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UFC 293: Is the Smart Money on a Strickland-Stylebender Upset Stunner?

Last Updated: September 9, 2023

This article originally appeared at FanDuel Research

Get set for the PPV action Down Under with a big Strickland vs. Adesanya prediction, plus the latest odds and insights from our friends at FanDuel.

If you crave violence, artistry, and competition in its purest form, the Ultimate Fighting Championship might be for you.

This Saturday, the action heads Down Under for UFC 293, where Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya mounts a middleweight title defense against challenger Sean Strickland.

Without further delay, let’s break down the 12 fights taking place at the Qudos Bank Arena, including the latest odds and betting and fantasy insights from FanDuel Sportsbook and a big Adesanya vs. Strickland prediction for the main event.

Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland Odds & Insights

  • Middleweight (185 pounds)
  • Five-Round Title Fight
FighterOdds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)FanDuel Salary HeightReachStriking Success Rate (SSR)FanDuel Points Per Minute (excl. bonuses)
Israel Adesanya-750$236′ 4″80″1.062.45
Sean Strickland+490$146′ 1″76″1.583.98
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I’m far from impartial here just based on my personal Elo rankings. I’ve always found Israel Adesanya wildly overinflated, and Sean Strickland has been doing his thing on small cards out of the public eye, leaving him under the radar.

Adesanya’s technical acumen will get lauded just about anywhere you go in the MMA community, but it hasn’t ever translated to my world. Izzy’s 49% striking accuracy and 57% striking defense are solid for this division, but the debate here isn’t “good.” “Unbeatable” has always been a stretch for me when he’s got just a +1.06 SSR because he averages fewer than four significant strikes per minute landed.

While he might have the tools, he doesn’t put himself in the line of fire enough to earn “dominant” to me. Alex Pereira arguably took five of seven rounds from the longtime champion before a sudden and unwanted exodus to light heavyweight after Izzy, shelled against the fence, landed a haymaker for the ages to avenge his three losses to “Poatan” in May. Adesanya also offered snooze-inducing decisions against Jared Cannonier, Robert Whittaker, and Marvin Vettori that have aged with various degrees of concern.

Stylistically, this isn’t an easy fight for Strickland, but it’s hard to deny him analytically. He lands 5.86 significant strikes per minute with 41% accuracy, but the accuracy is actually quite high considering 86% of his strikes are aimed at the head. His 62% striking defense is higher than Adesanya’s with takedown accuracy (64%) and defense (84%) that suggest he’s got a nice wrestling kit that he admits to choosing not to use.

Adesanya is the more versatile striker of these two, and a 2022 first-round knockout loss to the aforementioned Pereira showed Strickland’s tendency to make mistakes can cost him against supremely fast, powerful, and elite strikers. I totally understand placing him as a favorite, but this betting number is out of control due to a cocktail of factors. Adesanya is extremely popular, and Strickland’s only appearance on a pay-per-view since returning in 2020 was the Pereira dud.

However, at this stage, Strickland can go toe-to-toe with Adesanya in top-shelf results. He outstruck Cannonier but wasn’t as fortunate to snag the decision. He decimated top-10 guys like Brendan Allen and Jack Hermansson. Expecting Adesanya to cruise through with a knockout or a dominant showing here just doesn’t track with his underwhelming historical results since the start of 2021.

In fact, Sean will be the first striker who averages north of 5.50 significant strikes per minute with a striking defense better than 60%.

pace and defensive acumen that Izzy hasn’t faced before on paper. I will stick to the brand and call the upset, but there’s just no arguing about the betting value of this fight.

Adesanya vs. Strickland Prediction & Best Bets: UFC 293

Betting Verdict

  • Strickland’s moneyline (+490) is such insane value in this fight. Due to his superior peripherals, my model pegs him as a -167 favorite, and I’d personally set him closer to +135.
  • With that said, Strickland’s striking defense and Adesanya’s propensity to see the cards both shape well for over 4.5 rounds (+102). That line should get better and better as folks flood the Izzy ITD markets.

DFS Verdict

  • On FanDuel, Adesanya has eclipsed 80 FanDuel points just once in his last six fights. Even if you believe he wins, it may not be as useful in fantasy.
  • Strickland ($14) has a higher salary than his moneyline would otherwise deserve, but he’ll be a contrarian value dart with upside to at least score volume in five rounds.

Anton Turkalj vs. Tyson Pedro Odds & Insights

Light Heavyweight (205 pounds)

FighterOdds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)FanDuel Salary HeightReachStriking Success Rate (SSR)FanDuel Points Per Minute (excl. bonuses)
Anton Turkalj-114$156′ 4″78″-0.583.75
Tyson Pedro-106$156′ 3″79″0.472.50

“The Pleasure Man” likely has one last shot at becoming a UFC winner.

