MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 27

MMA Best Bets: UFC Vegas 27

This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.

After being in front of a full capacity crowd in Houston, Texas last week, the UFC returns to the Apex for a bantamweight bout between Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt on May 22.

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.

Xiaonan Yan (13-1) vs. Carla Esparza (17-6)
Weight Class: Women's strawweight

The co-main event of UFC Vegas 27 is a very intriguing one as the winner of  Xiaonan Yan and Carla Esparza will be in line for a title shot, and I really like Yan in this fight.

Yan and Esparza will have the same reach, but I favor Yan on the feet by quite a bit. In her UFC career, she lands 6.42 significant strikes per minute and only absorbs 3.63. Esparza, meanwhile, only throws 2.29 and absorbs 2.85. I expect Yan to just be able to out-volume Esparza and force some bad shots.

Esparza only lands 35 percent of her takedowns, and Yan has 75 percent takedown defense. I expect this one to remain standing and Yan will piece up Esparza to remain undefeated in the UFC.

The Play: Yan Xiaonan (-125)

Edmen Shahbazyan (11-1) vs. Jack Hermansson (21-6)
Weight Class: Middleweight

This may not be a popular play among many this weekend, but I think Edmen Shahbayzan returns to the win column on Saturday, and I'm surprised he is the betting underdog.

Although Shahbazyan lost by TKO to Derek Brunson in a fight he gassed out in, I like the style matchup for Shahbazyan. Although the rising contender only has 58 percent takedown defense, Hermansson, for being such a great grappler, is not the best wrestler and only lands 34 percent of his takedowns.

On the feet, meanwhile, Shahbazyan is a much better striker than Hermansson. Why I like Shahbazyan is that when Hermansson fights a KO artist like Shahbazyan, he seems to falter, as evidenced by his losses to Thiago Santos and Jared Cannonier. Both men were able to stuff the takedowns and pressure Hermansson, ultimately finding his chin. In his last fight, Vettori dropped Hermansson early, and if Shahbazyan lands that shot, I think he puts him out.

This is a super close fight, but I have to take the shot on the dog in Shahbazyan.

The Play: Edmen Shahbazyan (+130)

Justin Tafa (4-2) vs. Jared Vanderaa (11-5)
Weight Class: Heavyweight

When you get a low-level heavyweight fight like this one between Justin Tafa and Jared Vanderaa, it will either end early or be a lackluster three-round fight. I'm betting this one will end early.

Throughout his UFC career, Tafa has been someone that throws bombs in the first and is a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword kind of fighter. Vanderaa, meanwhile, has proven his KO power on the regional scene, but his chin is a worry.

I like Tafa in this fight, but I think betting the under 1.5 is a better way to go. I expect it to end in the first with one of them on their back unconscious. 

The Play: Tafa-Vanderaa under 1.5 rounds (-110)

Felicia Spencer (8-2) vs. Norma Dumont (5-1) & 
Ben Rothwell (38-13) vs. Chris Barnett (21-6)
Weight Class: Women's Featherweight & Heavyweight

I really like Felicia Spencer and Ben Rothwell to win on Saturday night, and parlaying them both gets you plus money.

Spencer is set to fight Norma Dumont, who is stepping on short notice, and this is a good style matchup for Spencer. I expect the Canadian to get the fight to the ground (she gets all her fights to the ground), and once she does, I expect her to either submit or TKO Dumont. I'm not sold on Dumont as a UFC fighter, and I think Spencer can get her out of there in the first or second.

The other leg of the parlay will be Ben Rothwell to beat short-notice replacement Chris Barnett

Barnett is a 5-foot-9 heavyweight who in the first round is dangerous, but after that gasses out. Rothwell, meanwhile, is known for his chin, and I highly doubt Barnett will be able to KO him. Instead, I expect Rothwell to use his size and jab to piece up Barnett and clinch him up to wear on him and get the KO/TKO win.

The Play: Spencer & Rothwell parlay (+110)

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