Magomed Ankalaev is one of the lesser-known rising stars in mixed martial arts, but the No. 6-ranked light heavyweight hopes to change that Saturday when he faces former title-challenger Thiago Santos in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev. The main UFC fight card is set for 7 p.m. ET. Ankalaev has won seven fights since losing his UFC debut and owns a reputation for action-packed affairs. His profile will be raised in his first main event appearance against the fifth-ranked Santos, a former title-challenger who can stay in contention for another shot at the belt with a victory.
Ankalaev is a -450 favorite (risk $450 to win $100), while Santos is priced at +370 in the latest UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev odds from Caesars Sportsbook. In the co-main event, bantamweight contenders take center stage as No. 14-ranked Yadong Song (-240) meets former title-challenger Marlon Moraes (+200). Before settling any picks of your own for UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev, make sure you see the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to dissect the X’s and O’s of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000.
Gombas kicked off the 2022 UFC season in January by advising SportsLine members to back Calvin Kattar (+200) against Giga Chikadze (-240) in a battle of ranked featherweight contenders in the main event. Kattar dominated wire to wire to give Gombas’ followers an easy winner. Anyone who has followed him already has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev on deck, Gombas has studied the card from every angle and released his top MMA picks. Those UFC expert picks are available at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev preview
Ankalaev (16-1) has long been viewed as a potential title-contender since he joined the UFC in March 2018 with a 9-0 record. His resume includes a 5-0 run with four stoppages in the World Fighting Championship promotion.
The 29-year-old Russian fighter is known for his lethal striking, but he also has a strong background in Greco-Roman wrestling to rely on when his fights hit the floor. However, the prospect saw his profile take a temporary hit when he was submitted by veteran grappling specialist Paul Craig with one second remaining in his UFC debut.
Ankalaev has since reeled off seven consecutive victories while earning three performance bonuses in the process. But he has faced a relatively modest slate of opponents with the exception of Volkan Oezdemir, a veteran contender who is now ranked No. 8 in the division.
He should face a true litmus test from Santos (22-9), who has long been hailed as one of the best athletes the light heavyweight division has ever seen. He earned a title shot on the strength of a four-fight win streak, but suffered multiple injuries against Jones that caused an 18-month hiatus from the sport.
The 38-year-old Brazilian lost his first two fights upon his return, but regained some momentum behind a decision win over prospect Johnny Walker in October. You can only see who to pick here.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev predictions
We’ll share one of Gombas’ UFC Fight Night selections here: He is siding with Sodiq Yusuff (-240) to get past Alex Caceres (+200) in a matchup of explosive featherweight prospects.
Yusuff (11-2) is a versatile talent who immediately started climbing the ranks after earning his roster spot with a victory on “Dana White’s Contender Series” in July 2018. The 28-year-old Nigerian fighter won his first four UFC appearances before dropping a decision against fellow prospect Arnold Allen in April of last year.
Caceres (19-12-1) is an 11-year UFC veteran who has long been a viable competitor but has emerged as a ranked contender on the strength of a five-fight winning streak dating to July 2019. The 33-year-old Miami native won both of his fights in 2021, including a second-round submission of Seung Woo Choi in October.
“Yusuff is going to look to get in Caceres’ face and look for the knockout shot. Caceres likes to stay at range and land kicks. I believe that because of Yusuff’s pressure, Caceres won’t be able to set his feet and will be forced to fight off his back foot. I see Yusuff eventually finding the knockout blow,” Gombas told SportsLine.
How to make UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev picks
Gombas also has strong picks for Santos vs. Ankalaev and other fights on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing one fighter who is “dangerous on his feet.” Those UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Santos vs. Ankalaev? And which fighter is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Ankalaev odds, fight card
Magomed Ankalaev (-450) vs. Thiago Santos (+370)
Yadong Song (-240) vs. Marlon Moraes (+200)
Kamuela Kirk (-120) vs. Damon Jackson (+100)
Azamat Murzakanov (-175) vs. Tafon Nchuwki (+155)
Kris Moutinho (-150) vs. Guido Cannetti (+130)
Dalcha Lungiambula (-125) vs. Cody Brundage (+105)
Miranda Maverick (-280) vs. Sabina Mazo (+240)
Drew Dober (-200) vs. Terrance McKinney (+175)
Javid Basharat (-145) vs. Trevin Jones (+125)
Matthew Semelsberger (-250) vs. AJ Fletcher (+210)
Alex Pereira (-170) vs. Bruno Silva (+150)
Karl Roberson (-115) vs. Khalil Rountree (-105)
Sodiq Yusuff (-240) vs. Alex Caceres (+200)
Gillian Robertson (-135) vs. JJ Aldrich (+115)
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