The UFC heads to Denver, Colorado, this weekend and I like the card from a betting perspective. Here are my breakdowns of the fights that I’m considering laying money on.

Eric Shelton vs. Joseph Morales

Oftentimes, prelim fights offer the best betting opportunities and this is no exception.

Despite his 1-3 UFC record, Eric Shelton is a good fighter. He has solid wrestling, is heavy on top, scrambles well and can box. Originally training at a smaller gym, Shelton moved to the world renowned American Top Team where he’s more likely to reach his full potential. Elite grappler, Jussier Formiga, is one of Shelton’s main training partners and will be useful for a match-up like this.

Shelton’s only decisive loss was at the hands of Alex Perez – who is an excellent fighter. Although he came up short against Alexandre Pantoja and Jarred Brooks, both fights were highly competitive and I believe he should have got the decision against Brooks.

Against a pure striker in Jenel Lausa, Shelton was able to land takedowns at will and control the fight on the mat. I suspect we see a similar game plan against Joseph Morales.

Although he fights out of Team Alpha Male, Morales is not another explosive wrestler with a big overhand. His style is more of a boxing/jiu-jitsu blend and I believe him to be susceptible to takedowns.

While Morales is a legitimate submission threat, I don’t think he works well off his back and Shelton has the ability to put him there. I also think Morales lacks the raw physicality to compete with the top prospects at flyweight – this was evident in his contest with Brazilian destroyer, Deiveson Figueiredo.

On the feet this could be a competitive contest, but I give Shelton a huge edge with his wrestling and top game. While Shelton struggled with fatigue the last time he fought at elevation in Denver, he’s come out early to acclimatize so that hopefully won’t be a problem this weekend.

Eric Shelton is my most confident bet of the card at -110, I feel he should be lined around -250.

Bobby Moffett vs. Chas Skelly

Like Skelly, Moffett seems to be a tenacious grinder that does his best work on the mat. We could be in for lots of crazy scrambles and submission attempts during this contest.

Fighting out of The MMA Lab, Moffett has some world class training partners to work with. Benson Henderson will be in Moffett’s corner and is a great individual to prepare him for the grappling onslaught of Skelly.

Despite his grappling prowess, there are still questions about Moffett’s striking. He looked a bit green in the striking exchanges against Thanh Le (who is excellent on the feet), and that fight was at the beginning of the year. Listening to interviews, Moffett sounds confident he’ll be able to dominate standing and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s made improvements training at such a good gym.

Skelly is not the most fundamentally sound striker, but he is dangerous. He’s scrappy and throws a lot of unusual techniques, so Moffett needs to be on his guard.

Skill for skill, I’m not seeing a huge discrepancy here. However, Moffett appears to be the physically stronger athlete with better cardio, and that could be crucial fighting at elevation. Skelly is also coming off a bad knockout loss and major surgery at 33-years-of-age, which does not inspire confidence.

Bobby Moffett looks like a good prospect and I’m okay with playing him at +120.

There is a good chance that Skelly will start strong and fade late, which could mean we get a great live price on Moffett after round 1. I recommend BetDSI for live betting in the States and Ohmbet if you’re from Europe or Canada.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Ray Borg

Two of the best wrestlers at flyweight lock horns in what should be a pivotal fight for the division.

Joseph Benavidez has been one of the best competitors at the lighter weight classes for a long time. Now 34-years-of-age, he doesn’t have anything left to prove but is still motivated to fight.

Coming off a long layoff, Benavidez looked as if he’d lost a step athletically against Sergio Pettis this summer. Although he still fought admirably, Benavidez has a lot of mileage on his body and I suspect he’s declining.

Against a well-rounded opponent In Ray Borg who also has a wrestling base, I believe Benavidez may have to rely on his striking to win. When standing, Benavidez throws his body weight into his shots and has an unusual vocabulary of strikes.

Although known for his takedowns and smothering top control, Borg’s striking looked pretty good against Jussier Formiga. In fact, the entire performance was impressive. Borg even reversed the Brazilian fighter after having his back taken – a feat that few flyweights have achieved.

Borg is entering his athletic prime at 25-years-of-age and looks to be making consistent improvements at the world famous Jackson’s MMA. Unfortunately for Borg, his son is currently suffering with health problems and one can only speculate how much stress the Albuquerque fighter is going through. These tribulations could also be a huge motivating factor to go out and achieve a win bonus.

Stylistically, this fight appears competitive but I’m inclined to side with Ray Borg at +100 as he has youth on his side, trains at altitude and is making strides with his striking.

