The UFC heads back to the Apex for UFC Vegas 54 after a UFC 274 card in Phoenix that had some drama. Charles Oliveira missed weight twice for his championship fight, so he was stripped of the title and still ended up beating Justin Gaethje by first-round submission. In the co-main event, Carla Esparza beat “Thug” Rose Namajunas by decision in arguably the worst title fight of all time. The strawweight division is wide open, and fans could see the belt switching hands a bunch in the next few title fights.
Moving on to UFC Vegas 54, in the main event there is a title eliminator fight in the light heavyweight division with former champion Jan Blachowicz taking on the rising Aleksandar Rakic. There are only 11 fights on this card, and there is not much name value in the preliminaries. There are a lot of juiced moneylines, and the ones that are essentially coin flips are between untrustworthy fighters. This is making prop bets the better option this week, but there are a few good parlay building blocks. This gives bettors multiple ways to bet when making their UFC Vegas 54 picks tonight.
Expert UFC Vegas 54 Picks, Predictions & Best Bets
Davey Grant vs. Louis Smolka
In what should be a very fun fight while it lasts, Davey Grant will take on Louis Smolka. Grant is coming off back-to-back losses to Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez, both by decision, but they were both very respectable losses because Vera is a title challenger and Yanez is one of the best prospects in the division. Before those fights, he won his last two by knockout against Jonathan Martinez and Martin Day. Grant has a lot of power in his hands, but he also showed he was durable by taking big shots against Vera and Yanez and going the distance. On the other side, Smolka is a very fun fighter and he is almost never in a boring fight. He has traded wins and losses in his past six fights, all coming by finish victory or finish defeat. The problem with Smolka is he loses anytime he takes a step up in competition, and Grant is most definitely a step up in competition. It is possible Smolka will wrestle his way to a submission victory, but it will be fairly difficult to get Grant to the mat. If he does, Grant should scramble back up. Grant is going to test Smolka’s chin, and as fans saw in his last fight against Vince Morales, it failed him. That is why the bet is going to be Grant by TKO.
Best UFC Vegas 54 Pick Tonight: Davey Grant by TKO +110 (Caesars)
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Katlyn Chookagian vs. Amanda Ribas
Katlyn Chookagian has beaten everyone in the flyweight division besides the champion Valentina Shevchenko, so it makes sense she is welcoming Amanda Ribas back to the division. Ribas mostly fights at strawweight. She did fight once at flyweight in 2020 when she beat Paige VanZant by first-round submission. This is a much bigger test for Ribas, one that she may not pass. Chookagian will look to keep the fight at range and win a striking-based decision. Occasionally she will mix in her wrestling, but she mostly uses her wrestling defensively. While Ribas’ striking has improved, it will be a rather difficult task to win a striking-based fight here. Ribas will need to get the fight to the mat and employ her Brazilian jiu-jitsu, in which she is a black belt. The problem is she only lands takedowns at a 47% clip in a lower weight class. Chookagian only defends takedowns at a 55% clip, so it is theoretically possible that Ribas could land one or two takedowns in this bout. However, outside of the Shevchenko fight, when Chookagian is taken down she is very difficult to control on the mat. The most likely scenario in this fight is a decision victory for Chookagian.
Best UFC Vegas 54 Pick Tonight: Katlyn Chookagian by Decision +120 (DraftKings)
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