UFC on ESPN+ 31: Brunson vs Shahbazyan Prelim Card Betting Preview

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UFC Brunson vs Shahbazyan

On Saturday, August 1st, the UFC returns to Las Vegas after a successful few weeks at Fight Island. The event, UFC on ESPN+ 31: Brunson vs Shahbazyan, will feature an exciting middleweight clash in the main event. However, before discussing the main card, there’s a six fight prelim card to examine first.

Although, this preliminary card isn’t as big as last weekend’s Fight Island lineup, there are still some notable fighters in action like: Gerald Meerschaert, Ray Borg, Ed Herman, Frankie Aenz and rising prospects like Joseph Maness. The UFC on ESPN+ 31 preliminary card is set to begin at 6 PM ET on ESPN+.

Let’s step inside the betting octagon to take a look at the latest odds from the best UFC betting sites, identify potential value or upsets, and TKO these predictions.

Chris Gutierrez vs Cody Durden

  • Chris Gutierrez (-345)
  • Cody Durden (+285)
  • Over (-225)/Under (+175) 2.5 rounds

Cody Durden is the largest underdog for the entire UFC event. He makes his UFC debut on Saturday and is riding a seven fight win streak. Durden last fought on July 18th in the NFC and won via 1st round TKO in just 80 seconds.

Durden has agreed to take this fight on a week’s notice after Luke Sanders withdrew. 10 of his 11 pro wins have come via stoppage with five wins apiece between TKO/KO and submission.

Chris Gutierrez will make his 5th trip inside the octagon this weekend and has fared well in his first four fights having gone 3-1. He’s on a three fight win streak and has shown potential to climb into the Top 15. His last bout came two months ago and he won via 2nd round TKO over Vince Morales.

Eight of his 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of TKO/KO. 11 of his 20 pro fights have gone the distance. He’s gone 7-3-1 in those contests. Two of his four UFC fights have also gone the distance.

These numbers are why sportsbooks and online sports betting sites favor this fight to go Over 2.5 rounds (-225) and for the fight to go the distance (-170), despite Durden only having two bouts go all three rounds. Take both of these favorites here as there’s not much evidence to convince us otherwise.

Durden has some grappling chops, but appears to be inferior to Gutierrez in the standup battle. If “El Guapo” can defend the takedowns then he will cruise to a unanimous decision (-105) win.

Durden has only been stopped once and that was via submission, so I believe his durability will last for three rounds. With that in mind, unless you are taking the upset pick in this fight, the only value is with Gutierrez winning via decision.

Chris Gutierrez vs Cody Durden –Gutierrez (-345)

Over 2.5 rounds (-225)

Fight goes the distance (-170)

Gutierrez wins via decision (-105)

Jamall Emmers vs Timur Valiev

  • Jamall Emmers (+135)
  • Timur Valiev (-155)
  • Over (-275)/Under (+215) 2.5 rounds

Jamall Emmers makes his second trip to the octagon on Saturday after last fighting in March. He dropped his UFC debut via split decision. The loss snapped a four fight win streak that earned Emmers a shot with the UFC.

10 of his 17 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of TKO/KO. Nine of his 22 pro fights have gone the distance and he’s 7-2 in those bouts. Emmers will have a four inch height and a six inch reach advantage.

Timur Valiev will make his UFC debut this weekend and comes to the octagon having won six straight fights. He made it to the PFL featherweight playoffs in 2018, but withdrew due to injury. He’s shown some talent and potential, which led the UFC to signing him.

Nine of his 16 pro wins have come via decision. In total, Valiev has a 9-2 record when going the full three rounds.

With these two men combining for 20 professional fights going the distance, it’s no surprise that online betting sites have the Over 2.5 rounds (-275) and the fight going to a decision (-245) favored. I believe both of these will hit.

Now, the question comes down to which fighter picks up the decision win. Emmers is the bigger fighter and the better wrestler. However, he has a pension for relying on striking more than wrestling. Valiev is the better striker and has a big gas tank.

I think Valiev will take the decision (+111) due to his striking advantage and volume. I don’t see him fading late in the fight. And, if he can defend the takedown, Valiev could find a stoppage along the way.

The only value in this fight is Valiev’s odds for winning via decision. That’s unless you believe Emmers can pull off the upset.