Anton Turkalj hasn’t been given any breaks in UFC — until perhaps now. Turkalj dominated with 11 takedowns on the Contender Series last summer, but he was inexplicably denied a contract. Then, Turkalj got a last-minute call to fight Jailton Almeida (6-0 UFC) as a scheduled loss, and then he was handed Vitor Petrino (3-0 UFC) earlier this year. Those two should both be ranked by the end of 2023.

There are no doubts now that Tyson Pedro is a fair opponent for him. Pedro knocked out Ike Villenueva (1-5 UFC) and Harry Hunsucker (0-4 UFC) following a near-four-year layoff due to severe injuries. Pedro’s re-entrance into challenging UFC competition was an underwhelming bout against Modestas Bukauskas (3-3 UFC) where the veteran faded badly into the late stages of the bout. That was also in Austrailia, so this is no free “home game.”

Pedro landed two of his first three takedown attempts to win the first round but couldn’t proceed forward from there. At the very least, Turkalj (6.97 takedowns per 15 minutes) could really exploit that issue for Pedro, and otherwise, these are pretty similar strikers. Both land sub-3.00 significant strikes per minute with excellent accuracy (at least 58%) and modest defense (at least 50%).

A submission loss to Almeida aside, Turkalj hasn’t really struggled with submission defense at his normal competition level. After all, he went 15 minutes with Petrino, who just submitted an opponent in June.

Pedro has shown sporadic knockout power and decent submission volume (1.0 attempts per 15 minutes), but if not expecting any particular vulnerabilities from Swede in those two specific areas, Turkalj has significantly fewer miles at 27 years old and vastly superior cardio to keep wrestling and wrestling. He’s hard not to love in a pick ’em.

Betting Verdict

  • Turkalj opened as the tiniest of underdogs at a consensus line, and he’s swelled to a small favorite despite being a winless visitor to Pedro’s home country. I think he’s the side at -114.
  • That said, we’ve yet to see a submission from Turkalj, and Pedro proved modestly durable with nothing in the tank in his last bout. I’d lean the fight to go the distance (+192) here but not bet it.

DFS Verdict

  • With that aforementioned number on the over, this fight doesn’t appear to be supremely relevant for fantasy if it goes the distance. Still, the mid-range pick ’em is valuable to get right, and I’ll back “The Pleasure Man” at $15.

Justin Tafa vs. Austen Lane Odds & Insights

Heavyweight (265 pounds)

FighterOdds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)FanDuel Salary HeightReachStriking Success Rate (SSR)FanDuel Points Per Minute (excl. bonuses)
Justin Tafa-235$176′ 0″74″-0.933.01
Austen Lane+186$116′ 6″80″2.662.60

Those who wanted Austen Lane disqualified in Jacksonville were a bit extreme, but he’s now lost home-field advantage.

Lane was fighting in his backyard in June before a nasty, unintentional eye poke led to an anti-climactic no-contest with Justin Tafa. We got just 29 seconds, but the fight looked exactly as we presumed.

As a former member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lane is the better athlete of these two. He was knocked out by fellow former NFL-er Greg Hardy in his initial appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series but flashed in a return visit, holding a +2.66 SSR and 62% striking defense overall through that bout and the 29 seconds with Tafa.

We just saw Justin’s brother, Junior, two weeks ago, and the two are basically the same fighter. Tafa is a slugger with zero wrestling or grappling behind a -0.93 SSR, and he’s yet to win a UFC fight that saw a third minute. However, his power (1.59% knockdown rate) is very real.

I feel supremely confident from the half-minute we saw in Duval County that this fight is going to look one of two ways. Tafa could find the knockout on a guy we’ve seen vulnerable to such in a UFC setting before, but Lane should be able to win this fight just through his conditioning and wrestling beyond a few minutes.

It’s almost impossible to envision a different scenario based on Tafa’s UFC run thus far.

Betting Verdict

  • You can’t guarantee profit in a UFC fight, but hanging Tafa by first-round knockout (+135) at such a distant number allows for a unit bet on it and Lane’s moneyline (+186), and I just can’t see another outcome given the historical tendencies here.
  • I wouldn’t write off this one to go the distance (+500) if Lane is in the driver’s seat. The favorite went to a decision with Jared Vanderaa; anything is possible.

DFS Verdict

  • This is the exact same dynamic as two weeks ago with Junior Tafa. Justin ($17) is supremely live for a knockout and a huge day on FanDuel, but if he’s unable to secure it, Lane ($11) likely has a nice day at the office.

Manel Kape vs. Felipe dos Santos Odds & Insights

Men’s Flyweight (125 pounds)

FighterOdds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)FanDuel Salary HeightReachStriking Success Rate (SSR)FanDuel Points Per Minute (excl. bonuses)
Manel Kape-400$215′ 5″68″0.543.10
Felipe dos Santos+300$105′ 7″70″0.000.00

Though Felipe dos Santos is a total newcomer, his training partners give us a good glimpse at the war that’s coming Saturday against Manel Kape.

