MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 24

MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 24

This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.

The UFC is back at the Apex for a middleweight fight that was supposed to be a title fight back in 2018 as Robert Whittaker faces Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC Vegas 24 on Saturday, April 17.

In this series of articles, I'll share my favorite play, an underdog pick, a prop, and a two-fighter parlay I like. All lines are taken from William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article.

Robert Whittaker (22-5) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (17-6)
Weight Class: Middleweight

Robert Whittaker should be over a -300 in my opinion as he is the better mixed martial artist.

Whittaker was originally supposed to fight Paulo Costa, where I was all over the former champ. However, Costa pulled out and Gastelum stepped up on short notice after getting back into the win column last time out, but I don't like this fight for him.

The former champ will have a two-inch reach advantage, but the big advantage will be the wrestling. Gastelum has a 64 percent takedown defense, and I expect Whittaker to mix in his wrestling and striking to tire out Gastelum.

The only path to victory I see for Gastelum is to land a big shot and KO Whittaker, however, Whittaker has taken hard shots and kept in the fight. The skill level is a big discrepancy, and I expect the former champ to either win a decision or get a late TKO finish.

The Play: Robert Whittaker (-278)
 

Gerald Meerschaert (31-14) vs. Bartosz Fabinski (15-4)
Weight Class: Middleweight

Gerald Meerschaert's style has been Bartosz Fabinski's kryptonite in his career.

Fabinski is a phenomenal wrestler, but when he faces an elite-level grappler (which Meerschaert is), he struggles. In his last two losses, he was submitted by Andre Muniz and Michel Prazeres, and "GM3" is tied for the most submission wins in UFC middleweight history.

Although Meerschaert is on a two-fight losing streak where he was knocked out in both, I don't think Fabinski has the power to KO the American. Instead, he will try and wrestle Meerschaert, and just like against Muniz, I expect him to leave his neck out and he will get caught in a submission. Or, Meerschaert will be able to control him and earn a clear-cut decision. 

Regardless, I like the dog and I actually lined Meerschaert as a slight -140 favorite.

The Play: Gerald Meerschaert (+110)
 

Abdul Razak Alhassan (10-3) vs Jacob Malkoun (4-1)
Weight Class: Middleweight

Jacob Malkoun is not UFC caliber, plain and simple.

The Aussie is just 4-1 in MMA and in his UFC debut, was KO'd in 18 seconds by Phil Hawes. Part of the reason why he is in the promotion – and was on that card as well as this one – is due to the fact he is Whittaker's main sparring partner, but the skill is not there.

Abdul Razak Alhassan, meanwhile, is 0-2 since returning from a lengthy court battle where he was deemed not guilty. Since coming back, he lost a decision to Mounir Lazzez and got KO'd by Khaos Williams. He's moving up to middleweight, which is a move I like.

In the fight, I expect Alhassan to come out aggressive, land something big early and KO Malkoun. The Fortis MMA product has insane power as he KO'd Niko Price in 43 seconds (who is someone is known for his chin).

The Play: Abdul Razak Alhassan by KO/TKO/DQ (-150)
 

Tracy Cortez (8-1) vs. Justine Kish (7-3) & 
Tony Gravely (20-6) vs. Anthony Birchak (15-7)
Weight Class: Flyweight & Bantamweight

Tracy Cortez and Tony Gravely should be able to get their hands raised with ease Saturday night.

Cortez is undefeated in the UFC with impressive wins over Vanessa Melo and Stephanie Egger. She also holds notable wins over Mariya Agapova and Erin Blanchfield, while Justine Kish is 1-3 in her last four, and is someone I can't trust.

Recently, Kish has slowed down and has struggled with grapplers. I expect Cortez to be able to take her down early and often to grind out a decision or get a submission win.

Tony Gravely, meanwhile, has a clear path to victory, and that is to take Anthony Birchak down and submit him.

Gravely is coming off a decision win over Geraldo de Freitas and in his career, has shown off his impressive ground game with submission wins over Ray Rodriguez, Darren Mima, as well as a KO win over Drako Rodriguez. Birchak, meanwhile, has his best days behind him and in his last fight, was taken down early and submitted by Gustavo Lopez.

Gravely will likely strike for a bit and then shoot for a takedown and get ahold of Birchak's back and either ground and pound him out or submit him.

The Play: Tracy Cortez & Tony Gravely parlay (-122)
 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cole Shelton
Cole Shelton is a full-time sports writer focusing on MMA.
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