This article is part of our MMA Best Bets series.
UFC 262 features quite a few closely lined fights, giving us the opportunity to identify spots where a fighter may not be getting the respect that they deserve. We take a look at two such plays this week, as well as a sizeable plus-money prop involving a UFC mainstay. As always, I have limited my looks to lines below (-200), as I feel that anything more expensive is supposed to come in, and doesn't really require a write-up. All lines are taken from the William Hill online sportsbook and are accurate as of the post date of this article. Without any further ado, let's get to it.
Andre Muniz (20-4-0) vs. Ronaldo Souza (26-9-0) Weight class: Middleweight
The guy who recommended the KO prop for Kevin Holland when he fought Souza in December is once against suggesting "Jacare" will lose a fight by stoppage. I'll be the first to admit that the way Holland got that stoppage – throwing hammer fists from his back- was fluky, but the veteran is 41 years old, considerably slower and more fragile, and hasn't stopped someone with a submission since Tim Boetsch in 2017.
All of this is great news for Muniz who comes forward throwing big shots and is a highly respected black belt in his own right. We also need to remember that before the wild finish, Holland was competing with "Jacare" quite well on the ground, wrestling with his legs and getting further on a triangle attempt than most would have thought possible. Now, Souza will need to deal with a much craftier fighter on the ground, who will also have a significant speed advantage on the feet.
There is a masochistic part of me that wanted to just put it all on the table and take the submission prop at (+800) and while it is tempting, playing "any finish" still gives us significant plus money and we don't pin all of our hopes to a man with 35 fights getting tapped for the first time in his career.
The play: Andre Muniz by KO/TKO/DQ or Submission +240
Lando Vanatta (11-5-2) vs. Mike Grundy (12-2-0) Weight Class: Lightweight
Success against Tony Ferguson in a short-notice debut and a highlight-reel knockout of John Makdessi has perhaps given us a slanted view of the proficiency of Vanatta, who comes into this fight sporting a 3-5-2 record in his UFC career. That alone might be a reason to give Grundy a look as a slight favorite who has lost just two fights in his entire career.
A deeper look at the two competitors only backs up that notion, as Grundy is a plus-athlete with a good fundamental boxing game who will relentlessly chase takedowns and submissions. These solid fundamentals should pay dividends against "Groovy," who has a bad habit of walking forward with his hands down. The agility and speed of Grundy will also play a role, making it more difficult for Vanatta to surprise him with strikes from odd angles.
The fact that Grundy has dealt with injuries over the past few years is a potential reason for the line being so close, but I think bettors are simply recognizing the known quantity here, while not actually analyzing what the 34-year-old brings to the table. We can take advantage of the opportunity by taking the far more well-rounded fighter at a reasonable price.
The play: Mike Grundy -125
Rogerio Bontorin (16-3-0) vs. Matt Schnell (15-5-0) Weight class: Flyweight
It's not often that we look for finishes in the flyweight division, but we have two men who like to get things done quickly in Schnell and Bontorin, as evidenced by their six decision victories in 31 combined wins. While this is certainly not a guarantee, bettors can be comfortable knowing that these two fighters are going to push a high pace and look to end the bout for 15 minutes. How will they do it?
We saw Bontorin nearly submit Kai Kara-France no fewer than three times in his UFC debut before getting caught with a punch and finished himself. This gives us an indication of what the 29-year-old will bring to the cage, as he will constantly hunt for the neck of his opponent on the ground. As for Schnell, the fast hands and footwork he showcases could lead to him changing the course of the fight with a shot, and we should remember that he has tapped experienced grapplers in this division like Louis Smolka.
In a worst-case scenario the two men cancel each other out on the ground, but I think it's more likely that someone gets caught in a scramble as they are jockeying for position. This is a situation where the lack of finishing ability in the division generally seems to have taken precedence over the prowess of the two men in the cage. We should note that and act accordingly.
The play: Fight Does not go to Decision: -120
Katlyn Chookagian (15-4-0) vs. Viviane Araujo (10-2-0) Weight class: Flyweight
We talked a bit about known quantities above, and that line of thinking may also explain why we can get Araujo at plus money. That's not to say that Chookagian is a bad fighter, but I don't see her rangy, point-fighting style being effective against Araujo, who will carry a number of advantages into this matchup.
One such advantage should play out in terms of striking technique, as Araujo has shown nice variety in her shots, while Chookagian features a rote and predictable game that revolves around her jab. I also think the wrestling of Araujo will come into play, as she should not be hesitant to go to the ground with "Blonde Fighter," having notched four of her 10 wins by submission.
Chookagian may have fought tougher competition in her career, but Araujo figures to be the more explosive striker with a functional wrestling game she can use if she is having trouble negotiating the height disparity. To put it simply: I think we are getting the better fighter at dog odds.
The play: Viviane Araujo: +115