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The Ultimate Fighting Championship bounces back from a pay-per-view with a card in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, that features several fights gunning for “Fight of the Night” honors. The main and co-main events see fighters having similar paths to victory, while two prop bets garner our interest as well. Let's get on with this UFC Rio Rancho edition of Prime Picks!
Corey Anderson (-200)
Much like Anderson's recent bout against Johnny Walker, the takedown and the threat of the takedown are Anderson's most effective weapons against his opponents. While Anderson did manage to ground Walker once, his striking surprised many as he leveled the highly-touted Brazilian in just over two minutes. While Anderson's takedowns did not lead to effective strikes, the sheer concern for Walker that he had to keep this fight standing to win more than likely influenced his performance. In his headliner with Jan Blachowicz, Anderson will look to employ a takedown-heavy approach that saw him emerge victorious against Blachowicz in the past.
To go back to the first time these two light heavyweight met, we look to UFC 191 in September 2015. On the three judges' scorecards, while the first round was relatively close -- one judge gave it to Blachowicz -- the second and third both displayed 10-8 dominant scores from all three judges. The Polish man saw his best success when he worked the body while remaining in kicking range, but time in this position was short-lived. Of the two, it was Blachowicz who first pursued the takedown, but he could not hold the American down for long and never even considered another for the remainder of the fight. Once Anderson got on top, he blanketed his foe, shucked off submission attempts and worked effective ground-and-pound.
There may be a question mark for how Anderson can perform in a five-round fight, as this will be the second in his UFC career. The first did not fare well for him, getting starched in about three minutes by Jimi Manuwa in 2017. He did go 25 minutes against Myron Dennis in his second career bout, and came out on top by winning all five rounds. As long as he does not fade in the third round and beyond from the constant takedown attempts that are sure to come, he can ride out a win. As it currently stands, Anderson sports the highest number of takedowns landed in UFC light heavyweight history with 53, while averaging almost four per fight. Anderson may only need one takedown per round to keep his adversary grounded, and he will almost certainly look to emulate his previous success to win the rematch.
The last time a fighter dragged down Blachowicz more than once was back in April 2017 against grinding wrestler Patrick Cummins. This was not for lack of trying, and Ronaldo Souza attempted to get the fight down five times, and all five attempts were thwarted by the former KSW champ. When they met in 2015, Anderson displayed a 100 percent takedown success rate, and used his position to dominant effect. If Blachowicz can keep this fight standing for a prolonged time and keep his back off the clinch, he has a path to victory, but it will prove difficult as they both grow fatigued.
While Blachowicz was on the winning end of a recent five-round grueling battle, the additional tools that Anderson brings to the table lead us to believe that this time, the Polish fighter will be on the losing end of such a fight. Fight Goes to Decision is a decent +100 option to parlay with, if you believe that neither man will be able to finish the fight as it wanes on. We expect a 25-minute affair between these two men, and absent an unexpected and possibly spectacular result, Anderson should stake his claim for the next shot at Jon Jones with a win.
Diego Sanchez (+145)
Three of the last four defeats for Sanchez have seen him on the end of shocking first-round knockouts. Michel Pereira, a high-flying striker with a flair for the dramatic, can add to that total in explosive fashion if Sanchez decides to go strike-for-strike with the massive welterweight. However, Pereira found himself exposed when a much smaller wrestler in short-notice replacement Tristan Connelly -- who normally fights at lightweight -- avoided the flashy strikes, took the fight down and kept it there. Sanchez can do just that, as long as he does not get lured into a reckless exchange against a man who will have a significant power advantage.
Sanchez is still training with “self-awareness” coach Joshua Fabia for this bout, and it is unclear if “The Nightmare” will bring any other cornermen with him this time. He famously walked out against Michael Chiesa with no other trainers, teammates or coaches beyond Fabia, who is untrained in mixed martial arts. If Sanchez opts to keep this unusual dynamic going, this could easily impact Sanchez' performance as he will not have a wise second like Greg Jackson advising him of a better strategy. However, if Sanchez sticks to his roots, and doggedly pursues the takedown towards the path of least resistance, this is unquestionably his fight to win.
As a final note, Sanchez has stated publicly that he will not take the fight if Pereira misses weight. “Demolidor” came in one pound over the limit in his last fight, so there is a minor concern that the fight could be scratched if the sizeable Pereira again encounters weight issues. The size difference, as it was for Pereira against Connelly, will be obvious when he stands eye-to-eye with Sanchez. Even so, barring a sudden, dramatic finish (Pereira by TKO/KO is -120, while Pereira Wins in Round 1 is +175), Sanchez still has all the tools to grind out a win or a late stoppage.
Lando Vannata vs. Yancy Medeiros Goes to Decision (-105)
On its face, this particular prop bet appears to be a risky proposition, as Vannata celebrates a 90 percent finish rate to Medeiros' 80 percent. Each of the last five bouts for Medeiros, win or lose, have ended before the final bell. This is in sharp contrast with his opponent, where only one fight in Vannata's last six have resulted in a stoppage. In one of the easiest picks for "Fight of the Night," (if there is a prop bet on whether this fight will earn post-fight bonus money, we also suggest pursuing that) we still see this bout going the full 15 minutes despite the all-offense gameplan of “Groovy.”
Both men will likely engage early and often, but we do not expect that one will stop the other as time ticks off the clock. If one does so, it would more than likely be Vannata early, as seven of his nine stoppage victories have come inside the opening frame. As long as “The Kid” does not fall victim to a wild spinning strike that may come his direction and allows for Vannata to tire as he reaches the midpoint of the fight, it is not only the Hawaiian's fight to win, but also a solid pick for the fight going the distance. This particular prop bet allows for either fighter to win, and the pick can still hit if it goes to the judges. If you prefer to pick a specific winner by decision, either man winning by decision is currently +285.
Macy Chiasson Wins Inside Distance (-230)
Shanna Young has taken two fights in the last month on extremely short notice, after the fighters her opponents were set to face pulled out due to unexpected reasons. Young stepped in after Mariya Agapova was hit by a car, and then agreed to replace Nicco Montano after the former champ withdrew due to injury. In the first bout, Young was taking the fight at flyweight at Invicta FC 39, but fell ill on weigh-in day and pulled out of the match. Instead, Young will be taking Chiasson one weight class higher, a week removed from her illness. We do not expect that this will bode well for “The Shanimal.”
Chiasson has earned four of her five career wins by stoppage, including each of her three victories inside the Octagon. She made her debut by tapping Pannie Kianzad to win the featherweight season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters,” and then went on to batter Gina Mazany and Sarah Moras in 2019. The lone setback for Chiasson came in September, as she struggled with a fighter in Lina Lansberg who could match her strength and challenge her takedown defense. Young, while a tough fighter who has alternated between 125 and 135 pounds throughout her career, will find herself outmatched and fighting off her back foot as Chiasson pushes the pace. We do not anticipate that Young will make it to the final bell, and since Chiasson is such a large -800 favorite, this prop bet instead has far better value to a savvy bettor.