Best bets and expert picks for UFC Fight Night and Bellator 286

UFC women’s strawweight contenders Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan are looking to shake up the standings when they compete at UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+, with prelims at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+). compete against each other.

Dern, ranked 6th in ESPN divisional rankings, earned a split decision win over Tecia Torres in their last fight in April. Yan, who is just ahead of Dern in 5th place, has suffered back-to-back losses in her last two bouts.

That same night, Bellator hosts Bellator 286 at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach. In the Main Event, Adam Borics takes on reigning Featherweight Champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Freire is #3 in ESPN’s featherweight rankings.

Brett Okamoto spoke to Xtreme Couture MMA Coach Eric Nicksick to get his take on the UFC Main Event matchup, and ESPN betting experts Ian Parker and Reed Kuhn add their insights and analysis for the Main Events of both the fight cards and other more intriguing ones Add bets like.

Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Women’s Strawweight: Mackenzie Dern vs. Yan Xiaonan

Eric Nicksick, Xtreme Couture MMA Instructor

How Dern wins: The obvious answer is to get Yan down on the ground and find an assist. However, it wasn’t always easy for Dern to fight there. Her hitting has improved significantly under trainer Jason Parillo and combining that hitting with her wrestling will be very important in this fight. Feinting level changes within sequences force Yan to respect the possible takedown, which could slow down the performance of Yan’s shot. That’s where Dern can do her best work, possibly sneaking in a takedown from a trip or even going so far as to pull guard. Once it hits the mat, look for dern to improve position and work on a finish.

How Yan wins: Yan has to rely heavily on her footwork and angles to make it difficult for Dern to find those takedowns. She should use anti-wrestling strikes in her combinations, which means attacking the center line. This will prevent Dern from changing levels for a takedown.

Equally important for Yan will be attacking Dern’s body, especially in a five round match. She must try to carry Dern’s cardio. These attacks also pair well with the anti-wrestling strikes.

X factor: Yan continues to train at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento. It’s a great way for Yan to step up in wrestling, but will it be enough to stop Dern from bringing her down? Looking back on Yan’s loss to Carla Esparza, she really struggled in the grappling department. If she hasn’t improved a lot in that area, it could be a fast night.

Forecast: Dern via submission, third round

Betting Analysis

Parker: Yan wins (+200). Dern will have a huge advantage locally if she gets there and it could be a tough task based on what we’ve seen in her last two fights. The blueprint for defeating Dern was designed by Marina Rodriguez – keep the fight going and get the fight back on its feet even when you have a dominant position on the mat.

At almost a 2-1 underdog, I like Yan here. She will be the superior striker and I think she will be the physically stronger athlete of the two. She had a hard time stopping Esparza’s takedowns, but to be fair, Esparza is a fantastic wrestler and Dern doesn’t have the same records as her. I expect this fight will be similar to the Rodriguez fight for Dern and if she can’t get him down I think Yan will wrap her up.

Kuhn: Dern wins (-230). Despite being a formidable underdog, Yan has clear advantages when it comes to striking. She maintains superior accuracy while using a more aggressive pace. Dern is arguably still improving with each fight, but she’s unlikely to win clean rounds without leveling up.

And this is where Dern’s base as an elite grappler will come into play. Yan’s 65% takedown defense probably won’t last long. Once down, Dern will have an advantage in terms of experience, positioning, and threat from submissions. Dern should be spending a lot of time on the mat, and with five rounds to go before work, she could eventually find an opening for a submission.

Best bets on the rest of the map



Randy Brown sends the UFC 261 crowd into a frenzy with a rear naked choke submission from Alex Oliveira.

Welterweight: Randy Brown vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Kuhn: Randy Brown wins (-300). With several worthy favorites on the map, finding reliable parlay legs should help make games more affordable. Consider Brown in the co-main event – he will have several advantages over Trinaldo, who is among the oldest fighters on the roster.

Brown has excellent accuracy and defense, with an absurd eight inches of range advantage helping. If he can control the range, it could force Trinaldo to chase and overcharge. Meanwhile, Trinaldo isn’t an unusually dangerous takedown threat, having only landed one in his three welterweight appearances to date. Brown should be in the driver’s seat to unleash his arsenal of punches.

Light Heavyweight: Maxim Grishin vs. Philipe Lins

Kuhn: Lins wins (+135). Lins now fights at light heavyweight and will take on a veteran in Grishin. Lins seems to have the sharper hands, and both throw a lot of big man kicks.

Exchanging big shots is wild, but when the fight bottoms out, Lins will likely start and take control. In an otherwise tight matchup, Lins presents some value at Plus Money.

Catchweight: John Castaneda vs. Daniel Santos

Parker: Castaneda wins (-190). Santos is a dangerous fighter no matter where the fight goes, but I believe Castaneda fought better competition. His last win against Miles Johns showed us that he can defend himself even against a high ranked wrestler. I think Castaneda avoids Santos’ early attack and eventually wears him down and takes the win.

Lightweight: Mike Davis vs. Viacheslav Borshchev

Parker: Davis wins (-175). Borshchev was hugely exposed in his fight against Marc Diakiese. Known for his strikes, Diakiese staged a wrestling clinic for three rounds with no responses from Borshchev. Davis is an excellent striker, but he would be foolish not to take the path of least resistance against his opponent – wrestling. Davis has talked about bringing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experts like Rodolfo Vieira into his camp, so I expect him to use the ground game and for Davis to dominate.

Heavyweight: Ilir Latifi vs. Aleksei Oleinik

Parker: Latifi wins (-175). Oleinik is coming off a comeback submission win over Jared Vanderaa, but I think his luck ends here. Latifi just beat Tanner Boser and I believe his wrestling and brute strength should be able to tame Oleinik’s submission attempts. Look for Latifi to bring down Oleinik early and earn a TKO win.

Bellator 286 best bets



Bellator featherweight AJ McKee defeated Dominic Mazzotta by KO with a powerful kick to the head 1:15 of the first round.

Featherweight: Patricio Freire vs. Adam Borics

Parker: Freire wins (-150). I’m surprised the odds are so low as Freire isn’t a big favorite. I think he’s more skilled everywhere and his experience of surviving five rounds against higher ranked opponents should give him a distinct advantage in this fight. Unless Borics catches Freire with something wild like a flying knee, I expect Freire to defend his belt in a dominating manner.

Lightweight: AJ McKee vs. Spike Carlyle

Parker: McKee wins (-420) In his last fight, Carlyle almost finished but somehow managed to recover and finish in an exciting fashion. Unfortunately for Carlyle, if he is dropped by McKee I can assure you there will be no comeback. McKee is a very smart fighter and he has a skill advantage here. He will not engage in a brawl nor will he allow Carlyle to dictate the pace of the fight. After the only loss of his career against the champion, look for McKee as he recovers and takes the win.

Featherweight: Aaron Pico vs. Jeremy Kennedy

Parker: Pico wins (-575) Kennedy picked up one of the best wins of his career when he defeated Emmanuel Sanchez last December. He has another big task ahead of him in Pico, the blue-chip prospect. For Pico, this is his biggest test yet and a win will give him an opportunity to get opponents in the rankings. He’s a special athlete and I think he’ll prove that in this duel. As long as he’s not overly concerned with getting the knockout, he should be able to dig into his wrestling and secure the win. Best bets and expert picks for UFC Fight Night and Bellator 286

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