We’re back for another installment of Best Bets following a weekend of mixed results.
While last week’s “Lock of the Week” came through—Martin Buday barely squeaked by Jake Collier—my “Bet the Under” of Trey Waters-Josh Quinlan went the distance. Still my “Fight of the Night” ended up being quite the impressive display by Song Yadong against Ricky Simon, ultimately ending in a fifth-round knockout. I’ll take that.
But enough about last week. Here’s this week’s best bets:
Lock of the Week: Rafael Estevam vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
This pick is more-so based on betting against a struggling Zhalgas Zhumagulov than betting for the surging Rafael Estevam.
Yes, Estavam is a perfect 11-0, including a second-round knockout of Joao Elias on the Contender Series in September, but he is making his UFC debut.
Still, a lack of experience will not be enough to tip this one in the favor of Zhumagulov. He has lost five of his last six bouts, and he is likely on his way out of the UFC with one more setback.
Put a big stack on Estevam.
Bet the Over: Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
This one is going the distance.
Two hard-headed grapplers collide for a chance to scrap for the championship strap. Don’t expect Belal Muhammad or Gilbert Burns to risk it all with wild punches or flying armbar attacks. They’ll stick to what they know best, which is grappling.
Even if they do let the hands fly, they both lack the power to put each other out. Muhammad has endured punishment from stellar strikers in Vicente Luque and Stephen Thompson while Burns ate punches from Khamzat Chimaev, Jorge Masvidal and Thompson. Their respective chins won’t let this one end that way.
While Burns might try to sneak in a submission throughout the grappling exchanges, Muhammad is wise to those attempts. This will be a high-level battle of positioning.
Performance of the Night: Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo
Aljamain Sterling will easily handle former champion Henry Cejudo to earn performance of the night honors.
Let’s be honest: Cejudo has not faced anyone as good as Sterling. “Triple C’s” last three wins came against Dominick Cruz (who is still shaking the cobwebs off from that Marlon “Chito” Vera headkick), Marlon Moraes (knocked out in his last six straight fights) and now-retired TJ Dillashaw. He has not fought a quality opponent since he somehow came away with a split decision victory against Demetrious Johnson in 2018, when Drake’s “In My Feelings” was atop pop charts.
While The King of Cringe has been off starting a family since retiring THREE YEARS AGO, Sterling has elevated his game and the level of the entire division.
The “Funk Master” evolved on his feet to easily dispose of Petr Yan in the rematch, and he submitted a very game Cory Sandhagen in under 4 minutes.
Sterling, who is huge for the weight class, will backpack a tiny Cejudo into the history books, retaining the title and rewriting what should have remained a storybook ending for Cejudo.
Not a believer? See for yourself: “Triple C” was left speechless after Sterling ran up on Cejudo and his Corny Crew earlier this week. Cejudo managed to mutter “I’m ready” multiple times, but his eyes said “I’m in for a long night.”
Trust the eyes. Bet on Sterling.
Note to reader: Best Bets is a series solely intended to entertain readers. This is in no way betting advice. Do NOT put your mortgage payment down on a bet based on the opinion of this amateur bettor. You’ve been warned.