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Mar 6, 2018

UFC Fight Night expert picks and best bets: How Brendan Allen can extend his win streak?​


Brendan Allen puts his five-fight winning streak on the line as he faces fellow middleweight contender Paul Craig in the main event at UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Saturday night (5 p.m. ET on ESPN+, with prelims at 2 p.m. on ESPN+).

Allen (22-5) has won his last three fights by submission. He beat Bruno Silva by first-round submission in June. Craig (17-6-1) enters the fight following a second-round knockout win over Andre Muniz in July. Neither fighter is ranked in ESPN's divisional rankings.

Andres Waters spoke to veteran MMA coach and ESPN analyst Din Thomas to get his perspective on the UFC main event. ESPN's betting experts Reed Kuhn and Ian Parker add their insights and analysis on the main event and other intriguing bets they like on the card.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Middleweight: Brendan Allen vs. Paul Craig​

Din Thomas, veteran coach and ESPN analyst​

Tale Of The Tape​

Last FightJun. 24, 2023Jul. 22, 2023
How Allen wins: First, I think Allen entering this matchup as a -450 favorite is ridiculous. Yes, I know how good Allen is. He's a highly skilled fighter. But sometimes, he can get in his own way, losing the fights he needs to win to propel himself to the next level. We've seen it happen before, struggling against guys he shouldn't.

Allen is the better striker and wrestler, and he's the younger fighter, so his well-rounded skillset should give him a lot of advantages in this fight. But he can't allow himself to get cocky, and he's shown that, at times, he can get too confident and end up getting clipped. He has to be careful to avoid doing that against Paul Craig. Otherwise, if he just sticks to his game and applies pressure to Craig, especially with his wrestling, Allen could force Craig into making mistakes. Allen can make this an easy fight if he gives this matchup the proper respect and doesn't look past Craig.

How Craig wins: Craig is great in bottom position when grappling on the mat. He's sneaky because it often catches people off guard. That may work to his advantage, if Allen underestimates him. Most times, fighters disrespect the bottom game and tend to leave themselves open for submissions.

In addition to his ground game, Craig, a former light heavyweight who moved down to middleweight in July, is just a powerful guy. He's got that old man power. Even though he's at a disadvantage in the striking, I think he could clip Allen and change the course of the fight. To win, Craig will have to look for that big shot or try to catch Allen slipping and then get him into his guard. He may even have to pull guard, which he's not afraid to do. Throw a big shot, and once Allen tries to brawl, pull guard and get the fight where Craig wants it to be.

X-factor: Craig's natural power. He caught Andre Muniz with a punch that hurt him in his last fight. That shot allowed Craig to change the fight and ultimately get the win. If Craig could do that in his last fight, he probably could do that again in this fight.

Prediction: I think Allen gets it done. It may not be as easy as the odds suggest, but he finds a way to beat Craig.

Betting analysis​

UFC Fight Night: Allen Vs. Craig​

Stand-up striking offenseAllenCraig
Total knockdown ratio (Knockdowns/times knocked down)3:21:3
Distance knockdown rate1.7%0.0%
Head jab accuracy37%18%
Head power accuracy35%24%
Standup strike ratio (Attempted vs. opp. attempted)0.91.3
Wrestling and grappling
TD Attempts per Min Standing/Clinch0.281.04
Takedown Accuracy47%23%
Advances per takedown/top control1.20.7
Opponent takedown attempts2514
Takedown defense52%43%
Share of fight time in ground control55%26%
Submission Attempts per Trip to Ground0.550.58
Table compiled by Reed Kuhn
Kuhn: Craig to win inside the distance; fight does not go the distance for parlays. It looks like a fun main event between two finishers, but at current prices, this is not one I'm likely to bet on straight up. That's because Allen should be able to out-land Craig round-to-round, but there's an obvious wild card of Craig's tenacious submissions.

I get why the prices are steep. But Allen's strength of submissions on the ground and more accurate point striking are countered by the threat of Craig's submissions and the liability of Allen's porous defense on the feet.

If anything, I might take a flier on Craig inside the distance. Otherwise, I'll use fight does not go the distance for parlays, as neither man typically goes a full three rounds, let alone five.

Parker: Allen to win inside the distance. Allen has a chance to extend his win streak to six in a row and earn a spot in ESPN's rankings with a win over Craig. Against a submission ace like Craig, Allen would be better off keeping the fight standing. But Allen is the better fighter, no matter where the bout goes. As long as he doesn't get careless, it's hard to imagine where Craig beats him. Craig needs top position on the mat in this matchup against a better striker in Allen. In his last fight, Allen showed his knockout power with a win over Silva. As impressive as Craig was in his middleweight debut, stylistically, this is a tough matchup and I believe that Allen gets it done.

Best bets on the rest of the card​

Welterweight: Michael Morales vs. Jake Matthews

Kuhn: Morales to win (-295). I rode Matthews for a while when he was a young crusher working his way up the ranks. Although he's just 29 years old, the guy has been through it. Now he's matched up against an undefeated phenom, and you have to wonder if the UFC believes he's already put in his best work.

On paper, Morales is the more dangerous striker, though his defense is loose. However, he'll also have a sizable reach advantage to stay away from the more lumbering strikes of Matthews. Morales has 90% takedown defense, and we should expect that to get tested. I think he keeps this fight standing and unleashes the sharper hands of the two.

Lightweight: Chase Hooper vs. Jordan Leavitt

Parker: Leavitt to win (+175). As good as Hooper looked at his last fight, it's hard to imagine him being a two-to-one favorite over any fighter, let alone Leavitt, who may be better than Hooper at what Hooper does best. Unless Hooper keeps this fight standing and wins the striking battle, it's hard to imagine this not being a toss-up. If we see 15 minutes of jiu-jitsu and grappling, I believe Leavitt is the smarter fighter and will maintain position over submission in the grappling exchanges. Give me the underdog +175.

Strawweight: Luana Pinheiro vs. Amanda Ribas

Kuhn: Ribas to win (-245). The performance metrics for Ribas and Pinheiro are a close tradeoff, but the experience and strength of schedule strongly favor Ribas. She'll also be moving back down to strawweight, where she'll be the bigger fighter on fight night.

Both women have excelled on the ground with similar performance metrics, so it's hard to pick either having a clear advantage. On the feet, however, the pace and accuracy of Ribas should see her landing more often. With Ribas having earned her marks while consistently facing quality opponents, I have to side with the favorite here.