UFN 53 & 54- Pick Five & the Bet Pack Review

Scott Johnson

UFC Fight Nights 53 and 54 presented 23 fights in all, but were going to a look at the 5 most significant. Let’s take a look…

Max Holloway def. Akria Corassai by KO Rnd 1

In the co-main event of the Stockholm event, Max Holloway continued to improve his stock in a

heavily stacked Featherweight division. Most expected and the odds indicated he was going to smash through Akira, but expectations and execution are two different things. Max is just 22 and has fought 10 times inside the Octagon with a 7-3 record with his losses have come against the elite of the division. He has shown improvement in both his killer instinct and his grappling capabilities. He has defeated some solid prospects during his current run, but it may be time to take another shot at the upper level of the division and Dennis Siver would be an ideal test for the young Hawaiian.

Rick Story def. Gunnar Nelson by Split Decision

In the first loss of his pro career, Gunnar Nelson took a step up in competition and came up short against Rick Story. The Split decision was a bit of a shocking outcome considering Story appeared to carry the majority of the action from start to finish. Kenny Florian did his best to sway the audience into thinking that the Icelandic fighter deserved the nod, but the judges got this one right. For Story, he has now won 2 in a row and 3 of his last 5 with a pair of very close split decisions accounting for his 2 defeats. He has struggled to find success against the elite of the division, but a matchup with the fast rising Jordan Mein, should he get by Thiago Alves, would be an intriguing one. For Nelson, he seems a little bit undersized so a cut to Lightweight may be on the horizon. Dropping a division will allow him to pair his technical abilities with a new found physical edge.

Mitch Gagnon def. Roman Salazar by Submission Rnd 1

This fight is worth discussing not for what happened in the cage, but instead what the victory for the Canadian ultimately lead to in the aftermath. Gagnon has be announced as the next opponent for returning ex-champ Renan Barao. While many are deeming this pairing as a mismatch (for the most part they are correct in this assessment), this fight represents a massive opportunity for the undefeated Canuck. If he were to defy the odds and emerge victorious, its not out of the realm of possibility, he would rocket up the rankings and put his country on the map in a division where Canada hasn’t made a lot of inroads.

Raphael Assuncao def. Bryan Caraway by Decision

Assuncao picked up another solid wins and continues to show that he is a top-flight member of the division. Unfortunately, a not too long ago win over the champion isn’t enough to get him back in the cage with the title holder. With the successful return of Dominick Cruz, Assuncao took another step backwards in his pursuit of his shot at the gold and if Barao is able to successfully dispatch the aforementioned Gagnon, he will probably get the winner of TJ/Cruz. For Assuncao, a potential rematch with Faber has been passed over for now and he will most likely have to face another opponent to remain busy while awaiting his turn.

Rory MacDonald def. Tarec Saffiedine by TKO Rnd 3

In the most significant fight of the day, the next Canadian threat in the Welterweight division finally earned his shot at the 170 pound gold. MacDonald came out focussed and while it was far from a runaway early, he finished off a very tough opponent in impressive fashion. For Tarec, the leg kicks that helped him to win each of his last 2 fights were his undoing. Either the inability to land them frequently enough to accumulate damage or a lack of diversity in his overall striking game kept him at second best. Rory has already been booked for the next title shot against the winner of Hendricks/ Lawler II and in Canada no less. The temporary (maybe not) loss of GSP hurt the UFC’s appeal with their Canadian fans and Dana fully intends to recapture the market on the shoulders of Ares. For Tarec, this is a respectable defeat and he can easily rebuild himself, a possible rebooking of his first debut opponent- Jake Ellenberger, would be a good starting point.

There is my look at the 5 most significant fights on a very busy day of MMA action. After a 3 week hiatus, the Octagon will once again be back in the limelight when the promotion heads to Brazil for UFC 179: Aldo vs Mendes 2. From a prediction stand point I went 13-10 on the day, a dismal 4-7 on the Stockholm card and a much better 9-3 in Halifax. The Bet Pack from these events is also posted below, make sure to take a look.

Information will be posted closer to the event when the official odds are available

The compilation of betting information listed below is meant to be used as a guideline only.

