UFC On ESPN 3: Ngannou vs Dos Santos Betting Preview

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Hey, it’s fighting season!

When is it not, though?

This makes me so happy!

Everybody loves a good fight.

MMA is my heart and even if I may prefer to train the various disciplines on their own, there is no better test of an athlete or a man’s heart than a one-on-one meeting inside of a cage.

Admittedly, I haven’t been able to pick winners in the MMA game as well as football in the past or golf presently.

If you’ve been keeping up, you know I’ve still been pumping out my picks and predictions for every UFC event which is nearly every week.

I’ve only been about 45% correct, albeit avoiding any favorites at (-300) or more and chasing value on some underdogs I probably shouldn’t.

This did puzzle me for a while and after consulting a mentor, he told me it was my ego.

Since MMA is my expertise, at least compared to football or golf which I never played competitively, I “thought” I knew better than I did and at times wasn’t doing the diligent research I was with less familiar sports.

After that conversation, I switched up my approach and it has paid off.

In the previous 3 UFC events we have picked, the betting record stands at (3-2) on favorites and in the range of (-135) to (+135), we are 7-1!

My O had to go last week after a foolish pick on Anderson Dos Santos over Andre Ewell last week as I read that Dos Santos was coming down from 145.

I assumed he would be the bigger man in there but the opposite was true and Ewell looked a good 5 kilos heavier.

That’s alright, though.

If you read the predictions on last week’s Bellator card and took the 4-1 underdog Rafael Lovato Jr over Gegard Mousasi, you obviously made out well.

Here we go with the ego again but I am proud of that one because NOBODY was picking against Mous in this fight.

Not one blog, article, current UFC fighter, television analyst or any of my friends agreed but he pulled it off and is the new Middleweight Champ.

Staying in all those Friday nights and watching Lovato in Legacy Fighting Alliance on AXSTV really paid off.

Now that I’m happy to be winning again, let’s move on to what appears to be a very difficult week of betting in the UFC.

I read one blog from a respected colleague and he only picked one fight from this week’s card and reluctantly at that.

I’m going with mostly underdogs this week to see if we can’t hit one or two to make a little cash.

There’s some value picks available too, though, so let’s get to it.


Eryk Anders vs Vinicious Moriera


This is about as classic of a striker vs grappler matchup as you’re going to see.

One guy is a former football player who is nowhere near the level of grappler as his Brazilian opponent.

You talk about fast twitch vs slow twitch, wow!

Eryk Anders, the former Alabama Crimson Tide National Champion linebacker is obviously highly explosive although he lacks the height and frame to continually be a force as a one-dimensional fighter in the UFC.

He’s very stocky and powerful, yes, but adding too much muscle onto a frame can hurt you at times when you face a fighter who is significantly taller, longer and broader in the shoulders.

Anders is a bit short even for the middleweight division but at light heavyweight fighting a massive Brazilian who only needs a minute or two on the ground to submit you, is, pardon the pun, a tall task.

If this fight had to pick’em odds, I would probably go with Anders as the Brazilian’s striking is rather rudimentary.

His striking did, however, improve after it looking dreadful in his Contender Series submission win.

It was better versus Alonzo Menifield even though he foolishly went for several spinning back kicks that led to his demise.

Stick to what you know, brother.

The Brazilian is rather flat-footed and plods around in there but I’ll take his size and the fact that he will only need one takedown to finish Anders to give him the nod as an underdog.

My Pick
Moriera by 2nd round submission


Damien Maia vs Rocco Martin


Rocco Martin is getting a lot of love here. Yes, he’s a very good grappler with some nice leg kicks.

Guess what, though?

He probably shouldn’t throw kicks against a guy that can end the fight after just one takedown.

Maia has done so countless times.

We also must remember that this fight is taking place in the welterweight division and Maia resembles more of a light heavyweight, really.

With a takedown defense rate of just 50%, it’s very hard to bet on the American here.

I don’t want to jinx this but we have to keep in mind that Damien Maia has taken punches dead on the chin from proven knockout artists and I am leaning hard towards the Brazilian veteran.

Martin hung in there with Sergio Moraes and didn’t get submitted.

