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UFC 281 Gambling Preview: Will Israel Adesanya get his redemption, and going all-in on Zhang Weili

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UFC 281 on us and buddy, that’s doozy. In the main event Israel Adesanya puts his middleweight title on the line against the only man who has knocked him out cleanly, Alex Pereira. In the co-main event Carla Esparza puts her strawweight title on the line against former champion Zhang Weili. On top of that, we have 12 more fights, all of them relevant, so let’s jump right into the breakdown of the bets.

As always, all odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings bookmaker.

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Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Straight bets

Zhang Weili, -330

Let’s talk a little about cost. I almost never recommend betting at odds above -250 because I prefer to bet on accumulators instead, because those odds aren’t worth juicing. But with Zhang, I’ll make an exception because I’m still amazed at how low that line is. -330 suggests that Zhang has a 76.7% chance of winning this fight, which cannot be true. Zhang is better than Carla Esparza in almost every aspect of MMA, besides being arguably the most physically imposing fighter at 115 pounds. Meanwhile, Esparza is small even for the minimum weight, and apart from the fight with Yan Xiaonan, her performances in her current winning streak are far from impressive. Zhang wins this fight 9 out of 10 times and it scares me that this line is so big. I expected Zhang to be a -700 favorite or more.

Considering all this, I made a full bet on Zhang. This is an objectively stupid and irresponsible bet, and I actively discourage anyone from following suit.because it’s a completely wrong way to bet on MMA, but I did it anyway. My entire gaming bankroll (not related to other bets on this card) was bet on Zhang. So if things get bad, look for me at the canteen.

Michael Chandler+185

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of Michael Chandler, but I can’t help but see the value in him. Poirier is the best boxer and defends much better. But Chandler is so explosive that he remains very dangerous on his feet. Add to that that Chandler is a very good fighter and that has been Poirier’s weak point for a long time and I think Chandler has a better chance of taking him home than the odds suggest. Sure, it could end up like Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje (we should be lucky), but Chandler had his moments in this fight, and with Poirier, who has a tough performance, a breakdown could be brewing.

Ryan Spann+185

This is undoubtedly a big step forward for Dominick Reyes and a step forward for Spann, but I have serious concerns about Reyes. He says all the right things in this fight, but The Ravager hasn’t won a fight in over three years and this recent stretch has been as mentally devastating for him as you can imagine. He was stripped of his belt and then got upset in his next fight when everyone was expecting him to win the title. He then hit Jiri Prochazka with a kitchen sink and was unable to get him out of there, only to get publicized for his troubles.

Reyes is still young, athletic and talented, so maybe he can come back after all this. But Spann is also young, strong and active. This fight seems closer to 50-50 or at least 60-40 so I like to bet on Spann.

UFC 269: Miranda Maverick vs. Erin Blanchfield

Photo by Carmen Mandato/

Betting on props

Zhang Weili by KO/TKO, submission or disqualification, +100

Given that we’ve already overexposed Zhang, why not add more? To be honest, the odds are probably even better than Zhang’s straight, but fear keeps me from going all-in on a pivot bet. However, she hits incredibly hard, is physically dominant, and judging by her performance against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, she is still improving. I think knockout is by far the most likely outcome here, but this one covers all grounds in case Zhang goes for a choke or something.

Dan Hooker knockout/technical knockout/disqualification, +225

As I explained on Bets prohibited this week, I have no real explanation for this. No technical glitch or analysis to make me believe it will happen, I just think it will. Hooker’s career has taken some weird turns but I still think he’s pretty good and he’s on one of the best teams in the sport. It’s a winning match for him and it looks like he’s going to avoid grappling exchanges and pile on the leg shots that eventually eliminated Claudio Puelles.

Erin Blanchfield by knockout/technical knockout, painful hold or disqualification +200

Erin Blanchfield is arguably the best female prospect in MMA, and here the fight with Molly McCann looks very much like the show. Blanchfield is a strong wrestler and an excellent grappler, with a black belt in BJJ, which she uses well on the mat. McCann is incredibly popular, but wrestling has been a major hurdle for her throughout her career, especially when facing a stronger athlete (like Blanchfield). Based on what we’ve seen in their career, the most likely outcome of this fight is Blanchfield winning by decision, but the fight is at Madison Square Garden and now she’s really coming into her own as a fighter, I think Blanchfield has a real chance to win. simply dominate McCann from post to post by finding submissions or finishing moves in the ground and pound.

City kickboxing team
Israel Adesanya Twitter

Rate of the week

Israel Adesanya (-205), Dan Hooker (-145), Brad Riddell (+100), Carlos Ullberg (-130)

Can there be some other express?

I actually believe that each of these individual bets has value, and while this parlay breaks a number of my rules (never bet on underdogs, limit parlays to two or three legs), the kickboxing city parlay is simply too interesting to pass up.

I have flipped 20 times in the main event but if Adesanya fights smart I think he will win. He won most of their kickboxing fights, lost by bad decision, and then got into a fight that he handily won. Just like Hooker must win if he can keep his feet from getting mixed up with Claudio Puelles. Riddell is a better striker than Moicano, it’s just a matter of whether he can hold his own or not, and Ullberg is in the same boat against Nicolae Negumereanu.

A more responsible CKB express would be to simply combine those four expresses into two separate expresses, but where’s the fun in that? The most important thing when it comes to gambling is to have fun, and it’s undeniably fun, with a juicy payout if it comes up.

Play these four bets together to get odds of +789.


Photo by Alejandro Salazar/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via

Long shot of the week

Israel Adesanya by introduction, +1400

Now this is my type of long shot! Some of you may be saying to yourself, “Israel Adesanya is 0-3 in his career takedown attempts and made one submission attempt. It’s incredibly stupid.” Yes! BUT, although Adesanya is limited on the ground, he is still far ahead of Pereira! There are two legitimate ways to cash out this bet.

1) Adesanya comes in and tries to mess things up, gets a takedown and then hits back. It’s not a crazy possibility given that he’s shown a few flares in his few moments on the ground, and the ground seems to provide the safest opportunity for success.

2) Adesanya kicks Pereira in the legs and then follows him to the floor, presenting him to send a message. Adesanya has dropped Pereira before and if he does it this time he will end the fight, the only question is how. In any case, despite the high odds, I’m ready to bet.


Well, we didn’t have high hopes for the past week, but things were going as bad as they could be, including this shady story with Darrick Miner. Right now we’re on the losing end. Luckily, I think it’s just about a week to get things back on track.

Until next week, enjoy the fights, good luck and play responsibly!

All information in this article is provided to readers of MMA Fighting for entertainment, news and entertainment purposes only. It is the reader’s responsibility to study and comply with the online gambling laws in their area before placing any online sports betting.


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