Jamall Emmers vs Timur Valiev –Valiev (-155)

Over 2.5 rounds (-275)

Fight goes the distance (-245)

Valiev wins via decision (+111)

Markus Perez vs Eric Spicely

  • Markus Perez (-200)
  • Eric Spicely (+170)
  • Over (-145)/Under (+115) 1.5 rounds

Spicely returned to the UFC 13 months ago after being released from the promotion in 2018 due to dropping three fights in a row. He would lose his return fight via unanimous decision to Deron Winn. Overall, Spicely has a 4-5 record inside the octagon.

10 of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of submission. All 10 of these stoppages have come in the first round. He’s 2-1 when going the distance.

Markus Perez last competed in November 2019 and lost via unanimous decision to Wellington Turman. That dropped his UFC record to 2-3. Perez entered the UFC in 2017 after holding the LFA middleweight title.

Nine of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of submission. He’s 3-3 when going the distance.

The Over/Under is set at 1.5 rounds with the Over (-145) favored. I believe this fight will definitely hit the Over as I don’t see either man losing in the first round.

The fight is favored to finish inside the distance (-230). This is where it gets a little tricky as both men have the potential to get the finish.

Perez is a strong grappler and has the ability to take Spicely, who has shown issues with defending takedowns, to the mat. Six submission wins proves that Perez knows what he’s doing when on the ground.

Four of Spicely’s five losses have come via stoppage with two by way of submission, which both came in the UFC. I think Perez will find a way to force Spicely to tap out as well. Keep an eye out for the prop bet of Perez winning via submission. I expect it to have solid value with a nice return on investment.

Markus Perez vs Eric Spicely –Perez (-200)

Over 1.5 rounds (-145)

Fight ends inside the distance (-230)

Perez wins inside the distance (+108)

Ray Borg vs Nathan Maness

  • Ray Borg (-235)
  • Nathan Maness (+195)
  • Over (-265)/Under (+205) 2.5 rounds

The UFC didn’t do Maness any favors as they booked his UFC debut against the tough Ray Borg. Maness last fought in February and won via 1st round KO. He’s bounced around regional promotions before getting this big opportunity.

Six of his 11 pro wins have come via stoppage with four by way of TKO/KO. He’s 5-0 when going the distance. Maness has solid striking skills and has shown some effectiveness in his counter punching. He will have a five inch height and nine inch reach advantage.

Borg is 2-1 in his last three fights having lost a razor thin split decision to Ricky Simon in May. Borg is an action fighter who pressures his opponents and looks for takedowns when possible. He showed in his last fight that he has improved in his pocket work and is dangerous on the inside.

Seven of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of submission. He’s 6-4 when going the distance and has only been stopped once, which came via submission to Demetrious Johnson in the 5th round.

I enjoy watching Ray Borg fight when he’s on top of his game. He started off a little rough against Simon, but then got into a groove. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. Nevertheless, this is a winnable fight for “The Tazmexican Devil.”

Maness has shown some holes in his takedown defense and when getting pressured. Both are strong points for Borg. Additionally, Borg’s durability will show when he takes Maness’ best shots and keeps coming.

I believe Borg will outscore Maness in this fight with his takedowns and top control. The odds favor Over 2.5 rounds (-265) and going the distance (-230). I see both of them happening.

Borg has gone the distance in eight of his last nine fights. I expect it to happen again this weekend and I’m taking Borg to win via unanimous decision (-110).

Ray Borg vs Nathan Maness –Borg (-235)

Over 2.5 rounds (-265)

Fight goes the distance (-230)

Ray Borg wins via decision (-110)

Ed Herman vs Gerald Meerschaert

  • Ed Herman (+155)
  • Gerald Meerschaert (-175)
  • Over (-185)/Under (+155) 1.5 rounds

Ed Herman has been with the UFC on and off since 2006. His first tenure went from 2006 to 2012. He departed for a fight in Strikforce, but quickly returned in 2013.  Herman has a career record of 12-11 inside the octagon.

Herman has won his last two fights, both considered upsets over Patrick Cummins and Khadis Ibragimov. Those victories snapped a three fight losing streak. 20 of his 25 pro wins have come via stoppage with 13 by way of submission. He’s 5-5 when going the distance.

Gerald Meerschaert, commonly referred to as “GM3,” has taken this fight on two weeks’ notice as he replaced Da Un Jung. This will be his 3rd fight of 2020 so far.

