalaev. He has dominant clinch control, which has been an area of weakness for Smith, and is more likely to take the fight down, where he’s shown better position control. He’s expensive but appears to be worth supporting.
Play: Ankalaev to win, and use him in parlays
Brandon Moreno (-205) vs. Kai Kara-France (%plussign% 175)
Interim flyweight title | Co-main event
We’ve now seen Moreno face his toughest opponent three straight times — in a division that seems to be a tossup for the real champ. If Moreno can hang with such a dangerous finisher as Deiveson Figueiredo, he should be able to survive the power striking of Kara-France. And that really is the biggest threat the opposition poses for Moreno.
Moreno’s standup metrics are deflated, if anything, due to the wars he survived with Figueiredo, but they still match up reasonably well against Kara-France’s best weapon. The ground game will then be the key differentiator, where Moreno will have a big advantage.
Play: Moreno to win
Amanda Nunes (-275) vs. Julianna Pena (%plussign% 230)
Women’s bantamweight title | Main event
Whether Nunes didn’t train properly for her first bout with Pena or just didn’t take threats seriously once the fight began, it’s safe to say she did not look like her usual self. Assuming normal preparation and fight strategies, Nunes is still the better fighter on paper and in terms of elite experience. Let’s just hope she doesn’t fight sloppy and eat unnecessary punches to derail her path to victory.
Play: Nunes to win
Subscribers can find the Uber Tale of the Tape for these three fights in this week's edition of Point Spread Weekly, coming out Wednesday.