UFC Fight Night Picks & Predictions

VSiN Primetime producer Britton Hess has some strong takes on the UFC 301 card and put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) to hammer out his thoughts on every fight on the docket.

UFC Odds | UFC Betting Splits | Lou Finocchiaro’s article



UFC 301: 4-4 (-0.57 Units, -5.07%)

Article History: 36-35 (+8.66 Units, +13.02%)


UFC 301: 9-4 (69.23%)

Article History: 66-48 (57.89%)


Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (-162) versus Rodrigo “Ze Colmeia” Nascimento (+136)

Over 1.5 Rounds (+100) | Under 1.5 Rounds (-130)

Everyone at your local Buffalo Wild Wings is going to be betting on Lewis on Saturday. He is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC due to his highlight knockouts, hilarious post-fight interviews, and gigantic social media following. He has fought 28 times in the UFC and, if you’ve been a fan of the sport for longer than six months, you have seen Lewis in the cage. Since he first entered the octagon 10 years ago he has had ups and downs; from fighting for a belt twice to getting finished in the first round in back-to-back fights. He is now an older fighter at age 39, and for a while it looked like he was on his way out, losing four of five fights between August 2021 and February 2023. But he rebounded with a first round KO of Marcos Rogerio de Lima as a +180 underdog, and in his most recent fight he went the five full rounds versus Jailton Almeida as a +370 underdog. 

The Lewis we saw in his past two fights showed legitimate improvement. In the de Lima fight, he came out quick and never let his opponent get started. In the Almeida fight, he may have shown the best cardio of his career. Almeida was constantly wrestling and tested Lewis’s gas tank and by the end of the fight he seemed like he still had some juice left (but he couldn’t get off the ground so he lost via Unanimous Decision). Now he is fighting an emerging Brazilian prospect for the second time in a row. But being from Brazil and having just six UFC fights before fighting Lewis are the only two things these opponents have in common. Nascimento is now the #15 ranked Heavyweight in the UFC, but given the top-heavy nature of the division that number does not mean much. 

Nascimento entered the UFC with a 7-0 record, since joining the organization he has gone 4-1 with one No Contest (he won via KO in the second round but was ruled No Contest because Nascimento tested positive for ritalinic acid). He won in Contender Series via triangle choke, his UFC debut was a rear naked choke victory vs. Don’Tale Mayes; he then lost via 1st round KO to the fast hands of Chris Daukaus, then suffered the no contest. His last three fights have gone to a decision. Nascimento has been the favorite in all but one of his fights (split decision win versus Tanner Boser). Prior to joining the UFC, his strength of schedule was extremely weak. 

On paper, Nascimento has striking metrics that can be classified as average. However, his defense is extremely poor; he gets hit with 4.76 significant strikes per minute with a 43% strike defense rate. Not great metrics versus the most powerful fighter he will have shared the octagon with. His saving grace is the fact that he averages 1.2 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage, and Lewis has not always been the best at getting back up after being put on the mat. 

The striking numbers on the stat log for Lewis do not match his resume. Over his 28 UFC fights, he has averaged 2.43 significant strikes per minute. But it is worth noting that Derrick Lewis has TWO 25-minute fights where he only landed 20 significant strikes. The first was a snoozer of a decision vs. Francis Ngannou where both fighters’ primary focus was not getting hit. The second was his last fight vs Almeida, where Almeida had 21:10 of control time. Those two fights have a real effect on his overall metrics. Additionally, Lewis has a well below average strike defense rate of 40% (60% of his opponents’ strikes land); however he does only get hit 2.48 times per minute. At times in his career, he has been willing to eat a shot to deliver a knockout. That strategy has gone both ways. 

I think Nascimento is going into the deepest waters of his career vs. Lewis. He does have a path to victory on the ground, but the grappling defense and cardio Lewis displayed in his last bout means this strategy may not be as viable as it was five years ago.This is also the biggest stage Nascimento has performed on. He has not been a main event fighter thus far in his career. 

FIGHT WINNER: Derrick Lewis

BET: Derrick Lewis (-162), Risk 1.62 Units to Win 1

Co-Main Event

Nursulton “Black” Ruziboev (+114) versus Joaquin “New Mansa” Buckley (-135)

Over 1.5 Rounds (-145) | Under 1.5 Rounds +114

Buckley has found a permanent home in the Welterweight division after starting his UFC career up a class at middleweight. Since moving down to 170 pounds, Buckley is 3-0 with two knockout victories. He has upper echelon power for the decision and a ridiculous 76” reach at just 5’10”. He is also from St. Louis, trains in St. Louis, and will be enjoying an extremely biased crowd when he enters the cage. 

