On Saturday, January 23rd, the UFC returns to PPV with UFC 257: McGregor vs Poirier 2. Yet, before we can take a look at the main card featuring Conor McGregor taking on Dustin Poirier for the second time, we must first examine the seven fight preliminary card which starts at 6:15PM ET on ESPN+.
This event has a stacked lineup from the PPV portion all the way down to the early prelims which features three fights.
These early preliminary bouts include a flyweight contest between #15 Amir Albazi and Zhalgas Zhumagulov, the unbeaten Movsar Evloev taking on veteran Nik Lentz, and Andrew Sanchez versus Makhmud Muradov.
The regular prelims portion of the event is loaded with notable names as well. These four bouts include fighters like Khalil Rountree, Brad Tavares, and a Top 9 women’s bantamweight bout between Julianna Pena and Sara McMann. The featured fight of the entire preliminary card is Nasrat Haqparast taking on Arman Tzarukyan in a lightweight contest.
UFC betting sites have released their odds for the entire UFC 257 preliminary card. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine these odds, identify potential betting value, and KO our predictions.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov made his UFC debut last July, but came up short as he lost to Raulian Paiva via unanimous decision. The loss snapped a four fight win streak, which all came in the FNG promotion.
He’s won seven of his last eight fights which included wins over current UFC fighters Tyson Nam and Tagir Ulanbekov.
Seven of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 6-3 when going the distance.
#15 ranked flyweight Amir Albazi also made his UFC debut last July. However, unlike his opponent this weekend, Albazi won his first trip inside the octagon with a 1st round submission over Malcom Gordon.
12 of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of submission. He’s 1-1 when going the distance. Albazi has never been stopped in his pro career.
Let’s start with the easier bets first. Take the Over 2.5 rounds (-250) and for this fight to go the distance. Zhumagulov has only been stopped once in his career. Plus, he’s gone the distance in nine of his 17 pro bouts including his last six contests.
Once with the scorecards, this bout can go either way. I’m taking Albazi to win as I think he looked better in his octagon debut compared to Zhumagulov. He won’t knockout out Zhumagulov, but he could maintain control on the mat for long stretches of time.
With that said, this really is a toss-up. The best value is with each fighter’s moneyline whichever way you lay your money.
Albazi vs Zhumagulov –Amir Albazi (-105)
Over 2.5 rounds (-250)
Fight goes the distance (-225)
Albazi wins via decision (+195)
Nik Lentz (30-11-2) vs Movsar Evloev (13-0)
Nik Lentz (+340)
Movsar Evloev (-425)
Over (-280)/Under (+240) 2.5 rounds
Nik Lentz was originally scheduled to take on Mike Grundy at UFC on ABC 1 last weekend, but Grundy was removed due to covid. Now, Lentz faces a bigger challenge in the unbeaten Movsar Evloev. This fight has the biggest disparity in betting odds.
Nik “The Carny” Lentz is looking to snap a two fight losing streak as he enters the octagon this weekend for the 24th time. Lentz is 14-8-1 in the UFC.
He last competed one year ago and lost via unanimous decision to Arnold Allen. Prior to that, he lost to Charles Oliveria in May 2019 via 2nd round TKO. His last win came 23 months ago via decision over Scott Holtzman. 19 of his 30 pro wins have come via stoppage with 11 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 11-6-2 when going the distance.
Movsar Evloev was the unbeaten champ in M-1 before joining the UFC nearly two years ago. Since then, he’s gone 3-0 with his last fight coming in July 2020 where he beat Mike Grundy via unanimous decision. All three of his UFC wins have come via decision.
Seven of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with four by way of TKO/KO. He’s 6-0 when going the distance.
Speaking of going the distance, this fight will go Over 2.5 rounds (-280) and the full 15 minutes (-240). Combined these two men have gone the distance in 25 of their 55 pro bouts. Yet, Evloev has gone the distance in six of his 13 including three in a row.
Evloev is on another level compared to Lentz and his performance this weekend will have him flirting with a Top 15 ranking in his division. I expect Evloev to grind his way to another unanimous decision victory and never be in any serious trouble during this bout.
The best betting value is Evloev’s odds of -145 to win via decision.
Lentz vs Evloev –Movsar Evloev (-425)
Over 2.5 rounds (-280)
Fight goes the distance (-240)
Evloev wins via decision (-145)
Makhmud Muradov (24-6) vs Andrew Sanchez (12-5)
Makhmud Muradov (-135)
Andrew Sanchez (+115)
Over (-135)/Under (+115) 2.5 rounds
This bout was originally scheduled for Andrew Muniz to take on Andrew Sanchez. Muniz was forced out of the bout and Makhmud Muradov stepped up on four weeks’ notice.
