This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
A Pay-Per-View is upon us once again, which means it's time for my latest edition of Best Bets. This month's selections include three plus-money prop plays, as well as a straight wager that tests the limit of my own ruleset. As always, I have limited my looks to lines below (-200), as I feel that anything more expensive is supposed to come in, and doesn't really require a write-up. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Without any further ado, let's get to it.
Chris Daukaus (11-3-0) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5-0) Weight class Heavyweight
Not much was expected from Daukaus when he made his debut against Parker Porter, but three knockouts later and the 31-year-old is looking to break into the top-5 at heavyweight. He may just do that with a win over a tough veteran in Abdurakhimov.
One of the reasons why no one was looking for Daukaus may have been that he isn't much more than a boxer. What sets him apart from others in the division, however, are fast hands and an ability to mix his targets. Abdurakhimov moves well for a heavyweight but has a bad habit of stepping in to throw looping shots, which can only spell trouble when facing someone as accurate and powerful as Daukaus.
It should be noted that every fight represents a step up for Daukaus at this point in his career, and he will (in all likelihood) find a stumbling block eventually. I don't imagine it will be here, though, as Abdurakhimov will be well behind in the stand-up department, and has logged just a 24 percent takedown accuracy rate in nine UFC fights. Unless he can find a big shot, I think Daukaus will run his knockout streak to four inside the Octagon.
The play: Chris Daukaus by KO/TKO (+120)
Dan Hooker (20-10-0) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (13-3-0) Weight class: lightweight
This fight seemed to be in danger all week, as both men had trouble securing visas to get to Las Vegas, but they will be present for what promises to be a fun scrap with potential title-contender implications. While both men have knockout power, Hooker will carry a few advantages into the bout that could see him produce something for his highlight reel.
Hooker tends to fight by giving ground and looking for counter shots, and though this didn't work out too well against Michael Chandler, the New Zealand fighter should have ample opportunity to find big strikes on Haqparast as he looks to work his way into range. Hooker should also find a lot of success with his leg kicks, as the Afghani fighter tends to stand heavy on the front leg to cover distance with his strikes.
Haqparast has the ability to end a fight at any time but tends to swing wildly as he creates firefights that aren't necessarily to his advantage. I think Hooker will seize on one of these moments and land the knockout shot, as he has always had the ability to keep his bearings while under pressure.
The play: Dan Hooker wins via KO/TKO +275
Alexander Volkanovski (22-1-0) vs. Brian Ortega (15-1-0) Weight Class: Featherweight
The return of The Ultimate Fighter left us with a few bright prospects, but the true main event will happen Saturday, as Ortega will attempt to hand Volkanovski his first loss in the Octagon. We saw a completely retooled "T-City" in his fight with Chan Sung Jung, but will it be enough to take the title?
Ortega put on a masterful performance against "The Korean Zombie" which consisted not only of much improved striking, but the ability to blend his wrestling seamlessly with his stand-up, making it much easier to get takedowns and work his fantastic jujitsu game. The problem here is that Volkanovski isn't nearly as rote in his combinations or movements as Jung. He has seemingly become an expert at feinting, which freezes the opponent and effectively shuts down their offense.
Ortega can submit anyone in the division if given the opportunity, but Volkanovski has been incredibly hard to hold down in the UFC, and most of the challenger's best grappling has been done through grabbing front headlocks. The Australian should be the one pressuring for the majority of the bout, making it difficult for Ortega to create clinch situations. He'll likely be tough enough to see the final bell, but Volkanovski is too skilled everywhere to see this fight any other way.
The play: Volkanovski wins via decision (+125)
Uros Medic (7-0-0) vs. Jalin Turner (10-5-0) Weight Class: Welterweight
Medic will take an undefeated record into his second UFC bout after a first-round finish of Aalon Cruz in his debut. Both of these men have had dominant moments in their MMA careers, so what's the best way to play this matchup?
An efficient way to answer the question would be to look at the records of the fighters. In doing so, we see that only two of their 22 combined bouts have seen the final bell. When we look at their respective fighting styles, we can see why. Medic comes forward with a barrage of strikes and looks to overwhelm his opponents, while Turner is content to create opportunities using his athleticism and reach.
This fight somehow falls within our parameters for reviewable plays, perhaps due to the uncertainty that comes with handicapping an inexperienced fighter. Whatever the case may be, we have 15 minutes for two dedicated, explosive finishers to do their thing, and I see no reason why we shouldn't bank on them succeeding.
The play: Fight Does not go to Decision (-187)