This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
Well, it's Pay-Per-View-o'clock yet again, my friends, which means it's time for another installment of Handicapping The Octagon. I had quite a bit of fun this week, picking out four (4) parlays for prospective bettors to sink their teeth into, including a +500 play featuring an extremely talented, chronic underachiever. 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 writeup. 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.
Rodolfo Vieira (7-0-0) vs. Anthony Hernandez (7-2-0) Weight class: Middleweight
Whenever a jiu-jitsu virtuoso crosses over into the world of MMA, the broader community holds its collective breath waiting to see who will be the one to expose their lack of overall skill. While Vieira's striking has a long way to go, I would (and will) wager that he is more than capable of making a fighter like Anthony Hernandez his third consecutive finish in the UFC.
In some ways, Hernandez will be Vieira's toughest test to date: he has good footwork, is agile in the cage, and throws with power and in combination. One of his big problems here, though, will be an unchecked forward pressure that makes clinch situations readily available for the opponent. We saw this happen multiple times in Hernandez's last fight with Jun Yong Park, and taking down Vieira will certainly not be an option for "Fluffy" here. It should also be noted that Vieira is not only relentless with his takedown attempts, he's actually quite good at executing double-legs and slamming his opponent into side control so as to avoid any danger from the guard position.
Taking a finish prop at these odds may make some queasy, but five of Vieira's seven professional fights have ended inside the 1.5-round mark, and both of Hernandez's losses occurred within our desired time frame. The odds here don't leave too many reasonable ways to play Vieira, but I consider anything under (-200) worth a shot.
The play: Rodolfo Vieira UNDER 1.5 rounds (-167)
Polyana Viana (11-4-0) vs. Mallory Martin (7-3-0) Weight class: Strawweight
It's not a regular practice of mine to play a prop on an underdog, but Viana has never won a fight by decision in her professional MMA career, and she draws an opponent in Mallory Martin who has shown herself to be vulnerable to submissions in the past.
Martin is a bit of an all-rounder in the cage, and while she has only been finished once in her career, it was at the hands of another high-level BJJ black belt in Virna Jandiroba. The issue here is that Martin's takedown defense generally consists of trying to force guillotine chokes. I am skeptical that this will work with someone as experienced as Viana, as she, like Vieira, often ensures that she ends up in side control when she completes her takedowns.
If there is a worry in this play, it may be that she doesn't go for takedowns often enough (1.22 average per 15 minutes), but we saw Martin dropped hard and nearly finished by Hannah Cifers in her last fight, which has me keen to take a bit of insurance on the "any finish" line. The more adventurous among you may opt for submission only (+350), which is fine. In mind, playing Viana straight up is the only wrong way to do it.
The play: Polyana Viana by KO/TKO/DQ or Submission: +260
Julian Marquez (7-2-0) vs. Maki Pitolo (13-7-0) Weight class: Middleweight
A view of Pitolo from 30,000 feet reveals a fighter who has good lateral movement, throws in combination, and mixes his targets. Still, the Hawaiian fighter displays too many defensive liabilities for me to believe he can survive in the cage with someone like Marquez, who has finished all seven of his victories. Add in the fact that five of Pitolo's seven losses have come by stoppage, and it becomes clear where we're headed with this one.
There may not be a ton of craft in the game of Marquez, but he will stalk his opponents, throw big shots, and mix in kicks until he stops the fight. This seems like a particularly bad matchup for Pitolo, who frequently backs himself into the fence and got hit by the same overhand right multiple times in his fight with Impa Kasanganay. It's also notable that Pitolo has been at a physical disadvantage with the majority of his opponents in the UFC thus far. This will almost certainly be the case with Marquez as well, which should allow him to dictate where the fight goes.
To be clear, Marquez will likely have to endure a few scary-looking exchanges from his opponent before taking this fight over, but I suspect the power difference here will be evident pretty quickly, meaning the momentum should flip once "The Cuban Missile Crisis" begins to turn it on.
The Play: Julian Marquez by KO/TKO/DQ or Submission: +125
Bobby Green (27-11-1) vs. Jim Miller (32-15-0) Weight class: Lightweight
The year is 2018. Miller eats a devastating step-in knee from Dan Hooker that knocks him out cold. Most in the MMA community think this is it. The legend will follow in the path of others before him and continue to lose badly until he finally retires. But it doesn't happen. In fact, Miller has not been knocked out since that fight. All credit to the man for his grit and toughness, but I would argue that he hasn't faced a puncher anywhere close to Green since then, either.
While it's true that Green doesn't have a knockout next to his name since James Krause in 2013, there's no denying how hard he hits. We can see this in his virtuoso performance against Lando Vannata during their rematch in August when Green hurt "Groovy" multiple times and nearly ended the fight with a knockdown. Green remains the only person to be credited with a knockdown against Vannata in his 10 UFC fights. MMA math adherents may want to point out that Miller finished Clay Guida, while Green could not. While this is true, I think that fight actually strengthens our case, as Guida nearly had Miller finished with a shot right before that, which led to him opening up to be countered. All this is to say that Miller simply hasn't fought the right person to stop him with strikes since 2018 and Green's volume and precision should be enough to do the trick. This is particularly true since he should be able to thwart the majority of Miller's takedown attempts.
I grant that there is a fair amount of speculation being done on my part, but Miller has looked more and more hittable as time has gone on, and I think the 37-year-old is finally facing a puncher who can bring that to bear.
The play: Bobby Green By KO/TKO/DQ: +500