UFC 277 Predictions: Top Picks, Parlays, and Best Bets

Brandon Moreno of Mexico celebrates after defeating Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil to win the flyweight championship during their UFC 263 match at Gila River Arena on June 12, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona.
Credit: Getty Images

The UFC is in dire need of a solid main event. Even though they were not pay-per-view cards, the last two main events both ended with a freak injury in the first round just as the fight was getting underway. With two title fights on this Saturday’s card in Dallas, TX, at least one has to deliver.

UFC 277 Predictions: Betting Selection

The main event is a rematch between longtime Women’s 135-pound champ Amanda Nunes and new champion Julianna Peña. With Nunes losing the previous bout to Peña as a -1000 favorite, we’re glazing over that fight and using the interim Flyweight Championship bout between Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France as our betting main event.

In a sport as wild as fighting, I try to find an edge by using a predictive model that considers previous striking and grappling ratios plus average octagon time from official ufcstats.com data. Using the model’s output as a guide, I’ve compiled a few UFC 277 predictions and bundled them into three separate same-game parlays (SGPs) playable on DraftKings.

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Brandon Moreno (19-6-2) vs. Kai Kara-France (24-9)

  • Leg 1: Total Rounds: Over 2.5 (-340)
  • Leg 2: Brandon Moreno Total Takedowns: 1+ (-280)

Parlay Odds: -150 at DraftKings Sportsbook

These 125-pounders fought in 2019, and those results have the betting market expecting another classic stand-up striking battle. That puts value on Moreno changing levels at least once in the fight and landing a takedown.

Hailing from Tijuana, Mexico 28-year-old Brandon Moreno already has a UFC Flyweight Championship belt hanging up at home. He just can’t wear it around his waist after losing the final bout of a famous trilogy against current champion Deiveson Figueiredo. After losing that fight by decision, Moreno probably regrets not doing something he did in his previous win against Figueiredo: land more takedowns than his opponent and control the grappling exchanges.  

Kai Kara-France of Auckland, New Zealand got to this interim championship fight by leaning on his elite kickboxing paired with strong wrestling defense that keeps the fight on the feet. Kara-France has recently displayed increased power in his striking with a pair of KO victories, followed by a unanimous decision win over previously-undefeated wrestling specialist Askar Askarov.

Kara-France won that fight by fending off most of Askarov’s relentless takedown attempts, but two of them still got through. Moreno is an elite grappler, but he doesn’t clinch his opponents and expends a lot of energy trying to pull them to the ground. “The Assassin Baby” fights a champion’s style by fearlessly boxing with his opponent and then shooting for a takedown when his opponent is off balance.

I normalized the data for both fighters by removing Moreno’s fights against Figueiredo from his sample, as Kara-France has not yet fought a champion-caliber opponent. With that, the model projects the fight to last 3.5 rounds, with at least one takedown landing for Moreno. On top of that, 49 significant strikes are projected to land for Moreno versus 67 for Kara-France.

Magomed Ankalaev (17-1) vs. Anthony Smith (36-16)

  • Leg 1: Total Rounds: Over 1.5 (-360)
  • Leg 2: Magomed Ankalaev Total Sig. Strikes: 40+ (-195)
  • Leg 3: Most Sig. Strikes: Magomed Ankalaev (-340)

Parlay Odds: -120 at DraftKings Sportsbook

When building these SGPs, we’re looking for fighters with proven toughness to go deep into the fight and accumulate stats. Without even looking into his body of work, it’s apparent that “Lionheart” Smith has the stuff we’re looking for.

Anthony Smith is going to be a crowd favorite in his home state of Texas. The 34-year-old has fought in the UFC for over a decade, winning a lot of fights but losing against Jon Jones and other light heavyweights with championship mettle. He has a penchant for absorbing a lot of blows and relying on his “lion heart” to turn the fight around or simply carry him to the final horn.  He has only been TKO’d once, and it was in the fifth round against Glover Teixeira due to the accumulation of too much damage.

Magomed Ankalaev of Dagestan, Russia has the tools to put a lot of damage on Smith. The 30-year-old is above average in both distance striking accuracy and defense, while Smith’s defense is well below average. Ankalaev almost always mixes in some combat sambo wrestling to land some clinch and ground strikes, but he may prefer to maintain distance against a submission specialist like Smith.

To be fair to Lionheart, we’re only looking at his data from after the title fight with Jones in 2019. Even with that, the model projects a 56-16 significant strike advantage for Ankalaev after 1.6 rounds of work.

UFC 277 – Nunes vs Pena

Alex Morono (21-7) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (10-3)

  • Leg 1: Total Rounds: Over 1.5 (-320)
  • Leg 2: Total Sig. Strikes: 90+ (-290)
  • Leg 3: Total Takedowns: 1+ (-160)

Parlay Odds: +105 at DraftKings Sportsbook

We move down to the prelim headliner for this SGP, as this fight pairs two tough, well-rounded fighters who should rack up plenty of offensive numbers.

Another Texas native, Alex Morono trains at Fortis MMA with renowned coach Sayif Saud. He fights smart, but he isn’t afraid to rely on his chin to get in close and land strikes on rangier welterweights.  

Matthew “Semi the Jedi” Semelsberger uses his fists, not the force, to win fights. He is a knockout threat with 2 KOs in his short 5-fight UFC career, but those finishes came against inexperienced fighters who did not last in the promotion. He will have a size advantage over Morono when they step in the octagon, and he may be planning to mix in a takedown after he looked great doing so in his last victory.

Both Morono and Semelsberger have below-average takedown defense, and either could look to change levels late in the fight. The model projects the fight to go 2 rounds, with 98.5 total strikes and 1.4 total takedowns. 

Remember To Claim Your $100 In Free Bets!

Strike now! DraftKings is running an exclusive offer for UFC 277.

Simply bet $5+ on any UFC 277 fighter to win and get $100 in free bets instantly. No matter if your selection wins or loses.

To grapple this special offer, click our exclusive link here.