There is only one Damien Maia, though.

My Pick
Maia by 2nd round submission

Joseph Benavidez vs Jussier Formiga


This is not an easy choice at all.

This is true even when you consider the fact that Benavidez owns a first-round TKO of Formiga although it was nearly four years ago.

Hey, didn’t Benavidez already beat the champ champ Henry Cejudo?

Yes, he did.

Formiga took him to a split decision, though.

Joe will have the power advantage in this fight and when a guy has already finished you once, whew, that’s something that you will never forget.

It was a first-round knee to the body, though, followed up by punches.

That’s how Mighty Mouse initially defeated the previously mentioned Cejudo and Henry came back to dethrone the legend and even send him, surprisingly, on his way out of the UFC.

This one is pretty close. They are both little guys and that makes the Octagon that much larger which means there will likely be less phone booth fighting and more movement.

Joe B lands twice as many significant strikes per minute and their wrestling should cancel out. I think Benavidez fights very intelligently as well.

He’s also got the edge in power striking as I said, so I’m taking Joe B by split decision.

My Pick
Joe B by split decision

Francis Ngannou vs Junior Dos Santos


Hey, this fight card is not that thick with big names but we have one here that should be a cracker!

I don’t think anyone is expecting this one to go the distance of 5 rounds, although that may not be a bad game plan for the Brazilian veteran.

He has done it before and we know Francis doesn’t have that premium unleaded in his tank.

Dos Santos could come out and make Francis chase him for a round and a half.

Then the over/under comes into play.


This one is really tempting. JDS has to be wise enough by now to see that he should at least try to take the Cameroonian fighter into the rough seas of the championship rounds.

Whether he is the better boxer is yet to be seen but we know he’s the more experienced fighter by far.

Please Note:

Dos Santos makes his living on aggression, though, and not counter fighting. So it may behoove him to not change up his style against such a dangerous opponent who could quickly overwhelm him if he’s waiting for precisely the right time to return fire.

The way I see this one playing out, JDS starts to circle and Francis takes the middle as the bigger man stalking his prey.

There are a few jabs exchanged and the looping punches thrown aren’t quite at range yet.

As Ngannou closes in and gets JDS’s back up against the cage, he begins to unload.

Dos Santos covers and returns with hooks.

One lands flush and Francis backs off.

Repeat the cycle.

Dos Santos absorbs over 3 significant strikes per minute.

For him to make it midway through the second round, he will have to take over 20 from Ngannou.

Has anyone on earth taken 20 punches from that guy without being concussed?

I don’t think so.

Normally, I’m all about taking the over bet when it’s set at 1.5 rounds but in this case, I’ll pay the (-140) and hope for an early finish.

Does this mean we are going with the favorite as well?


He has bounced back from his loss to Stipe Miocic as well as falling short in the staring contest heard round the world opposite Derrick “My balls was hot” Lewis.

Dos Santos could go out there with a grinding game plan early and try to catch Francis when his arms are lactic and heavy but I’ll take Frank in the first.

My Pick
Ngannou by 1st round KO


Francis Ngannou (-220) and Damien Maia (-190)

Bet 41.00 to win 50.00

With these two picks, you have the most powerful puncher in mixed martial arts as well as the most feared submission fighter in MMA history.

These aren’t bad prices to get either guy on their own and better than even money to snag both.

Why not?

In Conclusion

Things are going well for us in the past few weeks.

This event does scare me, so don’t see the recent success as a reason to go all in.

These are either tough matchups or odds to wide to cross confidently.

I do like Ngannou and Maia the most, though, as evidenced by the parlay pick.

JDS is crafty but is a finisher by heart and trade. We haven’t seen Frank stopped by anyone so it’ll likely to “a first” to beat us here.

I like Maia to secure a nice leg trip and get a hold to that neck early on and from there it’ll be tap or nap for the American prospect.

If Moreira fights with intelligence and uses his size to cut off the cage eventually closing the distance safely versus the hard-hitting Anders, I think he can take home a new body part sending Eryk to Bellator possibly.

Enjoy the fights this week as the entire car will be broadcast on ESPN with no +, the real thing.

Dah dah dah…

You know the music.

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.