The UFC returns to its home at the APEX centre in Vegas for UFC Vegas 71 where two of best heavyweights on the planet will clash in the main event.

Before Sergei Pavlovich and Curtis Blaydes meet, we’ll see a few of the UFC’s veterans return to the cage. Brad Tavares will return in the co-main, while Bobby Green will take on Jared Gordon just prior to that following Gordon’s wildly controversial defeat to Paddy Pimblett. TUF 30 winner, Mo Usman will be making his official UFC debut along with another TUF alum., Brogan Walker. Finally, we’ve also got a contender fight between Karol Rosa and Norma Dumont.

All of these matchups (plus more) are covered below and feature BLÜ’s predictions along with the Bet99 Sportsbook Odds, the official betting sponsor of the Area 51 Sports Network.

Main Card (4:00 PM PST)

Jeremiah Wells vs. Matt Semelsberger

BET99 Odds
Wells: -110 Semelsberger: -112

Over 1.5: -184 Under 1.5: +142

This matchup is a close one all the way around. They’re both well-rounded and they’ve both got some power in their hands. Semelsberger just had a convincing win over the talented striker, Jake Matthews. But there seems to be a trend in his performances as he struggles with strong grappling. While Wells has impressed with his knockout power lately, his real talent is the strength of his grappling. Semelsberger may be able to land a HUGE shot and grab the knockout, but the safer bet would be to rely on the grappling strength and pace of Wells to edge the decision.

BLÜ’s Prediction
Wells by Decision

Iasmin Lucindo vs. Brogan Walker

BET99 Odds
Lucindo: -350 Walker: +266

Over 2.5: -260 Under 2.5: +190

On paper, this is an easy one: Lucindo gets a dominant win. In reality though, there’s a bit more to it. Lucindo definitely has some great skill, but she will be moving up a division to fight Walker, who’s already a fairly large flyweight. With Walker’s size, I could certainly see Lucindo having some problems. That being said, Lucindo just seems to be WAY more skilled than Walker. It’s because of that skillset that I’ll give Lucindo the slight edge.

BLÜ’s Prediction
Lucindo by Decision

Bobby Green vs. Jared Gordon

BET99 Odds
Green: -267 Gordon: +210

Over 2.5: -275 Under 2.5: +210

Fresh off of a wildly controversial loss to Paddy Pimblett, Gordon is back against the veteran striker, Bobby Green. Based on what we saw in both of their last fights, Green is the clear choice. Gordon was clipped a couple of times by Paddy who, as may know, isn’t a great striker. Meanwhile, Green is an unbelievably crisp, quick striker, landing heavy shots on Drew Dober in his last fight. He was also able to shut down the grappling of Dober each time. Gordon has some good grappling, but Green should be able to shut it down and dominate Gordon on the feet. In fact, Green has a solid chance of grabbing a finish.

BLÜ’s Prediction
Green by Finish

Co-Main Event

Brad Tavares vs. Bruno Silva

BET99 Odds
Tavares: -163 Silva: +133

Over 2.5: +100 Under 2.5: -129

If this matchup were to have happened before Silva’s fight with Meerschaert, I’d have been going in that direction. Since then though, the gaps in his game have been exposed and Tavares seems to have a favourable style. Tavares is also WAY more experienced, clinging onto his top 15 spot for years while Silva hasn’t really grabbed that first big win yet. They’re fairly evenly matched so it should be close, but with all that in mind, I have a lot more faith in the skills and experience of Tavares.

BLÜ’s Prediction
Tavares by Decision

Main Event

Sergei Pavlovich vs. Curtis Blaydes

BET99 Odds
Pavlovich: +133 Blaydes: -163

Over 1.5: +116 Under 1.5: -150

In spite of what the odds say, I’m not convinced this matchup favours Blaydes at all. In fact, I’d say this is the worst case scenario for him. Blaydes has been knocked out multiple times by heavy hitters and always gets hit clean at some point. With Pavlovich, everyone who’s been hit clean has been knocked out immediately. That’s barely an exaggeration with Sergei grabbing ALL of his UFC wins in the 1st Round and his last two within the first minute of the fight. With Blaydes’ bad habit of getting hit, Sergei’s absurdly long reach and HUGE power, I’d be surprised if Blaydes didn’t get knocked out cold.

BLÜ’s Prediction
Pavlovich by Finish

BLU’s Prelim Picks (Prelims begin at 1:30 PM PST)

Batgerel Danaa vs. Brady Hiestand

BET99 Odds
Danaa: -145 Hiestand: +120

Over 2.5: +130 Under 2.5: -167

Since losing the TUF 29 finale by split decision to Ricky Turcios, Hiestand made his debut and managed to edge a decision win over Fernie Garcia. He showed some real durability after almost getting finished in the first 30 seconds of that fight, but Danaa is a different beast. He’s got some REAL power, grabbing three 1st Round finishes in the UFC so far. His last two were losses, but they were to some pretty tough fighters: Chris Gutierrez and Kyung Ho Kang. Hiestand is VERY tough and has some strong grappling, meaning he could very well get another decision win.

That being said, Hiestand has been clocked in both his fights and Danaa is a finisher; I think Danaa can get it done with another early finish.

BLÜ’s Prediction
Danaa by Finish

BLÜ’s Best Bets

Here I highlight some betting lines that you might want to take advantage of for UFC Vegas 71. These are odds that favour the bettor. Although some of them may conflict with my picks, they offer a fair reward for a slight bit of risk.

Norma Dumont at -120

I was actually fairly surprised at this betting line. Dumont has been looking great at featherweight, beating some pretty elite contenders. In fact, she just dominated a HUGE striker in Wolf in her last fight. Meanwhile, Rosa has been struggling against lesser opponents at 135. It seems like Dumont should be able to win this matchup fairly convincingly. At -120, I’m loving this betting line.

Junior Tafa at -116

Throughout Usman’s run on TUF 30, especially in the finale, he was struggling with his striking. He’s one to push the grappling more than anything. As for Tafa, he’s a Glory kickboxer. With all that striking experience for Tafa, this is a fairly clear mismatch on the feet. Since this is at heavyweight, these mismatches tend to lead to a finish, so I’d be confident putting money down on Tafa at even money like this.

The Underdog Sergei Pavlovich at +133

Not only is this a classic heavyweight betting scenario where we should bet the underdog in a close matchup, but we’ve also got the most dangerous knockout artist in the division, Pavlovich, going against a man who’s got a bad habit of getting caught. With that much time to work with, I’d be surprised if Pavlovich didn’t find the chin of Blaydes and get the finish.

Parlay Opportunities

The Short Run
Jackson + Green

The Long Run
Jackson + Lucindo + Green +Tavares