UFC Fight Night 123: Swanson vs. Ortega brings a solid card to Fresno, California, this Saturday (Dec. 9). Sure it might not be as sexy as the UFC pay-per-views, but we are only looking to make money, so looks don’t always matter.
We didn’t do too bad on our Best Bets for UFC 218 Deep Dive. The Golden Dogs may not have come through, but we did hit on both our recommended prop bets. The parlay we narrowly missed out on due to a split-decision win for Felice Herrig over Cortney Casey; but, all in all, we directed you towards some smart bets, which is key, and being a winning bettor is all about the long-game.
So let’s continue our intelligent wagering and take a look at the card for Fight Night 123, which that you can watch on FS1 or UFC Fight Pass.
Below are the best underdogs, the fights to avoid, the most intriguing props to play, and a parlay to try as we dive deep into wagering waters for Fight Night 123: Swanson vs. Ortega.
Jason Knight (-310) vs. Gabriel Benitez (+255): Featherweight
At first, I wasn’t going to include Gabriel Benitez as a golden dog; on paper, I can see why Jason Knight is considered a huge favorite going into this matchup. But after a bit more research, there is a play here after all.
Knight will have the advantage in the grappling realm if he can get Benitez to the ground. However, on the feet, Benitez should have the edge in the striking department. According to fight metrics, Knight absorbs a lot of punch: 3.08 per minute with a striking defense of 49%. Sure, the man they call “Hick Diaz” loves to throw leather, but he also gets hit way too much, and if Benitez can keep this fight standing, he has a decent chance to win via decision or (T)KO finish.
As I said, Knight is a deserving favorite and has enough to win this fight. But this line is perfect for putting a small wager on Benitez. His +255 odds carry an implied win probability of just 28.2%. That does not give him the respect he deserves.
A $50 wager on Benitez at +255 — which is available on Betway — will win you a $127.50 profit (if he wins the fight, that is).
Eryk Anders (-300) vs. Markus Perez (+230): Middleweight
Eryk Anders is a beast and the second-biggest favorite on the card. His fight with Markus Perez isn’t getting a lot of hype despite both men being undefeated, up-and-coming fighters in the middleweight division. I understand why the sportsbooks are high on Anders; he absolutely smashed veteran Rafael Natal with a crushing right hand to win via KO in his UFC debut.
That said, he is facing a very game and technical Markus Perez, a tricky counter striker and very solid grappler. It’s really hard not to take Perez when +230 is being thrown in your face by sportsbooks (meaning you win $230 in profit on a $100 bet). If Perez can get this fight to the ground, Anders could get caught or gas out. I think Perez also has the advantage in the cardio department, so even if he doesn’t win by submission, he could eke out the decision. It’s worthwhile putting a little wager on Perez; it’s one of the most plausible upsets on the card and has the second-best payout.
I’m a little less high on this upset than Benitez, but a $20 bet on Perez at +230 will win you $46.
Merab Dvalishvili (-175) vs. Frankie Saenz (+135):
After losing his last three fights, Frankie Saenz is quite literally fighting for his UFC career. He started out in the octagon by going on a 3-0 run, but over time, Saenz started to believe in his newfound striking far more than he should have and practically abandoned what got him to the dance in the first place. The high-level wrestler will be facing a technically-sound and powerful striker in Merab Dvalishvili, who hails from a kickboxing background. It would be in Saenz’s best interest to not wade into striking waters and get merked as he’s been prone to do.
Dvalishvili loves to fight from the clinch and jockeys for position on the inside. Doing that against a guy like Saenz is just inviting him to take you down. If the Arizona native goes back to his bread and butter and can avoid being KO’ed by Dvalishvili, I can see an upset via decision, especially with Dvalishvili making his UFC debut.
This is a very plausible upset, but that’s why the payout isn’t great. A $50 bet on Frankie Saenz would get you $67.50.
Cub Swanson (+100) vs. Brian Ortega (-120): Featherweight
This is too close of a fight to even bother with. Cub Swanson began as the main-event favorite at -150 before the bets rolled in on Ortega, flipping the lines and sending Swanson to the underdog spot.
Ortega has solid striking but is more known for his beastly prowess on the mat, while Swanson has phenomenal striking but is a bit weak in defending submissions. So you get what we’re dealing with in this de facto pick’em fight. Though Swanson is always a game competitor and could win this five-rounder, at +100, it doesn’t seem worth it. If you’re super-keen to wager on the main event, look for the biggest payout you can find for Ortega to win inside the distance. But again, I’m staying away.
Scott Holtzman (-120) vs. Darrell Horcher (+100): Lightweight
The odds are too tight in this fight to recommend wagering on either man. If you pushed me for a side to bet, I would lean towards Horcher. But I won’t be touching this unless his odds reach +130 or higher, and even then, I’d rather put my money elsewhere on this card. Give this fight a pass.
Liz Carmouche (-185) vs. Alexis Davis (+160): Women’s Bantamweight
These ladies have fought before, and Davis picked Carmouche apart with leg kicks en route to a unanimous decision win. But that was so 2013 and a lot has happened since that time.
Although Davis won her last fight over Cindy Dandois in April, it was a razor-thin and somewhat controversial decision, and she looked terrible doing it. She appears to be on the downslope of her career. Liz Carmouche hasn’t been able to catch a break, and just when you think she is putting it all together, she finds herself sitting on the sidelines with an injury.
If Davis looks like she did last time out and Carmouche is 100% healthy, Carmouche will be able to use her size and overall physicality to bully her way to a win. But that’s not a proposition I’m keen to put my money on at -185.
The Best Prop Bets
Not many prop bets on this card stand out to me. However, after doing a little research, I found two that offer solid value.
Scott Holtzman vs Darrell Horcher goes the distance (-200)
This is a tough fight to pick a winner, but both men are extremely durable and I see it going the distance. The -200 odds offered at Betway have an implied probability of 66.6%. If they fought ten times, I think they’d go to the cards in eight of them. If I’m right about that, this is a great bet. And I think that I am right. Horcher has greater KO potential thanks to his powerful left hand, but he doesn’t throw it with much consistency. I smell a nip-tuck decision.
Brian Ortega by submission (+200)
If the main event stays standing and at distance, Swanson should outclass Ortega in the striking game and win via decision. However, Ortega’s abilities on the mat and in scramble situations make this bout intriguing. He has a knack for finding submissions from anywhere and each of Swanson’s last three losses all came via submission. Given Ortega’s ability to turn up his game as rounds progress and propensity for submitting his opponents with his world-class grappling, there’s a real case to be made that Ortega can earn a submission victory in this bout. The +200 odds only have a 33.3% implied probability, and I could easily see Ortega winning four of ten by sub.
The Parlay Play
There are a few different combos you can play on this card. You could go balls to the wall with that huge Markus Perez upset + the Brian Ortega win via submission prop bet. The potential payout would be huge, but that’s not actually what I’m advising as I see a more prudent parlay play.
In the Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling fight, the odds are too meh to make Sterling (+110) a legitimate golden dog, but he does offer enough value to put into a parlay. Add a big favorite in Jason Knight (-315 on Betway) for security plus give the prop bet of Holtzman vs Horcher going the distance and you can get a nice return.
If you make the following wager on Betway, your return on a $100 investment will be $409.50: Aljamain Sterling (+110) + Jason Knight (-315) + Scott Holtzman-vs-Darrell Horcher going the distance (-200)
Let's have fun and keep it civil.