UFC 259 is set to be one of the biggest nights in MMA history. Three title fights headline a star studded card that is sure to be an instant classic.
The main event will pit middleweight champion Israel Adesanya against light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Before that, we have Amanda Nunes defending her featherweight belt against challenger Megan Anderson.
The title fights get started at bantamweight, though, with Petr Yan making his first title defense against Aljamain Sterling.
There are 12 other fights comprising a fantastic card, let’s breakdown some valuable bets for Saturday night.
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
Bantamweight Title: Petr Yan (-110) vs. Aljamain Sterling (-110)
I’m way off the market on this line. To me, Yan is the present and the future at bantamweight.
Yan was a bit shaky at the start of his title fight against Jose Aldo for the vacant belt, but turned it on as the fight progressed and recorded a stoppage in the fifth round.
Yan ended up turning in a calculated and dominant performance to capture the gold.
Aldo is an aging veteran and while Sterling is four years older than Yan, he presents a different skill set than the Brazilian did.
He’s 19-3 in his MMA career with eight of those victories via submission. Sterling is going to look to keep this fight at distance against the pressure boxer Yan. ‘Funk Master’ has a four-inch reach advantage on the champion.
At a point, though, Sterling is going to need to shoot for takedowns, it’s his clearest path to victory.
That won’t be easy though. Yan is fantastic at shutting down takedowns, a fantastic 88% takedown defense per UFCStats.com.
While he has been on a dominant run, Sterling has never been in a five round fight. We saw the maturity of Yan’s skillset in his first championship bout, conserving energy to turn it on in the final minutes to score a late finish.
I see Yan fending off early takedown attempts by Sterling and turning this into a standup battle, where his offense can shine and overwhelm Sterling, especially in the smaller UFC Apex cage (25 feet instead of 30).
While the line continues to move against me, I’m going to go with who I believe is set to go on a dominant run as bantamweight champion.
Yan has more paths to victory with his boxing and stamina in what is being lined as a coin flip. Give me the champ.
Pick: Yan -110
Underdog Bet: Kyler Phillips (+134) vs. Song Yadong (-158)
I haven’t been impressed with Song Yadong. His last two fights were a draw against Cody Stamann and a controversial win against Marlon Vera.
Yadong is a force to be reckoned with in a technical standup bout, but Phillips has some key advantages that make this a tough matchup. ‘The Matrix’ presents a five-inch reach advantage, meaning he can keep his distance early, avoid Yadong’s vicious counter striking, and wear him down.
We have seen Yadong struggle as his matches enter the later stages; all three judges gave Vera the third round of his last fight.
While Phillips has not been deep into fights that often in his young career, two of his eight victories are by decision, I’ll bet on him slowing down Yadong’s boxing early and take over on offense late.
Phillips is a solid striker, but also an aggressive grappler, averaging nearly three takedowns per fight in his first three bouts with the UFC. If this fight enters the final round, Phillips should be able to outscore Yadong and leave little doubt to the judges.
Yadong’s record is a bit misleading and I’m trusting the underdog Phillips to come up with a strong effort and hand Yadong an overdue loss.
Pick: Phillips +134, play to +130
Prop Bet: Islam Makhachev to win inside the distance (+240)
Makhachev is one of the most highly touted fighters coming up the UFC ranks. The Russian is part of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s training team, and the undefeated lightweight has said that no one in the weight class can beat Makhachev right now.
Makhachev is an overwhelming -330 favorite, so oddsmakers are expecting the 18-1 fighter to dominate once again. So I’m going to get creative to bet on him.
He averages more than three takedowns per 15 minutes and his opponent, Drew Dober, has not been the sharpest at fending off takedowns, posting a 58% takedown defense.
I expect Makhachev, who has eight wins by submission, to bring Dober down and find a way to finish this fight inside the distance.
After this impressive victory, expect Makhachev to make a big leap in competition this spring.
Pick: Makhachev inside the distance +240, play to +220