Since coming to the UFC as a late notice replacement fighter to face Kevin Holland, Buckley has almost exclusively been swimming in the deep end of the pool. He is willing to fight any opponent at any venue at any time. This fight is further evidence of that, both Buckley and Ruziboev fought five weeks ago on the UFC New Jersey card. His first fight at 170 was a KO victory vs. fellow standup finisher Andre Fialho, he followed that up with a decision win vs the always game Alex Morono. Most recently knocked out one of the more well-rounded fighters in the division, Vicente Luque, in the second round. 

Ruziboev is 2-0 in the UFC with two first-round knockouts, with both of those fights being up a weight class at middleweight. Despite being green in the UFC, Ruziboev is a very experienced fighter with a 34-8-2, 2 NC record. He has two KOs in the UFC and has 12 knockout victories in his career. Additionally, he has 20 submission wins from his time in the regional scene. He is 6’5” tall and was usually the bigger fighter at 185 pounds. He cleanly hit the scale on Friday, weighing 170.25 lbs and towered over Buckley in the ceremonial weigh-in. In his UFC debut, he was a +180 underdog versus power puncher Bruno Ferreira (who is the same height as Buckley. He was -200 vs kickboxer Sedrique Dumas but was still able to find his range. He ate a total of four significant strikes in those two bouts. 

I am a huge Buckley fan but I do not think this fight is in his favor. There is an entire element to Ruziboev’s game that we have not seen in the cage. But I’m not sure he will need to resort to grappling vs. Buckley. Despite both fighters having the same 76” reach, the 7-inch height advantage needs to be considered. That type of size allows for standing guillotines when in clinch positions, but it also means that if Ruziboev wants to control range with kicks, he can basically keep Buckley in his corner. 

FIGHT WINNER: Nursulton Ruziboev

BET: Nursulton Ruziboev (+114), Risk 1 Unit to Win 1.14

Nursulton Ruziboev to win in Round 1 or 2 (+215), Risk 1 Unit to Win 2.15

Carlos “Black Jag” Ulberg (-265) vs Alonzo “Atomic” Menifield (+215)

Over 1.5 Rounds (-160) | Under 1.5 Rounds (+124)

Ulberg is one of the most technically-gifted kickboxers in UFC’s light heavyweight division. He has made an MMA career through his textbook knockouts which usually come at the end of picture perfect combinations. He is a champion kickboxer and training partner of Israel Adesanya and his style and results show it. He lost his debut to Kennedy Nzechukwu despite landing 146 significant strikes. Since that fight he is 4-0, winning the most recent three inside the distance. 

Menifield is a talented and well-rounded martial artist who has made an excellent career in the UFC. He is 8-3-1 with four wins via KO, and two via submission. He has seen very solid competition and has largely risen to the occasion. He has only been the underdog in three UFC fights (his last three). He is 2-0-1 in that span. He will far and away be the toughest test Ulberg has seen in the octagon so far in his career. 

On paper, Ulberg’s kickboxing background comes to life, 7.29 significant strikes landed per minute, with a 59% accuracy rate. Menifield is not far off regarding accuracy at 57% percent, but is landing substantially less (3.92) significant strikes per minute. Despite being a kickboxer, Ulberg actually has higher takedown accuracy (75% to 33%) albeit on a much shorter sample size. Overall, it is likely this fight remains standing. 

FIGHT WINNER: Carlos Ulberg

BET: Pass

Diego Ferreira (+340) versus Mateusz “Rebeasti” Rebecki (-440)

Over 2.5 Rounds (+140) | Under 2.5 Rounds (-180)

Rebecki has a gaudy 19-1 record, a 16-fight winning streak, and is 3-0 in the UFC. He opened as a -278 favorite at DraftKings and has seen consistent money throughout the week. The movement is understandable, Rebecki has a 66% finish rate in the UFC and a 84% finish rate in his career. Over half of his career wins have come in the first round. He is also eight years younger than his opponent at age 31 and has a +3.0 strike differential across his Contender Series and UFC fights. He has also landed 4.16 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage. 

Ferreira made his first trip to the octagon 10 years ago and owns a 9-5 record. He was perhaps on his way out of the organization after a three fight losing streak, but reminded the world he is still here a year ago versus Michael Johnson. In that fight he was a -160 favorite and won via KO in round 2. That fight took place after a 17-month layoff. Ferreira has four knockout wins and two submissions and three wins via decision in the UFC. Three of his losses have come via KO. Ferreira has a ridiculous 76” reach despite only being 5’9” tall. 

