This article is part of our UFC Picks series.
Pay-Per-Views generally offer up lots of intriguing matchups for prospective bettors to sink their teeth into, and UFC 276 is no exception. We'll tackle four plus-money plays in this edition of "MMA Best Bets," including a former champion who is being overlooked and a hard-nosed scrapper who will look to spoil a prospect's undefeated record. All betting lines are taken from William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.
Weight class: Lightweight
Those gearing up for the violence that would have likely occurred in a Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon bout won't be happy with the change of opponent here. While fireworks are still possible in a bout with Jim Miller, it seems odd to me that Vegas is treating every "Cowboy" fight as if it must end inside the distance, despite the different dynamics at play. It may not make us comfortable, but we can take a shot on a fight prop as Cerrone faces an opponent who has seen the final bell in almost half of his career bouts.
It's easy to look at the fact that Cerrone has been TKOed in four of his last six losses and conclude that a finish is in the offing, but aside from Alex Morono, every stoppage during this current losing streak has come against a dedicated finisher. It is also worth noting that he saw the final bell against Niko Price, who has gone to a decision just three times in his career. Miller may be on a run of finishes lately, but I think the fact that Cowboy will be at a six-inch height advantage will inspire a caution we haven't seen in "A-10" of late.
To be clear, both veterans can end this bout at any time. We have seen Miller settle into slow-paced kickboxing/grappling matches before, however, and he won't be able to simply submit an opponent of lesser experience, as he did with the likes of Roosevelt Roberts and Jason Gonzalez. Recency bias has made this fight finishing a foregone conclusion, and we can use that perception to make money.
UFC 276 BET: Fight goes to decision (+160)
Weight class: Welterweight
There won't be many fights in which Green is considered the UFC veteran, but the wars he has had in the Octagon against tough outs like Daniel Rodriguez put him far ahead on organizational experience for his fight with Garry, who has faced a glass cannon in Jordan Williams and an extreme counter puncher in Darian Weeks for his introduction to the organization. While he has shown skills in those two fights, I don't think he is quite ready for an opponent like Green.
Having been fast-tracked to the UFC after just seven professional fights, it's not difficult to imagine that Dana White and crew are trying to push Garry as another brash, talented Irish fighter with a knack for finishing opponents. However, Garry's style of ceding ground in the Octagon and using his length to find counter shots won't always make for exciting fights, and may not be as successful against "Gifted," who will constantly pour on the pressure while mixing in his wrestling.
Green has been hit hard during his UFC tenure, but his bend-don't-break attitude to damage will be a new challenge for Garry, who has finished six of his nine victories before the start of the third round. If he can't catch his opponent with a kill shot early, I expect Green to find his footing as the bout progresses.
UFC 276 BET: Gabriel Green (+150)
Weight Class: Featherweight
Much like the surface-level reasoning we looked to exploit in our first play, we can surmise that oddsmakers and the general public saw a trilogy in which one man had taken the first two meetings and placed their money accordingly. We know, however, that Holloway's performance in their second fight represents the most damage that has been dealt to "The Great" on this title run, which allows us to comfortably play a significant underdog in a fight that should be much closer to even money.
It's not as though Volkanovski hasn't earned his status as a favorite, but Holloway's constant pressure and willingness to kick at all three levels flustered the featherweight champion in a way we haven't seen before, and if it weren't for a late push in the championship rounds, "Blessed" would be entering this contest with the title around his waist.
There should always be more to analysis than calling a fighter the value side, and the adjustments Holloway made in the pair's second bout, combined with the cardio and volume that are staples of the 30-year-old's style, make him something of an easy pick at this price.
UFC 276 BET: Max Holloway (+175)
Weight class: Middleweight
Time away from the Octagon combined with a loss to a rising prospect has taken some of the shine off Tavares as a dependable gatekeeper within the division, but aside from the loss to Edmen Shahbazyan, the Hawaiian fighter hasn't lost to an opponent outside of the top-5 since 2014. This makes it difficult to understand his status as an underdog against Du Plessis, who has shown explosiveness but was arguably losing both of his UFC fights before finding a finish.
That finish should be harder to come by against someone like Tavares, who should be able to angle off and find counter shots as Du Plessis attacks on straight lines. It's not often that I take a boxer over someone with a more varied kicking game, but Du Plessis' defense has shown to be lacking in his bouts so far, and I don't think he will be able to have enough sustained success against Tavares to turn the fight in his favor.
As we have seen, Du Plessis is more than capable of landing the knockout blow, but he won't be up against the questionable defenses of Markus Perez or Trevin Giles, as Tavares has absorbed just 2.75 strikes per minute in his UFC career. This could mean a lot of swinging at air for the 34-year-old to capitalize on.
UFC 276 BET: Brad Tavares (+130)
UFC 276 Best Bets:
Here is a recap of my best UFC picks for this weekend's UFC 276 card: