UFC on ESPN 31: Font vs Aldo Main Card Betting Preview and Picks

On Saturday, December 4th, the UFC will be live from their Apex Center in Las Vegas for UFC on ESPN 31: Font vs. Aldo also known as UFC Vegas 44.

The main event of the night is a Top 5 bantamweight clash between Rob Font and Jose Aldo. The co-featured bout is a Top 15 lightweight contest between Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev. Also on the card is a Top 15 light heavyweight clash between Jimmy Crute and Jamahal Hill.

In total, there are six fights scheduled for the main card of UFC Vegas 44 with a 10pm ET start time on ESPN and ESPN+. Prior to the main card, there’s a nine fight preliminary card that begins at 7pm ET.

Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine the latest UFC odds and finish off these UFC on ESPN 31 betting predictions with a vicious ground and pound.

Bryan Barberena vs. Darian Weeks

  • Bryan Barberena (-125)
  • Darian Weeks (+105)
  • Over (+100)/Under (-130) 2.5 rounds

The original booking for this matchup was supposed to be Matt Brown taking on Bryan Barberena in what would’ve been a “barn burner.” But, Brown tested positive for covid and had to be replaced.

At first, the UFC was unable to secure a new opponent for Barberena. Then, at the last minute, Darian Weeks agreed to step in and take the fight on four days’ notice.

Darian hasn’t competed since February when he defeated Craig Fairley in the LFA promotion via 2nd round TKO. It was his 5th stoppage victory in five fights since turning pro in February 2019.

Three of those five wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s never even gone to the third round of a bout.

There are a handful of fights that I get excited to watch and Bryan Barberena is one of them. Not because he’s one of the best in his weight class, but because we’re guaranteed plenty of action when “Bam Bam” steps inside the cage.

Barberena commented on that all-action fighting style that earned him his nickname:

“I train for these hard wars and being in the mud, seeing who is going to crawl out. I think it just tends to happen. I think it has a lot to do with my style; they call me ‘Bam Bam’ for a reason. People ask me, ‘Are you going to mix in wrestling?’ and it’s like, I know how to wrestle — I could do it — but I prefer to go toe-to-toe. Let’s see who’s going to be standing. I’m going to test every part of you and what kind of heart you got.”

Bryan joined the UFC seven years ago this month and is 6-6 inside the octagon. However, he is just 1-3 in his last four bouts with losses to Jason Witt, Randy Brown and Vicente Luque. The Luque fight was one of my Top 2 favorite fights of 2019 and really made me a fan of both men.

12 of his 15 pro wins have come via stoppage with 10 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 3-5 when going the distance.

We know what we’re getting with Barberena, but the jury is still out on Darian Weeks who hasn’t faced someone the caliber of “Bam Bam.”

With that said, I think the step up in competition on short notice will be too much for Weeks to overcome.

I’m taking this bout to finish inside the distance (-145) and Under 2.5 rounds (-130) as Barberena finishes off Weeks with a TKO/KO to get back into the win column.

Bryan Barberena vs. Darian Weeks –Barberena (-125)

Under 2.5 rounds (-130)

Fight ends inside the distance (-145)

Barberena wins via TKO/KO (+280)

Barberena wins inside the distance (+185)

Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis

  • Brendan Allen (-350)
  • Chris Curtis (+285)
  • Over (-225)/Under (+185) 1.5 rounds

According to UFC betting sites, the former LFA champ Brendan Allen is the largest betting favorite for the entire UFC Vegas 44 event.

Allen was originally set to face Brad Tavares in what would’ve been an exciting fight for Brendan against a ranked foe. But, Tavares pulled out due to injury. Then it was reported that Roman Dolidze would be taking Tavares’ place.

However, Dolidze withdrew from the show and Chris Curtis agreed to step up to the plate to fight Allen on short notice.

Despite being the largest underdog for this show, Chris Curtis’ odds were comparable to Dolidze’s. Furthermore, he isn’t someone to be overlooked. He’s a veteran of the sport with 35 pro fights and has faced some solid fighters in his career.

Curtis appeared on DWCS in June 2018 and won via 3rd round TKO but didn’t score a UFC contract. So, he eventually made his way to PFL where Chris went 1-3 with two losses to Magomedkerimov and one to Ray Cooper III who are arguably the top welterweights in the PFL.

After those three straight PFL losses, Curtis moved on to other promotions and racked up five straight wins before he landed back at the UFC’s doorstep.

Nicknamed “The Action Man,” Curtis debuted for the UFC in November 2021 and defeated Phil Hawes via 1st round KO. The victory extended his winning streak to six straight fights. Furthermore, it was the 5th bout for Chris in 2021. 16 of his 27 pro wins have come via stoppage with 15 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 11-6 when going the distance.

Following his successful run with LFA, Allen appeared on DWCS in July 2019 and scored a 1st round submission win over Aaron Jeffery. The victory also earned him a shot with the UFC as he debuted in October 2019 to beat Kevin Holland via 2nd round submission.

Allen would go on to win two more bouts before dropping a tough TKO loss to Sean Strickland in November 2020. Yet, “All In” didn’t hang his head too low following the defeat.

Brendan got back into the win column with a 1st round submission win over Karl Roberson in April 2021. He followed that up with a unanimous decision victory over Punahele Soriano in July 2021.

Allen has won two straight fights and is now 5-1 inside the octagon. 14 of his 17 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of submission. 14 of his 17 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of submission. He’s 3-2 when going the distance.

I definitely see this bout going Over 1.5 rounds (-225). But, I also think there’s a good chance that it goes the full distance (+130), despite oddsmakers thinking otherwise.

I’m giving Curtis some credit here and choosing to believe that he can hang with Allen for the full 15 minutes. In 35 pro bouts, Chris has only been stopped twice. Allen might have the advantage on the mat, but Curtis has tapped out just once in his career.

Instead, Curtis has six decision losses and I believe he will pick up his 7th after a solid outing against Allen who should finally crack the Top 15 rankings. Speaking of the rankings, Allen’s not too fond of the UFC’s ranking system for the middleweight division:

“I think the Top 15 is a bunch of bulls*** to be honest, especially right now. I feel like there are guys that don’t deserve to be in there; there are guys that have gotten lucky to get there. There are guys that didn’t beat anybody with a number that have a number, and there are guys that have gotten lucky enough to get the easiest number they could get and now they’re in the numbers.”

Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis –Allen (-350)

Over 1.5 rounds (-225)

Fight goes the distance (+130)

Allen wins via decision (+150)

Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill

  • Jimmy Crute (-160)
  • Jamahal Hill (+140)
  • Over (-105)/Under (-125) 1.5 rounds

This bout is a Top 15 light heavyweight contest between #13 Jimmy Crute and #14 Jamahal Hill. The winner of this fight should crack the Top 10 and continue his ascension in the division.

After starting out 5-0 in his pro career, Hill appeared on DWCS in July 2019 and picked up a 2nd round win which earned him a contract with the UFC. He debuted in January 2020 and beat Darko Stosic via unanimous decision.

His next fight against Klidson Abreu was overturned and ruled a NC in May 2020. But, he then picked up a signature win by defeating Ovince St. Preux via 2nd round TKO.

Unfortunately, the good times didn’t last long because seven months later Hill lost to Paul Craig via 1st round TKO. His opponent Jimmy Crute beat Paul Craig in 2018, which Hill acknowledged when discussing Crute:

“The fact that he beat Paul Craig, the fact that he submitted Paul Craig – that offers a lot to me. For me, as a test. I want that. I want that back.”

Four of Hill’s eight pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s also 4-0 when going the distance.

Crute started off his career going 7-0 before earning a shot on DWCS in July 2018 and earned a 1st round TKO win along with a UFC deal.

He made his octagon debut in December 2018 and beat Paul Craig via submission in the 3rd round with just nine seconds left in the fight. Since then, Jimmy has gone 3-2 with losses to Misha Cirkunov and Anthony Smith in his most recent bout eight months ago.

His three wins over that span were all via stoppage in the 1st round against Sam Alvey, Michal Oleksiejczuk and Modesta Bukauskas.

Speaking about this weekend’s fight, Crute made the following comments about Hill:

“Super stoked. It’s a great fight.  I’m super excited for this fight. It’s a good fight for both of us. It’s gonna be fireworks. I know I’m gonna get my hand raised, but it’s gonna be a fun fight while it lasts. He definitely has his specialties. Striking is his forte, and we’re gonna be prepared for that range he possesses. At the end, it’s just another go at it. I have to work it out when I get in there.”

Nine of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with five by way of TKO/KO. He’s 3-0 when going the distance.

This is going to be a competitive bout and one that could end up with a bonus. More than likely, it will be a submission of the night as I see Jimmy Crute picking up the submission win in this bout. The fight will go Over 1.5 rounds (-105), but end inside the 15 minute time limit (-300).

Jimmy Crute vs. Jamahal Hill –Crute (-160)

Over 1.5 Rounds (-105)

Fight ends inside the distance (-300)

Crute wins inside the distance (+105)

Crute wins via submission (+250)

Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos

  • Clay Guida (+165)
  • Leonardo Santos (-190)
  • Over (-180)/Under (+150) 2.5 rounds

What can we say about Clay Guida that hasn’t already been said numerous times over?

Guida is an ageless wonder as he’s approaching 40 years old and still competes at a high level in the UFC. “The Carpenter” will step into the octagon this weekend for the 32nd time in his career and has a 16-15 record in the promotion.

Speaking of his age, Guida talked about turning 40 in a week but feeling like he’s just 20 years old:

“We’re going to show him, I forget what movie it is: ‘They get older, and I stay the same age.’ He’s quite a bit older than me, and we’re going to make him feel that way in there. I’ll be 40 in a week, and I feel like I’m going on 20. I’m in better shape now than when I was 25, and I feel like every time I look out my window at the hotel I see Mandalay Bay where we made our UFC debut back in 2006 at UFC 64. It’s just a constant reminder we have a lot more in our gas tank and our reserve tank.”

Guida is 1-3 in his last four UFC fights and is coming off a close split decision loss to Mark O. Madsen in August. He last won in February by defeating Michael Johnson via decision.

20 of his 36 pro wins have come via stoppage with 13 by way of submission. He’s 15-8 when going the distance.

Despite turning 40 years old, Guida is actually younger than his opponent Leonardo Santos who is 41, but didn’t join the UFC until June 2013. Since then, he’s gone 7-1-1 inside the octagon.

Santos lost in March 2021 via 3rd round KO with just one second left in the contest. The loss snapped a 13 fight winning streak.

Santos is honored to share the octagon with Guida and is confident that he will walk out of the cage with the win:

“It’s gonna be an honor to share the octagon with him. At the beginning, I was just a one-dimensional jiu-jitsu fighter but Aldo, B.J. Penn and Georges St-Pierre helped advise me to be a complete fighter, and I trained hard to improve my stand-up. Today, I feel comfortable in any area and I’m going to show that once again against Guida.”

Despite improving his striking skills, Santos is better off taking this fight to the mat where his jiu-jitsu is better than Guida’s. With that said, I feel that both men know what they’re facing on Saturday and they will successfully nullify the other’s strengths.

That means we should see this battle of 40 year old fighters go the Over 2.5 rounds (-180) and the full 15 minutes (-160).

As for the winner, I’m taking Clay Guida via split decision. I believe he will outstrike Santos to score more points with the judges, while holding his own on the mat.

Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos –Guida (+165)

Over 2.5 rounds (-180)

Fight goes the full 15 minutes (-160)

Guida wins via decision (+250)

Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev

  • Brad Riddell (-105)
  • Rafael Fiziev (-115)
  • Over (-220)/Under (+180) 2.5 rounds

Other than Barberena, this is the fight I’m the most excited about for the entire UFC event. This co-featured matchup is a battle of Top 14 lightweights as #12 Brad Riddell takes on #14 Rafael Fiziev. This bout also has the closest odds for the entire main card of UFC Vegas 44.

Brad Riddell comes into this matchup as the slight underdog. The New Zealander has won seven fights in a row including going 4-0 in the UFC.

He debuted with the promotion 26 months ago and has won all four fights via decision. Riddell has defeated Jamie Mullarkey, Magomed Mustafaev, Alex da Silva Coelho and Drew Dober. His most recent fight was in June when he picked up a big win over Dober.

What also makes this weekend’s co-main event more intriguing is that the two men are friends outside of the cage. Fiziev believes that they could become even better friends after their fight on Saturday night:

“We’re like friends, still. We just will go to the cage. We’ll hug. We’ll make money. We’ll make business because sometimes we can’t say no in this business, and after the cage, after the fight, we’re again friends – maybe more friends, because men, after a fight, are always more close.”

The bout between the friends was initiated by Riddell who shared his thoughts behind this fight:

“Obviously, we both had the intention of getting to like, you know, the top five, so we thought that we’d bump into each other, maybe in the top five a bit later or something like that, but there wasn’t too much of an option other than to accept this fight. So, yeah, I mean, everybody knows now that I just gave him a call, and we had a talk and decided to fight. So, yeah – full steam ahead.”

Five of Riddell’s 10 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s also 5-0 when going the distance. His lone loss was a submission defeat in July 2018.

Fiziev is also 10-1, but nine of his 10 wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 3-0 when going the distance. His lone loss was via TKO/KO to Magomed Mustafaev in April 2019. Riddell would beat Mustafaev 10 months later.

Fiziev’s loss to Mustafaev was in his UFC debut. Since then, he has gone on to win four straight bouts with victories over Alex White, Marc Diakiese, Renato Carneiro and most recently Bobby Green. Three of those four wins were via decision.

