The UFC 297 main card features fights such as Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis, Raquel Pennington vs. Mayra Bueno Silva, Neil Magny vs. Mike Malott, Chris Curtis vs. Marc-Andre Barriault, and Arnold Allen vs. Movsar Evloev. Read on for best bets for each of these fights along with relevant UFC 297 odds and UFC 297 predictions.
UFC 297 Predictions & Best Bets
After shocking the world with a massive upset win over Israel Adesanya, Sean Strickland puts his middleweight championship belt on the line for the first time against Dricus Du Plessis. Before that happens, the co-main event features a battle between Raquel Pennington against Mayra Bueno Silva for the vacant bantamweight championship. Expect plenty of violent main card fights to set up the title fights, all shaping up to be a very fun PPV.
Sean Strickland Vs. Dricus Du Plessis
One thing is for certain, Dricus Du Plessis will not be entering the bout with the same lackadaisical mindset as Israel Adesanya. Du Plessis is 20-2 and 6-0 in the UFC with all of his fights but one coming via finish. He lands more Significant Strikes per Minute at a more accurate rate while absorbing less damage as well. Expect Du Plessis to press forward from the opening bell.
— MMA Orbit (@mma_orbit) December 17, 2023
Strickland has built a career off of being a defensive fighter, excelling at counter punching while reeling and playing towards the judges favor. His numbers echo that sentiment, possessing a Significant Strike Defense Percentage of 63% in comparison to Du Plessis’s 53%. The issue for Strickland is that he lacks knockout power when in defense mode, now having to deal with the power of Du Plessis who can break anyone’s standing guard.
A case can be made that Strickland was undeserving of a title shot in the first place as his fight history is underwhelming. He got the benefit of Israel most likely looking ahead of their fight, now having to face a standing presence that can deal out serious damage when on their feet. After opening up as an underdog, sharps are in the same belief that Strickland is grossly overpriced and have backed Du Plessis to a near pick’em in some shops.
Pick: Dricus Du Plessis moneyline
Raquel Pennington Vs. Mayra Bueno Silva
The bantamweight title is up for grabs in the co-main event as both Raquel Pennington and Mayra Bueno Silva battle it out for the vacant belt. This fight brings instant excitement as both fighters come into the contest with two totally different styles of fighting. Penington is more of a scrapper while Silva boasts a muay thai and bjj background.
Normally in this case, I tend to side with the fighter who has more versatile experience. Oddsmakers are in the same sentiment, setting Bueno Silva as a sizable favorite with her ability to exchange on her feet as well as control the mats. With her moneyline climbing too high, that forces me to turn my attention elsewhere.
Silva will be in a position to make Pennington uncomfortable from the start by quickly closing the gap, getting the chance to clinch and unleash her muay thai. When reeling, expect Silva to try and take this to the ground while rattling off submission attempts. There is also the chance of Pennington catching Silva in her advancements, both having an opportunity to cash this wager.
Pick: Fight to not go the distance
Neil Magny Vs. Mike Malott
Mike Malott is poised to be the next man up in the welterweight division, facing off against veteran Neil Magny who is on the tail end of his career. This normally sets up to be a “get over” type of fight, elevating Malott up the rankings with an easy win over the aging veteran as a sizable favorite.
Imagine getting knocked out cold by Neil Magny pic.twitter.com/xIipm4AXZK
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The issue for Malott is that he may not find it as easy to get the win as his moneyline implies as Magny is a tough challenger due to his fight style. Magny thrives at creating separation in the middle, now having a seven-inch reach to his advantage. He then uses his spacing to pick his spots, shooting in for a clinch with his opponents back to the cage.
That style of fighting bleeds time off the clock, as well as negate the power of Malott. When in clinch, Magny prefers to build up points from the judges rather than look for the finish. Malott will have his opportunities to use his grappling to take Magny down when not in this situation, but Magny is a capable grappler and can limit the submission opportunities as well.
Pick: Fight to go the distance
Chris Curtis Vs. Marc-Andre Barriault
While the women’s co-main event brings a lot of versatility with their fight styles, this matchup is pretty straightforward. Both Chris Curtis and Marc-Andre Barriault are going to want to stay on their feet and exchange punches. Both fighters land over five Significant Strikes per Minutes while averaging less than 0.3 takedowns.
In fact, Chris Curtis has never even landed a takedown. He does boast an elite takedown defense rate, stuffing takedowns at a 92% rate. This is in large part of him being a defensive striker, utilizing his guard to throw efficient counters and play towards the judges favor. This limits his power yet helps with spacing and securing points.
That leads me to bet on Curtis to win by decision as his best course of action is to create space with his counters and keep Marc-Andre Barriault in check. This will deal damage over time yet negate knockout power. In the off chance Barriault takes this to the mats, submission attempts are practically non-existent as he averages 0.1 attempts.
Pick: Chris Curtis to win by decision
Arnold Allen Vs. Movsar Evloev
Movsar Evloev has been hailed as the next up and coming product and he puts his undefeated record on the line against Arnold Allen with a win putting him in a good position for a featherweight title shot. Evloev is a hyper aggressive grappler who plays more towards the judges favor with mat control time than put up style points.
Evloev averages an incredible 4.71 takedowns per fight, taking his opponents down and using his leverage to hold them down. Allen may stuff takedowns at a 76% clip, but his aggressiveness will leave him exposed in this one which opens opportunities for Evloev to shoot for a takedown. Expect a long grappling fest with Evloev keeping his record intact.
Pick: Movsar Evloev by decision