Fighters Only’s UFC Raleigh preview is brought to you by 5Dimes.
Fresh off UFC 246, the promotion’s first pay-per-view of the decade, the UFC is headed to Raleigh, North Carolina on 25 January for an ESPN+ card filled with intriguing fights.
As always, Fighters Only will be giving you our picks for best bets and 5Dimes provide the odds.
But before that, make sure you take a look at our free MMA guide, created in partnership with 5Dimes.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Michael Chiesa
In a battle of two lightweights-turned-welterweights, Rafael dos Anjos vs. Michael Chiesa is one of the most interesting match ups on the UFC Raleigh card.
Dos Anjos, a former UFC lightweight title holder, made a successful transition to the 170-pound division. Making the transition in 2017, he racked up three wins over big names like former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny, and former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.
That landed the Brazilian a shot at the interim UFC welterweight title against Colby Covington, but he came up short and lost a decision.
Since that run of three big wins at welterweight, dos Anjos has lost three of his last four bouts. Following the Covington loss, he has suffered defeat to current UFC weleterweight champ Kamaru Usman and top contender Leon Edwards – both by decision – with a victory over Kevin Lee in between.
Chiesa hasn’t had such a longer run as a welterweight, but he has certainly seen success so far.
“Maverick” has notched two wins, with zero defeats, since moving up to a more comfortable weight class, submitting former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit and then getting a comfortable decision win against Diego Sanchez.
Both men are supremely skilled on the ground. Chiesa has 11 wins by submission in his 20-fight career (16-4), while dos Anjos is a renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with 10 of his 29 wins coming from submission (29-12).
On the feet, I feel dos Anjos has the more polished striking of the two, but he seems to have sacrificed some of his striking power now he’s fighting up in weight. Chiesa, meanwhile, has zero wins by knockout since beginning his MMA career in 2008.
With a knockout looking unlikely and respective ground games looking good enough to nullify each other, I feel the best bet for a fight like this is to have it going to the judges’ scorecards. 5Dimes has pretty good odds on that outcome, too.
Recommendation: Michael Chiesa and Rafael dos Anjos to go the distance – 2 units at -140 with 5Dimes
Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior dos Santos
Headlining the event, you have former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos (21-6) taking on up-and-comer Curtis Blaydes (12-2) in a classic matchup which could signal the cliched “changing of the guard” in the division of UFC’s big guys.
With a penchant for spectacular knockouts, Dos Santos announced his arrival on the UFC scene with a stunning knockout upset win against former UFC heavyweight king Fabricio Werdum back in 2008 – just his eighth professional bout.
The Brazilian racked up a further six wins before getting his title shot against champion Cain Velasquez. He took his opportunity, scoring a first-round KO to lift UFC heavyweight gold.
After defending his belt once against Frank Mir, he lost to Velasquez in a rematch, who reclaimed his belt. Dos Santos then defeated Mark Hunt, before losing to Velasquez once again in their rubber match.
That is indicative of Dos Santos’ career in the mid-2010s. “Cigano” traded one win for one loss in an nine-fight stretch from 2012 to 2018.
That last win in 2018, against Bruising Bulgarian Blagoy Ivanov, kickstarted a run of three wins for Dos Santos, which saw him also defeat Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis.
Dos Santos was finished inside the first round by Francis Ngannou last time round. Losing to a knockout artist like Ngannou aside, his previous run of form suggests the 35-year-old has plenty of miles left on the clock in a competitive heavyweight division.
Talented amateur wrestler Curtis Blaydes, a former NJCAA national champion, has impressed since beginning his UFC run less than four years ago.
Aside from losing to the aforementioned Ngannou twice – the first being on his UFC debut – Blaydes has won seven fights with one No Contest.
In that run, “Razor” defeated talented heavyweights such as Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt, Aleksei Oleinik and Shamil Abdurakhimov.
As he nears the cusp of a UFC heavyweight title shot, one more big win over a big name such as Dos Santos could see him get it over the line to be in contention for the belt.
Blaydes looks every bit of the talented heavyweight prospect we expected when he joined the UFC roster. However, Dos Santos has shown that he can shine when in the role of the underdog. I may have been slightly swayed by the 5Dimes odds, but I feel the Brazilian could get the upset victory.
Recommendation: Junior Dos Santos to win – 2 units at +240 with 5Dimes