Germaine De Randamie vs. Raquel Pennington

Despite a miserable title fight against Amanda Nunes, Raquel Pennington is still a good fighter. She’s gritty, well-rounded, strong from top position and has decent hands. Although she was outclassed at range by Nunes, her boxing (and especially her jab) looked solid against a lesser striker in Miesha Tate.

As the hometown fighter, Pennington will have the crowd on her side as she takes on Dutch kickboxer, Germaine De Randamie. Stylistically, this appears to be a tough matchup for Pennington.

De Randamie is a proficient striker, both at range and in the clinch. She employs a flat-footed, stalking style where she commits to every shot and doesn’t throw many combinations. She’s also huge for bantamweight and should have a significant advantage over Pennington if she can remain vertical.

In past fights, the Dutch fighter looked clueless off her back and it remains to be seen if she’s developed a ground game – but can Pennington take her down? Against Holly Holm, De Randamie’s counter-wrestling and balance looked good.

The most likely scenario for this fight is De Randamie stuffing takedowns and outlanding Pennington on the feet. That being said, Pennington can execute a decent body lock takedown in the clinch and if she’s able to take the fight to the floor, she should have a large advantage.

I’m debating how I want to play this fight, but at the moment De Randamie by decision at +129 looks like the best line.

Mike Perry vs. Donald Cerrone

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has been battling at the highest level since forever, and I think the wear and tear is starting to show. At 35-years-of-age, Cerrone has competed in 45 MMA fights (many of which were wars) and countless kickboxing contests before that.

Primarily known for his vicious muay thai striking, Cerrone is a well-rounded fighter and legitimate submission threat. I suspect he’ll look to take the heavy-handed “Platinum” Mike Perry to the mat and test his jiu-jitsu.

Cerrone is the superior grappler, but he walks around at less than 180 pounds. Mike Perry, although short for the division, is a full sized welterweight and the extra muscle may help him to remain on his feet.

Perry might not the the most nuanced fighter, but his supremely aggressive style is effective for two reasons: he hits absurdly hard and is nearly indestructible. Perry doesn’t mind a 50/50 exchange because he can rely on his chin. He’s also devastating in the clinch with his elbows.

It’s not wise to stand directly in front of “Platinum”, you have to fight him elusively like Max Griffin and Alan Jouban did. Cerrone isn’t the type of fighter to hop on his bicycle and move laterally – he’s more of a stand and bang striker and that will play into the hands of Perry.

This is a winnable fight for Cerrone and I can’t blame anyone for playing him at +190. However, “Cowboy” has been looking stiff in his last few fights and I think the loss to Jorge Masvidal really damaged him. If Cerrone can’t consistently land takedowns, I believe it’s only a matter of time before Perry finds his chin.

Still, I’m not interested in betting Mike Perry at -225. That’s too much juice for a guy with a limited skill set. In terms of pre-fight bets, I’d probably go with Mike Perry inside the distance at -125.

Yair Rodriguez vs. Korean Zombie

Stepping in on short notice to save the main event, Mexican Taekwondo stylist, Yair Rodriguez, has his work cut out for him against renowned action-fighter, Korean Zombie. Rodriguez is famous for his cardio so the late call-up shouldn’t be an issue.

A supremely creative striker (especially at kicking range), Rodriguez attacks with an unpredictable array of shots. As effective as he’s been against a certain level of competition, it was only a matter of time before he ran into a stylistic nightmare – and that was Frankie Edgar.

A tenacious wrestle-boxer, Edgar avoided getting picked apart at kicking range. Instead, he stayed out of harm’s way before committing to boxing in the pocket and clinching with Rodriguez. After wrestling the Mexican fighter to the mat in rounds one and two, the ground strikes accumulated and the contest was eventually stopped.

While Korean Zombie is lethal on the mat, he’s not much of a wrestler. He could take Yair’s back in a crazy exchange, but he’s not the type of fighter to shoot blast double leg takedowns in open space.

Like other prominent fighters from his country, Zombie is a defensively sound striker, but his offense is potent – just ask Dennis Bermudez. Wading into chaos with his chin high, Zombie could be open for a head kick from Rodriguez. However, if he can force his opponent to trade in the pocket, Zombie would presumably have the advantage.

It’s tough to predict this one, but I’m willing to side with Yair Rodriguez as a +120 underdog. Korean Zombie has been dealing with some significant injuries during his layoff, and this could play a factor in his performance.

If he can stay standing, I think Rodriguez scores another highlight reel knockout victory, but a submission or knockout by Zombie wouldn’t surprise me in the least. For this exciting main event, fight doesn’t go to decision at -245 most likely cashes.

My Main Plays

  • 5 units on Eric Shelton at -110
  • 2 units on Bobby Moffett at +120
  • 1 unit on Ray Borg at +100
  • 2 units on Yair Rodriguez at +120

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