FIGHT WINNER: Mateusz Rebecki

BET: Pass

Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres (+185) versus Sean “The Sniper” Woodson (-225)

Over 2.5 (-280) | Under 2.5 (+210)

Woodson is a St. Louis product who has been given the chance to perform in front of a hometown crowd on the main card. He is an excellent boxer who lands 5.4 significant strikes per minute. He is also a physical anomaly at 6’2” with a 78” reach while weighing in at 145 pounds. He generally scores points early and often, preferring to land precise combos as opposed to taking big powerful swings. 

Caceres has been in the UFC for 13 years. Twenty-eight of his 35 professional fights have come in MMA’s top promotion. He is now 35 years old, but is not slowing down, having won seven of his last nine fights he is also tall for the division at 5’10” with a 73.5” reach. He is an average striker, but excels in defense with 63% of his opponents attempts missing.

Over the course of his career in the UFC, Woodson has averaged 75.86 strikes landed per fight. That number includes a fight he won 4:30 into the first round and a fight he lost via submission in the third round. I do not see this fight finishing short of the scorecards. I love Woodson’s significant strikes prop OVER 70.5 on DraftKings. This number is up to 74.5 elsewhere.

FIGHT WINNER: Sean Woodson

BEST BET: Woodson Over 70.5 significant strikes landed (-115), Risk 1.15 Units to Win 1

Waldo “Salsa Boy” Cortes-Acosta (+195) versus Robelis “The Big Boy” Despaigne (-238)

Over 1.5 Rounds (+180) | Under 1.5 Rounds (-238)

Despaigne is just 5-0 as a professional MMA fighter and 1-0 in the UFC. He is 35 years old, so the UFC has put him on the fast track as this is already his second fight of 2024. Prior to competing in MMA he was a world class Taekwondo practitioner, rising to the level of winning a Bronze Medal at the 2012 London Olympics. When watching his fights this style is quite apparent. Not too many heavyweights have his movement, precision, and power. 

Cortes-Acosta is 11-1 overall and 4-1 in the UFC. Three of his wins, and his loss, have come via decision. The best name on his resume is Andrei Arlovski, who is way past his prime. I believe he is a great matchup for Despaigne because he is not a grappler, and if this is a stand-up bout he is going to fall way behind. 

FIGHT WINNER: Robelis Despaigne

BEST BET: Robelis Despaigne in a parlay, see below


Chase “The Dream” Hooper (+114) versus Viacheslav “Slava Claus” Borschev (-135)

Over 1.5 Rounds (-130) | Under 1.5 Rounds (+100) 

Hooper is growing up in the UFC, as he is only 24 years old but has already put together a 5-3 record in the top MMA promotion in the world. His strength is grappling but he has started to develop a bit more in his stand-up over the past few fights. After going 3-3 at featherweight, Hooper went up a weight class to Lightweight and is 2-0. Despite improving in striking, he knows where his bread is buttered, he has gotten a takedown or secured a submission in all 5 of his UFC victories. 

Borschev is an extremely powerful striker who has one-punch ability to end fights. He is 2-2-1 in the UFC and has won two performance of the night bonuses with KOs and also won Fight of the Night when he went to  draw with Nazim Sadykhov. If he can land his power on Hooper before getting taken to the ground he will win this fight. The problem for Borschev is that his takedown defense is awful, his opponents land 64% of their attempts. 

This line opened at DraftKings with Borschev as a -198 favorite, but the Hooper money has been steady throughout the week. The line move makes sense considering these guys are polar opposites regarding style. If either fighter succeeds in enacting their gameplan they will dominate the fight. 

FIGHT WINNER: Chase Hooper

BET: Parlay: Robelis Despaigne (-238), Hooper/Borschev Fight Doesn’t Start Round 3 (-175), Risk 1 Unit to Win 1.23

Terrance “T Wrecks” McKinney (+140) versus Esteban “El Gringo” Ribovics (-166)

Over 1.5 Rounds (+175) | Under 1.5 Rounds (-230)

McKinney is 5-3 in the UFC with all five of his wins coming via first-round finish. All of his losses have ended before the halfway point of round 2. He forces action early and chains strikes with takedown attempts to overwhelm opponents. The strategy usually works. He has fought solid competition until his last two fights where he was given some relief and was able to dominate. 

Ribovics is 1-1 in the UFC and 12-1 overall. Both of his UFC fights went the distance, but his career finish rate is 92%. His strength of schedule prior to joining the UFC leaves a lot to be desired and perhaps his record was a bit inflated when he came into the UFC. 