Andrew Sanchez comes into this contest as the slight underdog. He’s been with the UFC since 2016 and has compiled a 5-3 record. The former TUF winner last fought five months ago and won via 1st round KO over Wllington Turman. He’s 3-1 in his last four bouts.
Eight of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 4-2 when going the distance.
Muradov rides a 13 fight win streak into this bout where he’s the slight favorite. He’s currently 2-0 inside the octagon with a 3rd round KO win over Trevor Smith and a unanimous decision victory over Alessio Di Chirico.
19 of his 24 pro wins have come via stoppage with 16 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 5-2 when going the distance. Muradov’s last loss came in December 2016 and it was due to an injury. His last true stoppage loss came in November 2013 via decision.
This bout is going to be exciting as both men aren’t afraid of a firefight. Muradov will come out and showcase his evolving striking skills while Sanchez will look to diffuse his opponent’s arsenal.
With two fighters looking for the knockout, I don’t see this bout going the distance (-115). I also don’t see it going Over 2.5 rounds (+115). Instead, I see a TKO/KO coming by the early portion of the 3rd round.
I like Muradov to get the TKO victory in this contest. With more than 13 months to hone his skills and evolve as a fighter, I expect that we’ll see the best version of Muradov in the UFC to date. Sanchez has suffered three TKO/KO losses in his five pro defeats.
The best betting value is a moneyline bet on Muradov at -135. Same can be said if you believe Sanchez will win.
Muradov vs Sanchez –Makhmud Muradov (-135)
Under 2.5 rounds (+115)
Fight ends inside the distance (-115)
Muradov wins inside the distance (+168)
Muradov wins via TKO/KO (+175)
Marcin Prachnio (13-5) vs Khalil Rountree (8-4)
Khalil Rountree (-325)
Over (+145)/Under (-165) 1.5 rounds
Last year, Rountree was talking about retirement. He fought and loss to Ion Cutelaba in September 2019 and was going on 14 months of inactivity. Somewhere along the lines, Rountree rediscovered his love for fighting and not only decided not to retire, but signed a new contract with the UFC:
“I’m extremely happy to announce that I’ve decided to extend my contract with the UFC and will be making my return at the start of 2021. After being away from the sport for over one year now it feels like I have the opportunity to start fresh. I’m back in the game 100 percent like I’ve just begun, ready to put on the most exciting fights you’ve seen from me yet.”
Rountree lost two of his last three fights and is 4-4 in the UFC. Five of his eight pro wins have come via stoppage. He’s 3-1 when going the distance.
Marcin Prachnio went 13-2 and earned a shot with the UFC. Unfortunately, things have not workout as he had hoped. Prachnio has gone 0-3 in his three trips into the octagon. All three have come via TKO/KO.
His last bout was five months ago and he was defeated via 1st round KO. All three of his losses were via 1st round TKO/KO. 14 of his 18 pro bouts have ended inside the 1st round. 10 of his 13 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 2-1 when going the distance.
I don’t see this bout making it out of the 1st round, so go with the Under 1.5 rounds (-165) and for the fight to end inside the distance (-400).
These two sluggers will come out looking for a quick finish and one of them will get it. That fighter will be Rountree. Even in a min-slump, he’s still a better athlete and fighter than Prachnio.
Look for Rountree to use his athletic and power advantages to end this bout in devastating fashion. There’s not a lot of betting value in this fight. You can take Rountree to win in 1st round at +100 odds or the fight to not start Round 2 at -125 odds.
Prachnio vs Rountree –Khalil Rountree (-325)
Under 1.5 rounds (-165)
Fight ends inside the distance (-400)
Rountree to win inside the distance (-195)
Rountree to win via TKO/KO (-180)
Sara McMann (12-5) vs Julianna Pena (9-4)
Sara McMann (-130)
Julianna Pena (+110)
Over (-225)/Under (+165) 2.5 rounds
This Top 9 women’s bantamweight bout was originally scheduled for UFC on ABC 1, but was pushed back to UFC 257 presumably to stack the lineup even further.
The 7th ranked Julianna Pena is the slight underdog in this bout and is looking to bounce back from her loss to Germaine de Randamie last October. The loss dropped her to 5-2 inside the octagon. Her other defeat came to Valentina Shevchenko four years ago.
Six of her nine pro wins have come via stoppage with three apiece by way of submission and TKO/KO. She’s 3-1 when going the distance.
The 9th ranked Sara McMann last fought one year ago as she defeated Lina Lansberg via unanimous decision. The win snapped a two fight losing streak. She’s 4-2 since consecutive losses to Amanda Nunes and Miesha Tate.
Six of her 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of submission. She’s 6-1 when going the distance.
The winner of this bout will be on the cusp of a Top 5 ranking. However, it will take a few wins to get near the front of the line for a title shot.