Dos Santos was initially slated for Dana White’s Contender Series when his opponent pulled out of the fight. Instead, he’ll be flung to the wolves with a top-five opponent in the division. Even as a substantial underdog here, this betting line is pretty short as a believer in the undefeated prospect’s ability.

At the very least, he trains with Charles Oliveira, Daniel Santos, and Elves Brener from Chute Box. All three are known for excitement, scoring a performance bonus within the last year. That should give us the best look into the entertainment value of “Starboy” yet.

Manel Kape was seen as a failing prospect from Rizin in Japan with uninspiring losses to Alexandre Pantoja and Matheus Nicolau in his first two fights with UFC, but both rose the ranks in this division quickly. After all, Pantoja is now the champion. Since, Kape has reeled off three straight wins, and two were by first-round finish.

Considering he’s fought fringe-ranked competition or better every step of the way, a +0.56 SSR has been solid, and a 69% takedown D has been good enough. Even without the finish on David Dvorak, he dominated the entire fight, so that — with a pair of tight losses to elite guys — confirms his top-10 status.

That’s why this betting line looks as it does. Kape has tested well against significantly tougher competition, but I’m not writing off the newcomer entirely. He should have his moments, but I’ll still pick the Angolan veteran to either find a late finish or win this one on the scorecards.

Betting Verdict

  • In a situation where a “spread” bet would be available, I’d strongly consider dos Santos’ odds. Kape has gone the distance in three of five fights with just enough warts in his defense to not expect perfection.
  • These odds combined with under 2.5 rounds sitting at -180 make me believe oddsmakers expect Kape to roll, but Chute Box delivers regular upsets through great volume and versatility. I’d prefer the over.

DFS Verdict

  • Kape ($21) is a better DFS play than a bet, averaging north of 5.00 significant strikes landed per minute at distance. He’s a deserving favorite, as well.
  • dos Santos ($10) is a risky punt play that could pay off just by way of low salary if this fight is voluminous and lengthy.

Alexander Volkov vs. Tai Tuivasa Odds & Insights

Heavyweight (265 pounds)

FighterOdds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)FanDuel Salary HeightReachStriking Success Rate (SSR)FanDuel Points Per Minute (excl. bonuses)
Alexander Volkov-250$176′ 7″80″1.893.17
Tai Tuivasa+198$126′ 2″75″-0.362.46

As heavyweight’s title picture shuffles toward a post-Jon Jones world, Alexander Volkov should realistically have a seat at the table.

Volkov was quickly submitted by Tom Aspinall and taken down 14 times by Curtis Blaydes, but as a striker, he’s nearly vanquished everybody. Volkov’s -20 striking differential against Ciryl Gane was arguably the most competitive striking match of Gane’s lengthy UFC tenure. His stellar +1.89 SSR comes with a 57% striking accuracy that’s a product of his lanky, 6’7″ frame. He’s improved his takedown defense (73%) since the Aspinall and Blaydes fights, too.

Tai Tuivasa (0.28 takedowns per 15) isn’t looking to get this to the mat, so that’s a pretty excellent starting point for “Drago” Volkov. Using a heavyweight-best 2.25% knockdown rate, Tuivasa slugged his way through Derrick Lewis and Greg Hardy to earn a date with Ciryl Gane in Paris, but he was embarrassed and knocked out. “Bam Bam” was also just flatlined by Sergei Pavlovich last December.

As a result, Tuivasa’s analytical resumé is fairly porous. He’s got a -0.36 SSR, a poor 45% striking defense, and a 52% takedown defense that halted his early-career momentum with losses to Blagoy Ivanov and Serghei Spivac. In hindsight, he appeared to leverage Lewis and Hardy at exactly the right time when both have since flamed out.

When striking, Volkov will be significantly more efficient with five inches in reach. Volkov’s 70% takedown accuracy could also lead to an unexpected yet effective path to victory.

It feels as if “Drago” just cleared this type of knock-or-bust challenge with Jairzinho Rosenstruik (-0.34 SSR) last June by first-round knockout. Though Tai is always live for a knockout followed by a patented “shoey,” the mathematical probability of one against Volkov isn’t supremely high.

Betting Verdict

  • On a week with parlay pieces that feel safer than they might be, I truly see Volkov’s path to defeat as a knockout when he’s absorbed just 3.00 significant strikes per minute. It’s just not likely nor how I handicap fights.
  • However, Volkov’s 0.33% knockdown rate isn’t large, so if he’s in control, both his decision prop (+370) and over 1.5 rounds (-112) could be sneaky spots to fade the expectation of this bout.

DFS Verdict

  • Volkov ($17) has quietly eclipsed 100 FanDuel points in four of his last five wins. His volume is solid for a heavyweight, and he’s started to finish overmatched foes with an improving skillset. Tuivasa could be one of them.

— Austin Swaim

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