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UFC Fight Night 53 & 54

Gold Plays

Parlay #1
Selection 1: ANTHONY NJOKUANI $2.50
Price: $2.50 x Bet: $100
Payout: $250
Parlay #2
Selection 1: CATHAL PENDRED $1.72
Selection 2: RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO $1.38
Selection 3: ILIR LATIFI $1.41
Price: $3.35 x Bet: $100
Payout: $335
Parlay #3
Selection 1: ALBERT TUMENOV $1.40
Selection 2: JASON SAGGO $1.58
Selection 3: DENNIS SIVER $1.43
Price: $3.17 x Bet: $100
Payout: $317
Silver Plays
Parlay #1
Selection 1: ALEXANDER YAKOVLEV $2.80
Price: $2.80 x Bet: $100
Payout: $280
Parlay #2
Selection 1: MARCIN BANDEL $2.61
Selection 2: CHAD LAPRISE $1.41
Selection 3: MAX HOLLOWAY to Win by TKO/KO/DQ $2.35
Price: $8.65 x Bet: $100
Payout: $865
Parlay #3
Selection 1: ALBERT TUMENOV/ MATT DWYER Total Rounds Under 1.5 $1.69
Selection 2: GUNNAR NELSON to Win by Submission $2.10
Selection 3: MARCIN BANDEL $2.61
Selection 4: RORY MACDONALD/ TAREC SAFFIEDINE Total Rounds over 4.5 $1.66
Price: $15.38 x Bet: $100
Payout: $1538
Bronze Plays
Parlay #1
Selection 1: TOR TROENG $2.03
Selection 2: SCOTT ASKHAM $2.41
Price: $4.90 x Bet: $100
Payout: $490
Parlay #2
Selection 1: ALEXANDER YAKOVLEV $2.80
Selection 2: JINGLIANG LI/ NORDINE TALEB Total Rounds Under 2.5 $2.70
Selection 3: RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO to Win by Decision $1.95
Selection 4: MARCIN BANDEL $2.61
Price: $38.48 x Bet: $100
Payout: $3848
Parlay #3
Selection 1: ANTHONY NJOKUANI $2.50
Selection 2: ALBERT TUMENOV/ MATT DWYER Total Rounds Under 1.5 $1.69
Selection 3: CATHAL PENDRED $1.72
Selection 4: MAX HOLLOWAY to Win by TKO/KO/DQ $2.35
Price: $17.08 x Bet: $100
Payout: $1708
Parlay #1
Selection 1: CATHAL PENDRED $1.72
Selection 2: ALBERT TUMENOV/ MATT DWYER Total Rounds Under 1.5 $1.69
Selection 3: RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO to Win by Decision $1.95
Selection 4: RORY MACDONALD/ TAREC SAFFIEDINE Total Rounds over 4.5 $1.66
Selection 5: JASON SAGGO $1.58
Selection 6: ANTHONY NJOKUANI $2.50
Price: $37.17 x Bet: $150
Payout: $55.75

Individual Fight Betting Breakdowns


Opening fight of the day and we have some potential for an EPU. Two relatively untested fighters with one making their divisional debut. Chavez is already been part of an EPU, but I just don’t see it this time. Speed kills and Ernest doesn’t have it. I’m not 100% sold on Tukhugov considering the poor quality of his debut opponent. With all of the options on this massive MMA day I will most likely leave this as a No play or toss it into a Bronze Parlay for diversification purposes. I am also looking at a prop bet here too.


A lot of the shine came off Mairbek last tie out. He really struggled with an opponent that took the fight to him and I expect to see something similar here. Taisumov is a wrestler and wrestlers do not like being put on their back and having to defend from there. Bandel is aggressive and chains his submission together which by itself can be hard to defend. His transitions between submissions are even more difficult because he will go for a leg lock and wait for you to stick your arm in to defend and then target your arm. Look for him to start latching on until something sticks against an opponent whose defensive grappling looked lost. Lots of unknowns here so we probably play this in the Silver section as a single bet.