With that said, I think McMann has one last run in her and that starts this weekend. She has the better grappling skills and I expect Sara to get the fight to the mat instead of trying to win a striking battle.
Once on the mat, I expect McMann to go long stretches of controlling the fight which should give her the decision win (+160). Take the fight to go Over 2.5 rounds (-225) and the full 15 minutes (-185).
The best value for this bout is with each fighter’s moneyline: McMann at -130 and Pena at (+110).
McMann vs Pena –Sara McMann (-130)
Over 2.5 rounds (-225)
Fight goes the distance (-185)
McMann wins via decision (+160)
Brad Tavares (16-6) vs Antonio Carlos Jr. (10-4)
Brad Tavares (-135)
Antonio Carlos Jr. (+115)
Over (-170)/Under (+150) 2.5 rounds
This middleweight bout was originally proposed in December 2019. The two were going to fight in the spring of 2020, but Tavares was injured and required surgery.
Antonio Carlos Jr. hasn’t fought since September 2019 largely due to the postponement of this bout and Covid. With that said, he comes into this contest having lost two straight fights both via decision.
Carlos’ last bout was against Uriah Hall and he came out on the wrong side of a split decision. Four months prior, Carlos lost via unanimous decision to Ian Heinisch. Before those losses, he had won five straight bouts. Carlos is 7-4 inside the octagon.
Eight of his 10 pro wins have come via submission. He’s 2-3 when going the distance.
The 14th ranked middleweight Brad Tavares is also entering this bout on a two fight losing streak. Those losses were via 1st round KO to Edmen Shahbazyan in November 2019 and a unanimous decision loss to Israel Adesanya in July 2018.
Seven of his 17 pro wins have come via stoppage. He’s 10-3 when going the distance. His other three losses were via TKO/KO.
Tavares made the following comments about his opponent and his plans for this fight:
“Stylistically, I think it’s a fight that really suits me. He’s a guy that’s a really tough guy and pretty tough everywhere but obviously his forte is his jiu-jitsu. I think he fits into my style perfectly because I obviously think I have the better striking, I’m in great shape so I can push that pace and bring that aspect to the fight, and I’m really hard to take down so that’s my plan — keep everything on the feet and let’s bang.”
This bout comes down Tavares’ striking versus Carlos’ jiu-jitsu. Whoever can execute their fight plan the best will win this contest.
I like Tavares in this bout. He’s never been stopped via submission and Carlos doesn’t have the power to KO him. Now, the question comes down to whether or not the bout will end inside the distance or go the full 15 minutes.
Since Tavares has gone the distance in 13 of his 23 pro bouts, I’m expecting this contest to as well (-150). I’m also taking the Over 2.5 rounds (-170). Tavares should win via unanimous decision (+160) due to the volume of strikes that he lands and his successful takedown defense.
The value for this bout is with each man’s moneyline.
Tavares vs Carlos Jr. –Brad Tavares (-135)
Over 2.5 rounds (-170)
Fight goes the distance (-150)
Tavares wins via decision (+160)
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Arman Tzarukyan (15-2)
Nasrat Haqparast (+220)
Arman Tzarukyan (-260)
Over (-250)/Under (+175) 2.5 rounds
Nasrat Haqparast enters as a large underdog in a lightweight bout that could see the winner crack the Top 15 rankings.
Haqparast has gone 4-2 inside the octagon and 1-1 last year. He lost to Drew Dober via 1st round KO one year ago, which snapped a three fight win streak. However Haqparast bounced back and picked up a unanimous decision win over Alex Munoz seven months later in August.
Nine of his 12 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 3-1 when going the distance.
Arman Tzarukyan will make his 4th trip inside the octagon. He’s gone 2-1 in the UFC with the loss coming in his promotional debut in April 2019. He last fought in July 2020 and beat Davi Ramos via unanimous decision. He’s on a two fight win streak.
10 of his 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with five apiece for submission and TKO/KO. He’s 5-1 when going the distance.
Both of these fighters are rising prospects. Haqparast is just 25 years old and has knockout power with a solid grappling game. Tzarukyan is just 24 years old and appears to have a more rounded fight game.
With two talented, young fighters in this featured bout of the prelims, I expect it to go the full 15 minutes (-205) and Over 2.5 rounds (-250).
Once with the judges, I like Tzarukyan to win. I think he has a lot of talent and is a future Top 10 fighter in this division. The best value is with Tzarukyan’s odds to win via decision at -120.
Haqparast vs Tzarukyan –Arman Tzarukyan (-260)
Over 2.5 rounds (-250)
Fight goes the distance (-205)
Tzarukyan wins via decision (-120)
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed “King of the Blog” in his first year with the site. …