FIGHT WINNER: Terrance McKinney

BET: Terrance McKinney (+140), Risk 1 Unit to Win 1.4

Tabatha “Baby Shark” Ricci (-142) versus Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Pennington (+120)

Over 2.5 Rounds (-500) | Under 2.5 Rounds (+340) 

Ricci is 4-2 in the UFC with two “good” losses to Lupita Godinez and Manon Fiorot. She is 4-0 as a betting favorite. Ricci has decent striking volume but poor accuracy at just 37%. She defends 59% of her opponents’ strikes, but has gotten hit 4.86 times per minute. The high strikes absorbed number is a symptom of having Fiorot and Godinez on her six-fight UFC resume. Ricci wins when she can land takedowns and control her opponent on the ground. She lands 3.39 takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage. She has 17 takedowns in her four wins, and 0 in her two losses. 

Pennington (formally Torres) is 34 and will be stepping into the octagon for the 16th time Saturday night. She has a 9-6 record and has fought some of the toughest fighters in the division. She is 1-4 as a betting underdog. Her takedown defense rate is 61% but she does have slightly better striking metrics than Ricci. If she avoids the takedown, we have a fight. 

FIGHT WINNER: Tabatha Ricci

BET: Tabatha Ricci (-142), Risk 1.42 Units to Win 1

Billy Ray Goff (+130) versus Trey “The Truth” Waters (-155)

Over 2.5 Rounds (+150) | Under 2.5 Rounds (-195)

Waters is 1-0 in the UFC after suffering the lone loss of his career versus Gabriel Bonfim in Contender Series. He won his UFC debut in a dominant decision performance vs Josh Quinlan. He landed 104 significant strikes but was unable to put down his opponent. Over the course of his nine-fight career he has a 75% finish rate. 

Goff’s career changed dramatically on December 10, 2020 on the Bellator 254 undercard. He was a 2-2 fighter being fed to Robson Gracie Jr as a +405 underdog in the first fight on the card. Goff won that fight via second-round TKO, ended Gracie’s MMA career, and has not lost a fight since. He is now 9-2 with TKO finishes in the first or second round in his last six fights. He was a +115 underdog in his UFC debut and won with punches in the first round. 

Goff has been in big spots throughout his career and has delivered. Ogden is a tough opponent but I think the underdog has a real shot in this one. 

FIGHT WINNER: Billy Ray Goff

BET: Billy Ray Goff via Knockout (+275), Risk 1 Unit to Win 2.75

Jake “White Kong” Hadley (-135) versus Charles “InnerG” Johnson (+114)

Over 2.5 Rounds (-260) | Under 2.5 Rounds (+195)

Johnson is another St. Louis fighter who will be given the chance to perform in front of a home crowd. He has a 3-4 record in the UFC and 14-6 overall. He is in a ton of close fights, having four split decisions on his ledger. This means he is tough to bet as a favorite, but appealing as a dog because he has never been finished and usually finds himself in fights hanging in the balance in the third round. 

Hadley is 2-2 in the UFC after putting up an 8-0 record in lesser organizations. He has won both of his fights inside the distance, and his losses have gone the distance. He has been the favorite in all 4 of his trips to the octagon. 

DraftKings opened Hadley as a -162 favorite in this bout. 

FIGHT WINNER: Charles Johnson


JJ Aldrich (+120) versus Veronica Hardy (-142)

Over 2.5 Rounds (-520) | Under 2.5 Rounds (+350)

Aldrich is a 14-fight UFC veteran with a 9-5 record and one finish in the organization. She has had a solid career without rising too high or falling too far. She is riding a two-fight win streak and is 5-3 dating back to 2021. She lands 4.05 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 4.53. She is a bit susceptible to the takedown. 

Hardy has improved immensely in her last two fights. She won both fights and was a +160 and +330 underdog. Due to the recent change in form, her numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. She generally wins when she is able to successfully takedown her opponent without forcing them when they aren’t available.

FIGHT WINNER: Veronica Hardy

BET: Pass


  • Derrick Lewis (-162) vs Rodrigo Nascimento, Risk 1.62 Units to Win 1
  • Nursulton Ruziboev (+114 vs Joaquin Buckley), Risk 1 Unit to Win 1.14
  • Nursulton Ruziboev to win in Round 1 or 2 (+215), Risk 1 Unit to Win 2.15
  • Sean Woodson Over 70.5 significant strikes landed(-115), Risk 1.15 Units to Win 1
  • Parlay: Robelis Despaigne (-238), Hooper/Borschev Fight Doesn’t Start Round 3 (-175), Risk 1 Unit to Win 1.23
  • Terrance McKinney (+140) vs Esteban Ribovics, Risk 1 Unit to Win 1.4
  • Tabatha Ricci (-142) vs Tecia Pennington, Risk 1.42 Units to Win 1
  • Billy Ray Goff via Knockout (+275), Risk 1 Unit to Win 2.75