This line has made some moves of late with Tor sliding down to the role of the underdog. This fight could really go either way. I feel Tor’s last 2 fights came against fighters with better grappling; one with a superior technical game and one with a more positionally sound game. That shouldn’t be the case here. Jotko was routinely taken down by Cedenblad in his last bout and I expect to see something similar here. This is a do or die or the Swede. I am thinking a Bronze play, probably paired up with 1 maybe 2 other plays


Trust me I see a tonne of flaws in Cathal’s game and was underwhelmed with his time spent on TUF. Remember though that was at 185 pounds, so was his debut where I picked Mike King and he nearly came through. Pendred at 170 should be far more effective. Conversely, Umalatov has looked anything put impressive to me and I think Cathal’s grind style simply gets the better of him start to finish. I would consider a Single Bet on Cathal but I am more temped to double him up and play him in the Gold Section.


Rosa is the third opponent change for Siver and Dennis is coming off a long layoff/suspension. He has a little value here sitting over the $1.40 mark because he really is a very tough veteran and Rosa is relatively unproven. He will probably make the cut on a parlay, but I haven’t decided between Gold and Silver.


I like Musoke as a fighter, he can win on the feet and the mat and will stand and trade. He made a much better account for himself against Gastelum then I and most others expected him to. Yakovlev got trucked over by Maia for pretty much the entire fight, but that was a pretty big step up for a guy use to being the one on top doing damage. I think this fight is much more evenly matched then the odds would indicate and chin of Musoke has me leaning towards Yak. Even if he doesn’t score the knockout I expect him to break the Swede down and earn the nod based on the damage. I am considering him as a Gold Play Single bet as of right now.


I am on another dog here. Askham impressed me. He has beat some pretty decent talent outside of the UFC and I think his game serves as a nice counter for what Cedenblad brings. A sub win over a shell of a fighter like Jarred Hamman isn’t that huge and the quality of the Jotko win is still up in the air heading into this card. I think Askham lands some big shots in close and keeps Magnus on the defensive for the entire bout. It will be interesting early, but Askham gets it going late. Because Scott is a debuting fighter he will most likely be a Silver play Single belt, possibly slipping to Bronze if things get too crowded in the middle.


2 combined UFC fights and a massively heavy favourite who beat a guy that is now 1-2 in the UFC. No thank you, No Play.


Jan-B has some recognizable wins on his record, a few ore then Latifi. If he can put the Swede on his back with consistency this is his fight. Unfortunately, the wrestling skills and significantly lower stature of Latifi is going to make that very difficult. On the feet this fight is much closer then the odds would indicate, but I was impressed with the progress that Latifi showed. I think the stout Swede gets this fight horizontal and either conjures up a finish or grounds Jan-B into the at until the judges hand him the victory. I am leaning towards a Gold play on a parlay with this fight.


If Max doesn’t win this fight I will be shocked. Of course its MMA so anything can happen, but I just don’t see it. Unfortunately, at this price we can’t play this fight straight up. Instead I will be looking at a prop bet.


Story is being brought in to further build up the Icelandic prospect, but I don’t think he got the memo. Story will provide a stiff test (Poirier was suppose to for the GOAT) for Nelson. Cummings seemed to be giving him some trouble early and if Story can land with power he could really back him off. Gunnar needs to take this fight to the floor because that is where Story has had problems before. Wrestlers do not want to be on their back and that is where Neslon should put him. The price point here isn’t that attractive, I will most likely look into the prop offerings. I would consider playing him in a parlay, but nothing too extensive.


Sanders is cutting down 2 divisions from his debut which creates a major unknown factor. Munhoz is a monster and should be more then capable of handling this bout. Unfortunately, at $1.27 this early on the card (some EPU potential here) I will take a pass. A Prop may work here, I will get back to you.


In a brawl, which this could degenerate into anyone can land that fight changing strike. Unfortunately for my fellow Canuck- he is going to be on the wrong end of this one. He is way to hittable, dropping his hands and focusing may too much on just offense. DaMarques Johnson was landing some pretty hefty strikes, especially from the left side which also happens to be Tumenov’s forte. The Russian is going to land and end this fight, probably early. At $1.40 I like him on a parlay, probably in the Gold Pack. I also like a Prop, you can most likely guess which one.


