MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 31

MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 31

This article is part of our UFC Picks series.

The UFC is back at the UFC Apex on Saturday, July 17 for UFC Vegas 31. In the main event, top-15 lightweights collide as Islam Makhachev battles, Thiago Moises.

In this series of articles, I'll share my favorite play, an underdog pick, a prop, and a two-fighter parlay I like. All lines are taken from William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.

Miesha Tate (18-7) vs. Marion Reneau (9-7-1)
Weight Class: Women's Bantamweight

Former UFC  bantamweight champ Miesha Tate will return to the Octagon after ending her retirement. Tate announced her retirement following her decision loss to Raquel Pennington at UFC 205 back in 2016, and she meets Marion Reneau, who's set for her retirement bout.

Although Tate hasn't fought since 2016 I still really like this matchup for her. Reneau is on a four-fight losing skid, is 44 years old and has been slowing down.

On the feet, both Tate and Reneau do leave a lot to be desired, as both don't throw a ton of volume, and they both get hit quite often. However, the reason I like Tate in this fight is due to her grappling. She averages 2.06 takedowns per 15 minutes, and although she's only lands 31 percent of them, Reneau only has 50 percent takedown defense. I do think Tate can take this fight to the mat and control Reneau on the ground, yet even in the clinch, Tate will have the advantage and likely grind out a decision win.

The Play: Miesha Tate (-130)

Billy Quarantillo (15-3) vs. Gabriel Benitez (22-8)
Weight Class: Featherweight

Billy Quarantillo was supposed to fight Hebert Burns, but he was forced out and about 4-5 weeks before the event. Gabriel Benitez steps in.

When the fight was made, I lined Quarantillo as a short favorite, so I'm very surprised to see him be the underdog. 

Quarantillo has an incredible work rate and cardio. He lands a crazy 7.03 significant strikes per minute, but he also only gets hit 4.37 times per minute. Benitez, meanwhile, does have KO power but doesn't throw as much volume, and Quarantillo is super durable and hard to finish. On top of that, Quarantillo has the advantage on the ground if he wants to wrestle with the Mexican.

Another reason why I like Quarantillo is due to the fact he told me after his loss to Gavin Tucker he had eye surgery which was needed. He used to fight with contacts that used to get knocked out, and he said his vision was a concern. That won't be the case anymore. I expect Quarantilo to out-volume Benitez and win a decision.

The Play: Billy Quarantillo (+150)

Mateusz Gamrot (18-1) vs. Jeremy Stephens (28-18)
Weight Class: Lightweight

*Odds at DraftKings for the prop as William Hill doesn't have props available.

Jeremy Stephens is likely fighting for his job on Saturday, and I don't think it will go too well for him.

Stephens is moving up to lightweight, is winless in his last five and has been stopped in two of the four losses. Against Mateusz Gamrot, he's fighting someone who is super aggressive and has legitimate one-punch KO power.

Gamrot lands 4.26 significant strikes per minute and only absorbs 2.2. Stephens, meanwhile, lands 3.18 and absorbs 3.06. At this stage of his career, I think Stephens has taken too much damage, and Gamrot will eventually find the chin of Stephens and get the stoppage win.

The Play: Mateusz Gamrot wins by KO/TKO/DQ (-165) 

Francisco Figueiredo (12-3-1) vs Malcolm Gordon (12-5) &
Rodrigo Nascimento (8-1) vs Alan Baudot (8-2)
Weight Class: Flyweight & Heavyweight

In my parlay, I like Francisco Figueiredo and Rodrigo Nascimento to win, and the best part is they are the first two fights of the night. Hopefully we can cash early.

Figueiredo picked up a decision win over Jerome Rivera in his debut (which admittedly doesn't look the best now), but this fight against Gordon is a setup for him to get a win and a stoppage win. Gordon is 0-2 in the UFC – he was submitted by Amir Albazi and got knocked out by Su Mudaerji in just 44 seconds. Gordon's chin is a major concern, and I doubt he will be able to take the Brazilian down and on the feet, I think Figueiredo finds the KO punch early in the fight.

On the other leg, I like Rodrigo Nascimento to beat Alan Baudot, who isn't UFC-caliber in my opinion. Nascimento has a very good ground game, and I expect him to be able to take Baudot down and eventually find the submission. Baudot also has a bad chin, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him get knocked out.

The Play: Figueiredo & Nascimento parlay (-140)

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Cole Shelton
Cole Shelton is a full-time sports writer focusing on MMA.
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