GM3 last fought in June and lost via TKO to Ian Heinisch in the 1st round. The loss dropped his UFC record to 6-5. He defeated rising prospect via submission in March. That bumped up his submission win total to 23.

GM3 is well known for his ground game, but he’s shown toughness and capability in the standup as well. His durability will test Herman’s best shots.

Herman gives up 2.5 inches in reach, is seven years older, is inferior on the mat, and will also struggle to win any striking exchanges. Ultimately, this is GM3’s fight to lose.

The Over 1.5 rounds (-185) is favored and I see that happening. The only question is whether or not the fight will go the distance. Currently, the oddsmakers favor the fight to end inside the distance (-150).

I’m not confident in this, but I am going with the fight ending inside the distance. I just see too many paths to victory for GM3 especially on the mat where he should pick up a submission win (+150).

Ed Herman vs Gerald Meerschaert –Meerschaert (-175)

Over 1.5 rounds (-185)

Fight ends inside the distance (-150)

Meerschaert wins inside the distance (+150)

Frankie Saenz vs Jonathon Martinez

  • Frankie Saenz (+210)
  • Jonathon Martinez (-250)
  • Over (-205)/Under (+165) 2.5 rounds

Frankie Saenz is the underdog in this contest despite being with the UFC since 2014. He hasn’t fought since March 2019 when he lost to Marlon Vera via 1st round TKO. The loss dropped his record to 5-4 inside the octagon.

Five of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with three by way of TKO/KO. Nine of his 15 pro fights have gone the distance where he’s 7-2 in those contests.

Jonathon Martinez last fought in February and lost via split decision to Andre Ewell. However, many pundits and fans believed that Martinez actually won that fight.

Currently, he’s 2-2 inside the octagon. Three of his four fights in the UFC have gone the distance. Eight of his 11 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. Martinez will have the advantage in the striking department including 3.5 inches in reach.

This fight will come down to Saenz’s chin versus Martinez’s takedown defense. I did not like what I saw from Saenz in his fight against Vera. I believe Martinez can duplicate Vera’s striking success as long as he doesn’t get taken down and controlled on the mat.

I’m taking the Under 2.5 rounds (+165) in this fight and for the contest to end inside the distance (+135). I believe Martinez is going to get the stoppage via TKO/KO.

Frankie Saenz vs Jonathon Martinez –Martinez (-250)

Under 2.5 rounds (+165)

Fight ends inside the distance (+135)

Martinez wins inside the distance (+180)

Favorite Value Bets for the UFC on ESPN+31 Prelim Card

Check out my favorite value plays for the UFC on ESPN 31+ prelims:

Gutierrez Wins via Decision (-105)

The Over for this fight is set at 2.5 rounds and heavily favored (-225). Additionally, the fight going the distance is set at -170 odds.

Gutierrez is the biggest betting favorite for the entire card at -345 odds. He’s gone the distance in 11 fights and has a record of 7-3-1. Two of his four trips inside the octagon have also gone the full three rounds.

I like Gutierrez’s striking advantages in this contest. I wouldn’t be surprised if he found the stoppage late in the fight. But, I do believe Durden is durable and will last until the scorecards.

Valiev Wins via Decision (+111)

Valiev is the favorite in this contest (-155) despite being the smaller fighter. However, he is a highly capable striker with the ability to stuff Emmers takedown attempts.

The Over 2.5 rounds (-275) and fight going the distance (-245) are heavily favored. Combined, these two men have gone the distance in 20 pro fights. Valiev is 9-2, while Emmers is 7-2.

I expect Valiev to outlast Emmers in this fight and outpoint him due to his striking advantage, volume, and cardio.

Perez Wins Inside the Distance (+108)

The O/U for this fight is 1.5 rounds with the Over favored at -145 odds. However, sports betting websites favor the fight to end inside the distance at -230 odds.

Four of Spicely’s five career losses have come via stoppage with two by way of submission. Six of Perez’s 12 pro wins have come via submission. I believe Perez will pick up another submission win in this contest.

Saenz vs Martinez: Under 2.5 rounds (+165)

Saenz hasn’t fought since March 2019 where he lost via 1st round TKO. Three of his six losses have come via TKO/KO and all under 2.5 rounds.

Martinez is a very capable striker with a 3.5 inch reach advantage and six knockouts on his resume. I expect him to go after Martinez in this fight and find the TKO by the midway point.

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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