It was a letdown to see Gaudinot pull out because I was leaning towards Paddy to pull the upset. For this fight I feel that Holohan is simply better at everything that Kelades does well. I most likely will be leaning on Holohan as a parlay play, Gold Pack makes sense, but there are a lot of options so he might slip considering it is just his second UFC fight.


I see these two being very similar on the feet, but Saggo being significantly better on the mat. Felder’s likes to throw kicks and I would expect that this will give Sags plenty of opportunities to take this fight to the mat and start sub hunting. From a betting standpoint, I think the Canuck works in as a Gold play for either a 3+ parlay or paired with a slightly stronger paying bet because of his $1.50+ price tag.


I won’t spend much time here. I think OAM is a stylistic nightmare for Lindsey who looked overmatched by a grappler that I don’t put above Olivier by any stretch of the imagination when it comes to grappling capabilities. The price isn’t strong and with all the options here its probably better to leave this one alone. Depending on the total a prop bet might be the way to go.


Cruickshank sees to have trouble with really good strikers or at least aggressive ones. He lost to Masvidal, Makdessi, and Martins (maybe its just Ms) and then won a controversial split against Yves Edwards. Njo didn’t look good in his last fight, but it was off of a major layoff and I expect to see him on point there. His ability to both land more shots and set the pace by landing first is key. I like Njo at this price and he will most likely crack the Gold Plays as a Single bet.


Clearly I won’t be touching this fight with a straight up pick, although I am fairly confident that Salazar falters here. Instead I will consider the under for Gagnon as he is known for his early finishing skills.


Here is another fight I am not to high on betting. Taleb should win this fight, but Li is scrappy and could give him some trouble. At this price its a No Play for me and I am not feeling the vibe on any prop bets as of right now.


Wow I did not expect the line to be set out like this one. Elias is fighting for just the second time in the UFC, first time against a fighter not connected to TUF, and I don’t have any interest backing him as a massive favourite here. If Santos can consistently put Elias on his back he could score the upset. I might consider a prop bet here, but I need to look at the numbers a little closer first.


Cedeno is better then this line would indicate, but I still think Chad wins this fight. Laprise has to be careful for the first round and then as Cedeno slows, he can crank it up with minimal threat of a pushback. At $1.41 I think Chad is worth a look for a Parlay contributor, Gold/ Silver range depending on how he stacks up against the rest of the lineup.


Caraway is a talented fighter and doesn’t get enough credit for what he brings to the cage. On the other hand, he isn’t winning this fight. I went over the details regarding Kid Lightning’s ability to win a fight without submitting his opponent and they are staggeringly stack against him. Assuncao has been subbed once and it was by Faber, I just don’t see Caraway making it 2. I think he is good enough to go the distance, but that is it. I will take Assuncao in parlay at this price, very confident he wins, and will look at the Over as well.


This line is the product of two mentalities. 1) Rory is the next GSP and maybe even better. 2) Tarec who? I understand why the line is set the way it is, but it is not a representation of how this fight will play out inside the cage. I was close to taking Tarec. His leg kicks are nasty and his striking is sound. He also has excellent TDD that should limit Rory’s ability to change gears. I am tempted to play Saf at this price simply based on value. No Play on Rory and a long look at the prop options is warranted here.

Whole Event Confidence Bets Ranking (1- Most Confident to Win outright)











10. JASON SAGGO $1.58




14. CHAD LAPRISE $1.41


16. ILIR LATIFI $1.41






22. SCOTT ASKHAM $2.41

23. TOR TROENG $2.03

Top Value Bets (1- Greatest Value based on Betting odds & Ability to Win)

# Price Explanation
1. ANTHONY NJOKUANI $2.50 Granted, he looked bad in his last fight. I think he matches up well with his foe here, but needs to be careful early on.
2. ALEXANDER YAKOVLEV $2.80 Too much too early in his debut, he find his stride here and the chin of his opponent.
3. CATHAL PENDRED $1.72 Not an underdog, but he has some value here based on how bad his opponent has looked of late.
4. MARCIN BANDEL $2.61 Leg locks galore. His foe struggled with an aggressive ground based attack last fight, he will here too.
5. SCOTT ASKHAM $2.41 Should be an entertaining scrap. He is being touted as a serious prospect and Cedenblad hasn’t impressed me that much even in victory.

