The biggest UFC pay-per-view of 2021 (ok, fine – it’s also the only UFC PPV this year thus far, but still) goes down this Saturday from Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates aka UFC Fight Island. While the fight card actually isn’t that stacked (it’s basically a two-fight card), it does have the much anticipated return of Conor McGregor on top of it, so in this case the UFC doesn’t have to stack the deck to generate big sales.
I already did a column previewing the Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor rematch that will be headlining this card, so I won’t go too in depth on it here. My thoughts since I wrote that piece a couple of weeks ago haven’t changed – I still expect McGregor to win the rematch just as he won their initial meeting in 2014 – early and via a knockout. If the moneyline of McGregor at
4/13 doesn’t interest you, maybe try him via KO at
10/19 or winning in Round 1 at
Hooker v Chandler
The other “big name” fight on Saturday night is also a lightweight battle, this one between top contender Dan Hooker and debuting veteran Michael Chandler. After earning All-American honours as a collegiate wrestler at Missouri, Chandler moved into the fight game, where he has done quite well for himself. Fighting exclusive for Bellator since 2010, he compiled a 18-5 record in the world’s second biggest MMA organization, winning the Bellator Lightweight Championship three times.
However, you never know how a fighter’s skills will translate to the UFC octagon until you actually see them fight UFC level talent. And I’m not liking the looks of this matchup with Dan Hooker for Chandler. Not only is the New Zealander four years younger than his American counterpart, but Hooker is also four inches taller and has four inches of reach on him. Plus, Hooker has very solid takedown defense, stuffing 79% of takedowns attempted on him. Which means Hooker should be able to keep this fight a striking battle, allowing him to enable his reach advantage. While Chandler also enjoys standing and banging, Hooker has an iron chin, only being (T)KO’d once (via a body shot) despite fighting some fierce strikers. Chandler also has been knocked out three times in his career, making a striking battle even more dangerous for him against a guy who has finished 10 of his 20 pro wins via strikes. Therefore, Hooker is my pick at
9/4 via KO if you are greedy and prefer some plus money).
Underdog Betting Tips
How about some live dogs for the evening? Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard Antonio Carlos Junior makes his return to the cage for the first time since September 2019 in a middleweight fight against the also returning Brad Tavares (out since November 2019). I think ‘Shoeface’ is too strong of a grappler to not win this one, so I like him at
21/20 (or, even better,
7/2 to win via submission).
And…. that’s actually it for underdogs that I’m leaning towards winning on Saturday evening. It’s looking like a chalky evening, at least at this point. Joanne Calderwood is very close to a pick ‘em (
20/23) for her women’s flyweight fight with Jessica Eye, and I like JoJo winning that one. In another women’s tilt (this one a mom battle at bantamweight), I like Olympic silver medalist in wrestling Sara McMann to outgrapple Julianna Pena, who has abysmal takedown defense, so McMann at
5/7 is looking good. But if you are looking for some plus money on Saturday, Carlos Junior and the prop bets I mentioned earlier are the way to go.