These two men are evenly matched on paper, in the octagon, and with the sportsbooks. To me, that means we will get a close battle that goes Over 2.5 rounds (-220) and the full 15 minutes (-185).

This really is going to be a tough fight to predict. Both men are such skilled strikers that we should see fireworks in the co-main event. In fact, this bout is my prediction for fight of the night.

I can’t find any clear advantages that would make me lean towards one man over the other. So, I’m taking out my trusty quarter and flipping it to see who wins. Heads is Riddell and Tails is Fiziev.

And, with the flip, it landed on heads which is Brad Riddell. So, I’m taking Riddell to win this fight in what will be a bloody war for 15 action-packed minutes.

Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev –Riddell (-105)

Over 2.5 rounds (-220)

Fight goes the distance (-185)

Riddell wins via decision (+190)

Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo

  • Rob Font (-150)
  • Jose Aldo (+130)
  • Over (-145)/Under (+115) 4.5 rounds

The main event of the night is a Top 5 bantamweight battle between the legendary Jose Aldo who’s ranked 5th and the highly talented Rob Font who’s ranked 4th.

Aldo comes in as the underdog but has won two fights in a row after dropped three straight bouts to Alexander Volkanovski, Marlon Moraes and Petr Yan. The fight against Yan was for the vacant bantamweight belt.

In his two wins, Aldo beat Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz via decision. He last fought in August when he beat Munhoz at UFC 265.

Some days, I can still hear Aldo’s leg kicks against Urijah Faber when they fought at the old Arco Arena here in my hometown of Sacramento. That fight took place in 2010 and Aldo is still going strong.

When dropped three bouts in a row and six of nine, many critics were calling for Jose to retire. But, Aldo kept plugging away and dropped down to bantamweight where he’s gone 2-1 so far.

18 of his 30 pro wins have come via stoppage with 17 by way of TKO/KO. He’s 12-2 when going the distance. Currently, “Junior” is 12-6 inside the octagon.

At 35 years old and a lot of wear and tear on the body, Aldo is not going to stop fighting until he becomes champion again and as long as he is still fighting at a high level:

 “I want to continue doing this, and I’m not going to stop until I get this title, and I’m going to continue fighting in this high level. Now the division is a little bit weird, right, so I think that if I win this fight, I’m not going to the title right away. I think that I have one more stop before going to the title.

Rob Font has been with the UFC since the summer of 2014 and has compiled a 9-3 record inside the octagon. However, one of those losses was to Pedro Munhoz in October 2017. Font commented on Aldo’s win over Pedro and also took a shot at Jose’s critics:

“Main event, obviously former champion, but it’s a little different with the experience he has, how durable he is. The guy’s been around forever. You know, people are crazy to say he’s old. He’s only 35 years old. He has a lot more wear and tear on him than I do, but he’s right there. He’s put together two back-to-back wins. He’s beat, obviously, Pedro Munhoz, a guy I’ve lost to, so he’s he’s looking sharp.”

Font enters this weekend’s main event having won four straight fights since his 3rd UFC loss which came against Raphael Assuncao in July 2018.

Font beat Sergio Pettis, Ricky Simon, Marlon Moraes and Cody Garbrandt. That’s an impressive list of wins especially the 1st round TKO victory over Moraes. His last bout was in May where he beat Garbrandt via decision in a five round contest.

This weekend’s main event will also be 5 rounds, which means we should see plenty of action. 12 of his 19 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of TKO/KO. He’s 7-3 when going the distance. His lone stoppage defeat was via submission and that was against Munhoz.

Let’s start with the obvious choices, this fight will go Over 4.5 rounds (-145) and the full 25 minutes (-135). Font has gone the distance in four of his last five bouts. Aldo has also gone the distance in four of his last five fights.

With that said, I also like the prop bet that this fight will start round 5 at -165 odds. Aldo has gone into the 5th round eight times in his career.

This fight is going to come down to Font’s pace versus Aldo’s gas tank. I believe Aldo turned back the clock in his bout against Munhoz and I see another impressive throwback performance this weekend.

Aldo is the better boxer and kickboxer in this matchup. He has the chin and toughness to withstand Font’s power and will also defend the takedown.

I see Aldo using his leg kicks, which will be the difference in this fight, to pick apart Font and pick up another big win. I’m taking Jose Aldo to win via unanimous decision as he wins three of the five rounds.

Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo –Aldo (+130)

Over 4.5 rounds (-145)

Fight goes the distance (-135)

Aldo wins via decision (+250)

Fight starts round 5 (-165)

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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