The Value Bet list is a list of fighters ranked based on a combination of their ability to win their fight and the potential financial return you would receive if they win.

  • Even on a good night I don’t anticipate winning every fight on this list, realistically 2-3 correct picks would be considered a successful event.
  • I do not recommend backing every fighter listed, these are just suggestions where the greatest betting value on the card lies, it is up to you to make the decision where to invest your money.

Top Value Bets for non-Predicted Winners (1- Greatest Value based on Betting odds & Ability to Win)

# Price Explanation
1. TAREC SAFFIEDINE $5.44 Rory may blow the doors of him or soundly beat him, but if Sponge’s hand get’s raised at the end of the night it won’t be the least bit shocking to me.

The Value Bet list for non-predicted winners is a list of fighters ranked based on a combination of their ability to win their fight and the potential financial return you would receive if they win. These 5 fighters are the best betting options available of all of the fighters that I predicted to lose and although I fully endorse my own predicted winner I feel that giving this type of information is only fair to my followers as it gives them further insight into my opinion on each match-up.

Some people might question the use of one fighter in a parlay and the other (an underdog) in a straight up bet, but here is my logic.

Scenario: the Fav is in a 3 fighter parlay and it pays $5 x your bet of $30 and the dog pays $3.50 x your bet of $10.

The underdog single bet offers a nice safety net. If he wins then you bet a total of $40 and won $35, your losses are minimal. If your parlay wins then you bet $40 and won $150, so it is still a decent profit line.

There is the possibility that you might not win either bet, but having an “insurance” style bet can keep you from going broke a lot of nights.

Prop Bets-

ZUBAIRA TUKHUGOV/ ERNEST CHAVEZ Over 2.5 Rounds $1.57- With a combined 15 decisions compared to just 8 finishes there is a very good chance that this bout is heading to the judges.

CHARLES ROSA/ DENNIS SIVER Total Rounds Over 1.5 $1.67- There could be a finish in this fight, but I anticipate that Siver will come out a little cautious and not over extend himself in his first fight back. I think Rosa can hold on for 1.5 rounds.

MAX HOLLOWAY to Win by TKO/KO/DQ $2.35- I was thinking of playing the Under, but Max does his damage through accumulation so it might take him a little longer to end the fight. I will take the knockout instead, probably late in round 2, early round 3.

GUNNAR NELSON to Win by Submission $2.10- Not the big odds you would be hoping for, but I think he has success putting Story on the mat and eventually catches him at some point over the 5 rounds.

ALBERT TUMENOV/ MATT DWYER Total Rounds Under 1.5 $1.69- Not a great number for the under, but the way these guys throw and the manner in which Dwyer tends to block strikes with his face I don’t see this one going very deep.

JAKE LINDSEY/ OLIVIER AUBIN-MERCIER Total Rounds Under 1.5 $1.76- I see OAM getting this fight to the ground quickly and locking up an RNC or other choke to end Jake’s night quick.

MITCH GAGNON/ ROMAN SALAZAR Total Rounds Under 1.5 $1.72- These unders aren’t offering much in the coin department, but I expect Gagnon to lock up his patented Guillotine to end this one inside round 1.

JINGLIANG LI/ NORDINE TALEB Total Rounds Under 2.5 $2.70- Here is some value, both guys are aggressive and I think the power that Taleb has shown at 185 will translate well here. I really like the fact that we get an extra round as I pegged this fight at 1.5.

RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO to Win by Decision $1.95- A finish is possible here, but I see Assuncao fending off TDAs and landing counters all night long. Caraway will wear it, but not go down.

RORY MACDONALD/ TAREC SAFFIEDINE Total Rounds over 4.5 $1.66- Neither man has put up big finishing numbers of late and see this fight playing out almost like a chess match. We are going the distance here, who wins is another question.