Thursday, April 18, 2024

UFC 299 predictions, best bets, odds: Sean O’Malley prop, Benoit Saint Denis among top picks to consider

Sean O’Malley will make the first defense of his UFC bantamweight championship on Saturday night when he faces Marlon Vera in the main event of UFC 299. The fight is a rematch of an August 2020 fight in which Vera scored an upset victory by TKO.

Since that fight, O’Malley has rattled off five consecutive wins culminating in a second-round TKO over Aljamain Sterling to capture the title. Vera’s fortunes have been a bit more mixed since their first fight, running up a 5-2 record with the revenge angle playing as much a part in his receiving a title shot as his 1-1 record in 2023.

There’s plenty beyond the main event on Saturday for fans to be excited about. Look no further than the co-main event where Dustin Poirier is ready to get back in the win column against the fast-charging Benoit Saint Denis. The former interim lightweight champ opened up about why exactly he signed up for such a dangerous fight after a TKO loss to Justin Gaethje his last time out.

Plus, Saturday marks the debut of former Bellator MMA star Michael “Venom” Page when he takes on veteran Kevin Holland at welterweight. The card also features what should be a banger of a striking affair between bantamweights Petr Yan and Song Yadong. And top welterweight contenders throw down when Gilbert Burns faces off with Jack Della Maddalena.

After a rough start for our best bets coming in at 1-4 at UFC 297, we rebounded nicely with a 3-2 record at UFC 298 to bring our record to 4-6 on the year. We have attempted to identify the best plays for every main card fight on Saturday, looking to raise the year’s record above .500 by the time all the action has come to an end.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of UFC 299 from Miami on Saturday night below.

Let’s take a look at our picks for the best bets for the UFC 299 main card.

Petr Yan vs. Song Yadong

Petr Yan moneyline (-115)

Yan enters this fight having lost four of his five most recent fights. At a surface level, that suggests Yan is done as a fighter at the elite level. Dig a little deeper and you see that those losses came against the best of the best in the bantamweight division with one coming via disqualification and two by split decision. Yan may have fallen out of the title picture, but there’s likely still plenty of gas in the tank and he should be motivated when he faces Yadong, whose style matches up nicely with what Yan does well. Yadong does have some good wins on his resume but also has lost to Kyler Phillips and Cory Sandhagen in the past few years. Rather than try to land on a method of victory, the play here is to just take the simple moneyline play for the more established fighter with more tools to win the fight.

Gilbert Burns vs. Jack Della Maddalena

Gilbert Burns moneyline (+140)

This fight is likely determined entirely by Burns’ willingness to work to put the fight on the floor. If Burns can get takedowns, Della Maddalena is likely sunk in such a big step-up fight. Della Maddalena was able to escape with a split decision over Bassil Hafez despite spending more than five minutes of the first two rounds under Hafez. Burns is a decorated and dangerous grappler and if Della Maddalena finds himself under Burns for any significant amount of time, he is likely not making it to the final bell. Alternatively, and despite having heavy hands, Burns can be busted up on the feet a bit and Della Maddalena has blistering boxing skills. I have to believe Burns’ team has him well aware of the importance of closing distance and getting the fight to the ground so it’s worth throwing a bit behind the small upset.

Kevin Holland vs. Michael Page

Fight to go the distance: No (+110)

These two fighters have a combined 72% of fights that have ended before the final bell. Add in the way their styles mesh and it seems a little silly that the fight not going the distance is sitting at plus money. This fight could end on the feet at at any moment, with either man landing a big shot or powerful flurry. Holland could also take the fight to the ground and find a submission — he has seven in his career — against Page, who has never really had to elevate his grappling game thanks to mostly favorable matchmaking in Bellator. Plus money for the fight to end before the finish of the third round is the kind of generous line you have to jump all over.

Dustin Poirier vs. Benoit Saint Denis

Benoit Saint Denis moneyline (-210)

Admittedly, it stings a little bit to go against Poirier, one of the easiest guys in the sport to root for over the past decade. But, as they say, styles make fights and this is not a favorable pairing for Poirier. The former interim champion’s takedown defense has never been all that solid, successfully defending takedowns at a rate of 63%. Saint Denis averages 4.55 takedowns per 15 minutes. There’s a clear path to victory for Saint Denis: Close the distance and put Poirier on his back. It’s a little too tricky to figure out if Saint Denis can score a submission or knockout for a bet on method of victory, so we’ll stick to the moneyline.

Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera

Sean O’Malley via decision (+100)

Vera is a dangerous challenger, as made clear by defeating O’Malley in their first fight. But duplicating that success isn’t going to be easy, especially with O’Malley only gaining confidence of late and being the more dynamic fighter. Vera is incredibly durable, never having been stopped in his career. Considering all the factors heading in, it feels as though O’Malley is set up for a decision win. Vera gets hit with strikes at a higher rate than he lands but still manages to gut out every fight while O’Malley has never been five rounds in his career. It feels like the most likely result is the best play to make.

Who wins UFC 299: O’Malley vs. Vera 2, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on UFC 299, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200, and find out. 

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