UFC Best Bets

For this week’s UFC best bets, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia hosts UFC Fight Night with a main event that was recently changed as original participant Khamzat Chimaev is quite ill and unable to compete. Robert Whittaker will now face Russian Ikram Aliskerov, who was scheduled to fight in the co-main event on last week’s APEX event.

*Special note that this fight card kicks off EARLY in the States with preliminary action beginning at 9 a.m. PT and the main card starts at Noon PT.


I credit the UFC for their tenacity. They’re deft at dealing with fighter changes, suspensions, injuries, and other oddities as they continue to present viable ten to fourteen fight productions on an almost weekly basis.

Last week, a rare favorite release lost as Garret Armfield looked potent early in his fight against Brady Heistand, then lost energy as Heistand fought the best two rounds of his career and finally submitted Armfield in the third round.

Digital results this year: 14-12 +4.98u

Let’s look at a couple of the fights from Riyadh.

Robert Whittaker -145 vs. Ikram Aliskerov +124

Middleweight (185 pounds) main event

Aliskerov, 15-1 professionally and 2-0 in the UFC, arrives at this main event with two UFC bouts under his belt. He is shy on UFC experience, steps up in class of opponents substantially, and must travel across the world to make this fight. Aliskerov’s sole professional loss was years ago to the aforementioned Chimaev.

In this matchup, he transitions from competing against a Brazilian grappling-based foe who had not competed since late 2021 to the number three-ranked middleweight and former champion of the division who has faced elite adversaries through his twelve years competing in the UFC.

Compounding the complexity of this fight, Aliskerov must travel around the globe and once again undertake an aggressive weight cut, as he was called off last week’s bout just days before the event. Aliskerov is a remarkably similar opponent to Chimaev for Whittaker. He employs solid striking behind an aggressive, forward-pressing wrestling/grappling attack. For Whittaker, he will have little to alter in this brief time frame to effectively prepare for this new opponent.

The same cannot be said for Aliskerov, who gains great exposure from fighting Whittaker but now must step into the octagon and fight an elite, well-rounded finisher in a scheduled five-round fight when he was training for three. Once the bell for round one clangs, I see Aliskerov attempting to press Whittaker backward and force him to defend Aliskerov’s wrestling. His goal is to sap Whittaker’s energy by pressing him and forcing him to defend the wrestling advances.

Whittaker, however, has been in the cage with every form of diverse fighter in his career, including elite wrestling talents. He will be unfazed and prepared for Aliskerov’s aggressive approach, tactics, and southpaw stance.

Whittaker opened -180 for this fight, a number I regarded as fair in this situation if not giving too much respect to Aliskerov. Immediately, money came to Aliskerov, which was stunning, to be honest. Eventually, this line dropped to Whittaker -135 appeared, at which time buyback (much of it from ‘Bout Business Podcast followers) arrived on the former champion.

Currently, the number stands at Whittaker -148, which, in my judgment, is still an extremely attractive price on Whittaker.

I find it difficult to believe that Aliskerov, preparing for a totally different style of athlete than Whittaker and an athlete who must now travel across the globe to compete in a scheduled five-round fight when he was prepared for three rounds, is appropriately prepared mentally and physically to handle this situation successfully.

By taking this fight, Aliskerov is endearing himself to the UFC for saving this main event in Riyadh. No matter the outcome Saturday, Aliskerov has endeared himself to the UFC as a company player, and the UFC will take care of him no matter this fight’s outcome in the form of future opportunities to shine.

UFC Best Bet: Whittaker -145

Total in this fight: 2.5 Rds. Over -160

UFC Best Bet: Lean Over

Sergei Pavlovich -225 vs. Alexander Volkov +185

Heavyweight (265 pounds) co-main event

Riyadh gets a couple of top-five-ranked Russian heavyweights who, by the way, have trained together in its co-main event.

Fifth-ranked and veteran UFC athlete Volkov, a black belt in Tsu Shin Gen, a brown belt in Kyokushin Karate, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, fought in numerous organizations prior to joining the UFC. In UFC competition, Volkov has amassed an 11-4 record and has won his last three straight via finish after a loss to Tom Aspinal in March of 2022.

Volkov is 6’7” and prefers to keep his fights standing and badger foes by utilizing his striking skills. These skills are supplemented by the fact that he almost always has height and reach advantages over opponents.

Volkov can be vulnerable against determined, forceful grapplers/wrestlers who are adamant about penetrating Volkov’s distance, striking to gain pocket position to clasp onto him, then trying to force the giant against the cage or down to the mat where his size, length, and striking are muted.

Enter Sergei Pavlovich, an 18-2 Greco-Roman grappling-based athlete who is ultra-aggressive, explosive, powerful, and determined to ground foes, gain top position, and reign damage upon them.

Pavlovich won five straight heavyweight battles prior to being dominated in his last fight by Tom Aspinall. In that fight, Pavlovich was exposed as he was unable to cope with Aspinall’s mental toughness, nimble feet, speed, and power.

This heavyweight outcome will be determined by which man can manipulate the fight to his favor. Volkov must employ a boxing/kickboxing approach and blister the incoming Pavlovich with elbows, knees, and strikes. Pavlovich will work to gain inside position on Volkov. From there he may negate Volkov’s striking/kicking ability and then render his own attack by unleashing furious body and head strikes.

I find Pavlovich to be a typical front-running fighter. He will try to finish Volkov early in this fight. However, if he is unable to and this fight transitions into the second round, his abundance of physical output compromises his mental toughness as he fatigues quickly in that bulky frame.

The Volkov plan revolves around space, distance, and IQ. He must be able to weather those furious first few minutes then use his guile to force Pavlovich to defend and back up where Volkov can utilize his size and length to damage the barrel-chested power striker.

Volkov’s experience, cardio, length, and effective striking can be synchronized to produce a victory, but only after surviving what may be a wicked first few minutes of output from Pavlovich.

Total in this fight 1.5 Rds Under -130

The GambLou ‘Bout Business Podcast will drop early Friday morning Pacific time with more UFC best bets, as weigh-ins for this card take place Thursday evening 11 p.m. PT. Enjoy the fights and thank you for reading!