A stacked UFC 257 slate first gets underway at 6:15 p.m. ET on Saturday (Jan. 23), with three fights planned for the early preliminary segment of the third event to take place so far in 2021.
Big favorites and close-run contests feature among our results predictions, with William Hill providing moneyline odds, round betting and over/under selections throughout.
Early Preliminary Card UFC 257 Jan 23
Andrew Sanchez (+120) vs. Makhmud Muradov (-140)
Prediction: Muradov via decision (+333)
Andrew Sanchez will serve as the latest litmus test for Makhmud Muradov, who has already given us plenty of hints he could figure among the UFC’s middleweight title talk before long.
Muradov (24-6) was the first mixed martial artist to sign with Floyd Mayweather as his manager, and it’s easy to see why the boxing legend’s company took an interest in the Uzbek sensation.
“Mach” has won his last 13 bouts and accumulated no fewer than 16 wins by knockout or TKO, most recently finishing Trevor Smith with a devastating right hook in December 2019. His failure to fight since then hasn’t been for a lack of trying after four of his fixtures were cancelled over the course of 2020, and there’s a hint of the beast ready to be unleashed when he goes up against Sanchez:
“El Dirte” holds the advantage in that regard, having collected his own TKO win over Wellington Truman the last time he fought in August. The betting line has actually fallen slightly in favor of +120 underdog Sanchez getting closer to the fight, but in our view, that only increases the appeal to back -140 favorite Muradov.
Crucially, Sanchez tends to leave himself open to at least some damage in his bouts despite being one of the more elusive middleweights. That’s where Mach could come into his own, as the European tends to swarm his targets once he senses blood in the water.
Well aware of his opponent’s knockout threat, Sanchez indicated his intention to utilise his ground skills and “drown” Muradov when he spoke to James Lynch of All Access MMA.
A Muradov KO is the shortest-priced outcome at +175, and while the 30-year-old looks certain to land, it’s very realistic to think Sanchez can dodge and take down enough to avoid fatal damage. El Dirte is the favorite if matters go to the judges, but the prediction is for Muradov to take that next step proving his pedigree and bag a decision of his own, which yields a nifty +333 price.
Movsar Evloev (-500) vs. Nik Lentz (+380)
Prediction: Evloev via decision (-150)
Not for the first time in his UFC career, Movsar Evloev will be the biggest favorite on Saturday for his fight opposite Nik Lentz, and the odds are only moving further in his favor.
Undefeated Evloev (13-0) is chasing a fourth win in the UFC after stepping in to face Lentz (30-11-2-1NC) as a replacement for Mike Grundy, whom he beat via unanimous decision in his last outing. The Russian has collected each of his UFC wins by those same means, and a repeat looks likely on Fight Island as he looks to move past a grizzled veteran in Lentz.
Moneyline odds of -500 don’t offer a great deal of bang for one’s buck, but there’s more to like about Evloev’s -150 decision price. This bout is also -225 to go the distance, which could be a more favorable pick as part of a parlay considering Lentz was already preparing for a grappling matchup in Grundy.
“The Carny” is a steep underdog at +380 moneyline odds, and it’s worth noting the fight will take place at a catchweight of 150lbs after Evloev came in on short notice. That could go one of two ways: Evloev’s will striking play a bigger role with less weight to cut, but Lentz may gain from the fact his opponent—a former M-1 Challenge bantamweight champion—is moving that much further outside his usual comfort zone.
Ultimately, we still expect the Russian to live up to his hype and keep proving his potential as one of the best rising talents at featherweight. The 26-year-old has formed a habit out of thriving over the full distance thus far in the UFC, with his game plan unlikely to shift against Lentz.
Amir Albazi (-110) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (-110)
Prediction: Albazi via submission (+550)
UFC 257 opens with a matchup between evenly matched Amir Albazi and Zhalgas Zhumagulov, one of whom will be forced to remain on an unlucky 13 wins following Saturday’s show.
That’s the number of victories each fighter currently has to their name, with the duo also level pegging at -110 moneyline odds to emerge as victor on Yas Island.
Originally scheduled to take place at UFC Vegas 15 in November, this bout was moved after Zhumagulov (13-4) failed to secure the right visas to travel. That’s one source of frustration that lit a fire under Albazi (13-1), who told LowKick MMA’s James Lynch about his motivations preparing for this fight:
The flyweight bout presents the typical stylistic matchup between brawler and submission specialist, with Zhumagulov being the power puncher of the pair. Albazi has never been finished in 14 fights while “Zhako” has never been submitted.
However, that’s no new task for “The Prince,” who proved his grappling grade by applying the triangle choke finish to Malcolm Gordon in July, handing a fellow ground combatant their first submission defeat.
Albazi’s +550 odds to rack up a ninth submission victory on Saturday look too tempting to pass up, especially after Zhumagulov looked tame in his UFC debut, a unanimous-decision loss to Raulian Paiva. Like Paiva, Albazi will boast the reach advantage here (a potentially pivotal two inches), with the edge firmly in his corner if he can get Zhumagulov to the ground.