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UFC 281 Main Card Picks on DraftKings Sportsbook

Tim Finnegan gives UFC 281 bets to consider on DraftKings Sportsbook.

UFC 276: Adesanya v Cannonier Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

The UFC returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City for UFC 281 on Saturday. The card is headlined by an intriguing middleweight title bout between champion Israel Adesanya and challenger Alex Pereira. Adesanya has nearly cleaned out the middleweight division, but Pereira presents a difficult stylistic matchup. The two have history, as Pereira beat Adesanya twice in kickboxing matches and has the elite striking base to give Adesanya a big matchup problem.

During the last UFC PPV at UFC 280, a DraftKings Sportsbook bettor made a big profit with the help of Aljamain Sterling. The bettor turned $27.08 into $3,005.88 by placing this Same Game Parlay (SGP) on DraftKings Sportsbook at +5500 odds along with a 100% profit boost:

  • Aljamain Sterling Moneyline
  • Aljamain Sterling Total Significant Strikes, Round 1: 20+
  • Total Takedowns, Round 1: 1+
  • Most Significant Strikes: Aljamain Sterling
  • Exact Method of Victory- KO/TKO/DQ

Sterling landed 30 significant strikes in Round 1, recorded three takedowns in Round 1, finished with 72 significant strikes as opposed to TJ Dillashaw’s eight, and won by KO/TKO, so the bettor successfully cashed their Same Game Parlay bet and took home a profit of nearly $3K.

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Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira

Adesanya is a tall and lengthy kickboxer who has enjoyed a significant reach and range advantage over most of his opponents at middleweight. Adesanya uses his length to position himself just outside of his opponent’s striking range, which makes it difficult to land a clean shot on Adesanya. Adesanya then punishes his opponents with his superior striking from distance, and his takedown defense and defensive grappling have been good enough to fend off the grapplers he has faced at middleweight.

Alex Pereira presents a significant matchup problem for Adesanya because Pereira can match most of Adesanya’s advantages at middleweight. Pereira is an elite kickboxer who is huge for the division, and his height, reach and striking skill are very similar to Adesanya’s. Adesanya will not be able to position himself outside of Pereira’s striking range to the same degree that he has enjoyed in most of his middleweight fights, and this is dangerous against someone as explosive as Pereira. This will likely be Adesanya’s biggest challenge to date in the middleweight division.

Pereira has big knockout power and put Adesanya’s lights out with a left hook in their second kickboxing match. Pereira has one of the greatest left hooks in combat sports, and his left hook was also his money punch in his most recent knockout win against Sean Strickland. The left hook from an orthodox fighter onto another orthodox fighter can be such a devastating punch because the lead defensive shoulder is on the opposite side of the left hook, which gives more clearance to find the chin on the left side.

While the two are very similarly matched in terms of fighting skill, Adesanya does carry a significant advantage in UFC experience and UFC title fight experience, which could be notable as the fight wears on. Adesanya has fought in eight five-round title fights in the UFC, something that Pereira has not experienced yet. Pereira only has seven total MMA fights. Title fight experience and five-round MMA fight experience could be the difference maker in this fight between two fighters who are very even in terms of skill.

If Adesanya can pace himself, keep himself safe early, let Pereira slow down and then take over in the championship rounds, he could position himself to win a decision using precision striking.

Pick: Israel Adesanya To Win By Decision (+120)

Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili

Esparza is a strong wrestler and relies on her offensive wrestling to give her the upper hand in fights. Despite only officially recording two takedowns in her title fight win against Rose Namajunas, the threat of the takedown spooked Namajunas into inactivity. With Namajunas reluctant to commit to offense out of respect for Esparza’s wrestling, only 67 total significant strikes were landed in 25 minutes between the two fighters, with Esparza accounting for 30 of them.

This is a general theme in Esparza’s fights—low striking volume. Esparza is landing only about two significant strikes per minute in her UFC fights, a rate nearly three times less than Weili, who is landing roughly six significant strikes per minute. Weili should have a significant edge in striking in this matchup, and Esparza needs to be successful with her offensive grappling to win this fight.

Weili’s physical strength could be the difference maker in this matchup. Weili is one of the strongest fighters in the women’s division, which could present problems for Esparza. UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou recently posted a video of Weili snatching a single leg on Ngannou and lifting him off the ground, showcasing her incredible strength relative to her division.

If Esparza struggles with Weili’s physical strength and cannot consistently take Weili down, Weili will be in a good position to utilize her superior striking and beat Esparza on the feet. Esparza has absorbed more strikes than she has landed, which is a red flag in her striking metrics.

Taking Weili to win by KO/TKO at plus money is a way to get her moneyline down from a heavy -340.

Pick: Zhang Weili To Win By KO/TKO/DQ (+120)

Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler

It is notable that this fight is only three rounds, which is a change for Poirier. Poirier has been frequently fighting in five-round fights as part of main events and title fights.

Poirier and Chandler are similarly matched in terms of their overall fighting skill, but Poirier has better cardio and has showcased a better chin recently, which could give him the edge in this fight. Poirier’s two most likely methods of victory are by decision and by KO/TKO, so taking the Method of Victory Double Chance: KO/TKO/DQ/Decision for Poirier is also a consideration.

Pick: Dustin Poirier moneyline (-210)

Same Game Parlay (SGP) is available on DraftKings Sportsbook for the UFC! To place a SGP:

  1. Find a fight that has the SGP icon in the top-left corner.
  2. Toggle “Same Game Parlay” on. Once it’s on, all available bets will appear.
  3. Build your Same Game Parlay. Combine multiple bets together from one fight. The more bets you combine, the more you can win.
  4. Place your parlay. Add your Same Game Parlay to your bet slip, enter your wager amount, and submit your bet.

Read more about SGP at the DraftKings Sportsbook SGP page!