UFC Vegas 26 Main Card Gambling Perspective

At time of writing, Monday May 3rd, this event is still titled UFC Fight Night: TBD vs. TBD. This is still a stacked card, but it lost a huge headliner when TJ Dillashaw had to delay his return fight against Cory Sandhagen due to a cut sustained during training. The unconfirmed rumor is that Marina Rodriguez and Michelle Waterson will fight in the main event on Saturday.

Diego Sanchez pulled out of his fight with Donald Cerrone, but Alex Morono was announced as the new opponent on Monday evening. I doubt that fight would be considered for the main event slot if Waterson vs. Rodriguez falls through, which it very well might. Waterson’s side is apparently signed and ready to go, but Rodriguez is rumored to be having some sort of logistical issue and hasn’t yet signed her bout agreement.

No matter what the main event ends up being, there will be five other fights on the main card, and twelve total fights if the card remains intact. Here are some of the fights I’m seeing early value in:

(9) Neil Magny vs. (10) Geoff Neal
Welterweight Co-Main Event

Two top-ten welterweights come into this one on the back of tough losses in their last fights. Neil Magny was controlled on the ground en route to a five-round main event decision loss to Michael Chiesa, and Geoff Neal struggled with a stylistic challenge in Stephen Thompson.

Neal has undeniable knockout power and very clean boxing fundamentals. He walks forward and puts pressure on his opponents, but can also be an excellent counter striker. He has shown a great ability to put combinations together and blitz his opponents as soon as they give him any openings.

Magny is the taller, longer fighter in this one, carrying a sizable five-inch reach advantage. He has an excellent jab, and fights behind it while putting high levels of pressure on his opponents. In this fight, he’ll likely be on his heels more often than he is moving forward.

He has excellent cardio and is very good at executing his coaches’ plans and instructions, and he should be able to stay out of Neal’s range over the course of these three rounds. I like Magny as an underdog here for a few reasons, the first is the obvious reach advantage.

Both fighters have very fast hands, and Neal’s might even be a bit faster. The problem is that he throws a lot of hooks and not many straight punches, which he will need to get inside Magny’s range.

Magny throws tight jabs and straight right hands, and Neal is likely going to get caught at the end of a lot of those. When Neal does get inside, Magny will be able to rely on the clinch and slow down the action until he can gain a favorable position. Neal has proven to be very difficult to take down, but Magny doesn’t need to get the fight to the ground to win.

Value Play
Magny +160

(11) Amanda Ribas vs. (12) Angela Hill
Women’s Strawweight Bout

In this battle of top-fifteen women’s strawweights, Angela Hill is on the rise following her decision win over Ashley Yoder, while Amanda Ribas looks to recover from her first career loss, which came by knockout to Marina Rodriguez.

When the lines on this fight came out, I was surprised to see Ribas listed at reasonable moneyline odds for the first time since she was an underdog to Mackenzie Dern in October 2019, and cashed at +150. This time around, she is listed at -185 at time of writing, and I locked her in at -175 last night.

Each of these fighters has shown massive improvement over each of their respective most recent fights. Despite being caught with a number of clean shots before being finished by Rodriguez, Ribas got her shots in there too, and she has shown a much higher level of striking in her five UFC fights.

Hill is definitely a difficult opponent, who likely will be faster and more accurate in standing striking. Angela has looked extremely sharp in decision wins over Yoder and Loma Lookboonmee, and in split decision losses to Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson, both of which easily could have gone Hill’s way.

Hill has also shown a high level of wrestling ability in her recent fights, but she isn’t well-versed enough on the ground to stay on her feet or get back to her feet against a world-class jiu jitsu black belt like Ribas. Let’s not forget why there was so much hype around Ribas’ name before the loss to Rodriguez: she is a future title contender.

I’m highly confident in Ribas in this spot, I think this is a great opportunity to prove once again that she belongs in the strawweight top-ten.

High Confidence Pick
Ribas -185

(12) Diego Ferreira vs (14) Gregor Gillespie
Lightweight Bout

It has been over a year and a half out of action for Gregor Gillespie, who suffered the first loss of his professional career by brutal head kick knockout at the hands of Kevin Lee. Diego Ferreira is also coming into this one off of a loss, a split decision in a rematch with Beneil Dariush in February.

Gillespie is about as credentialed of a wrestler as anyone on the UFC roster today. He was a NCAA DI national champion and four-time all-American, and his grappling acumen is evident in his fighting style. He has finished eleven of his thirteen wins, and five of his six wins in the UFC. 

For as good as he is on the ground, he is also a quick and technical striker. The biggest thing that stands out about Gillespie on his feet is his striking speed. He is very good at popping in for a 1-2 and then moving back out to space, but he is no stranger to swinging hooks in the pocket. He has solid power, as evidenced by his six career knockouts, though most of them have come on the canvas. 

Ferreira will offer a striking challenge, but I have to imagine a lot of this fight will take place on the ground. Gillespie is an aggressive wrestler, and Ferreira can sometimes be too willing to rely on his jiu jitsu skills. If he is too comfortable fighting off of his back in this fight, Gillespie is going to land a lot of ground strikes.

A lot of the time, Ferreira uses submissions to try to get off of his back, but if he pulls guard at any point, Gillespie is going to establish position and start landing strikes. I’m highly confident that’s exactly how this fight is going to go. I think Gillespie’s pressure is just going to be too much for Ferreira to deal with.

High Confidence Pick
Gillespie -185

Phil Hawes vs Kyle Daukaus
Middleweight Bout

This is a very fun fight between two talented middleweight prospects on the rise. Kyle Daukaus enters this fight 10-1 as professional following his first UFC win, a dominant unanimous decision over Dustin Stoltzfus, to bounce back from his debut loss to Brendan Allen.

Hawes has persevered his way into the UFC, having lost to Andrew Sanchez on TUF 23, and later Julian Marquez on DWCS before finally breaking through with his second shot on the Contender Series, with a first-round knockout. He finished Jacob Malkoun in eighteen seconds in his debut, and followed it up with a majority decision over Nassourdine Imavov in February.

This is a close fight, but I have to lean Hawes’ way. Daukaus has shown some improvement in his striking, but he still doesn’t show great striking defense. Hawes hits way too hard to take too many of those clean shots. Hawes has the speed, technique, and power advantages standing, and Daukaus’ only foreseeable path to victory is to clinch and get the fight to the ground.

That’s going to be a tough task against Hawes, a very talented and well credentialed wrestler. He is also physically stronger than Daukaus, and will likely control the grappling facets of the fight as well as the standup striking. Hawes at +110 is one of my favorite underdogs of the night.

Confident Pick
Hawes +110

Bonus Play
Gillespie -185
Ribas -185
Parlay +137

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