Three favorites I like on stacked UFC 274 card

By Reed Kuhn  (VSiN.com) 

May 6, 2022 10:02 PM
USATSI_14354968

Two titles are on the line at UFC 274, with both champions entering as the betting favorites. The better value, though, is further down a stacked card, which is loaded with legends and plenty of potential violence. Here’s a look at three fights set for Saturday:

Brandon Royval (-260) vs. Matt Schnell (+ 210)

Flyweight

Early on the preliminary card, two ranked flyweights will face off with a chance to move into the top five in the division with a win. Both Brandon Royval and Matt Schnell have taken most of their victories by submission, which means this fight might turn into a stalemate on the ground and be decided elsewhere. 

If we look beyond submissions, the biggest advantages that leap off the statlines are Royval’s striking pace and power. If the fighters stand and trade, Royval could have the edge, followed by more favorable stats on the ground. He averages almost twice the striking volume as Schnell at a distance.

His price is high, but Royval is positioned to deliver. If you’re banking on Schnell being resilient on the ground, we should also expect a decision. 

Play: Royval to win. Over 2.5 rounds or fight goes to decision.

Rose Namajunas (-190) vs. Carla Esparza (+ 160)

Women’s Strawweight title

The Uber Tale of the Tape paints dominant advantages for current champion Rose Namajunas. Her striking is clearly more dangerous than that of Carla Esparza, who is traditionally a wrestler. Esparza’s wrestling is solid and appears to only be getting better, which is a potential problem for Namajunas.

At 52%, the takedown defense of Namajunas is a liability. She’ll get tested early and often. If she can defend the takedowns and let loose her strikes on the reset, this will be a tough uphill battle for Esparza. However, should Esparza close the distance, she has the ability to win rounds and threaten a finish.

In the end, Namajunas’ performance stats on paper are probably more dominant in practice, given that she’s faced both Jessica Andrade and Weili Zhang twice over the last four years.

Conclusion: Namajunas to win, though the value is thin unless her price drops. 

Charles Oliveira (-165) vs. Justin Gaethje (+ 145)

Lightweight title

This one looks close on paper. You’d think a former wrestler with aggressive power striking such as Justin Gaethje would be well-positioned against a submission ace in Charles Oliveria. 

As it turns out, though, the Brazilian has rounded out his standup quite well and now seems willing and able to go toe-to-toe with anyone. Furthermore, Gaethje has yet to use his wrestling in an effective offensive way. Here, that wrestling would only invite Oliveira’s best weapons.

Gaethje still has a puncher’s chance, and that will keep lines tight. 

Lean: Oliveira to win. Fight does not go the distance for parlays.

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