Here’s an outsider we love in London

The UFC goes overseas to London’s O2 Arena for Saturday’s Fight Night card. The main event will pit heavyweight Tom Aspinall against Marcin Tybura. This will be Aspinall’s first fight since suffering a horrific knee injury in his fight against Curtis Blaydes this time last year. I’m excited to see if England’s heavyweight contender can pick up where he left off, as there are some very intriguing clashes awaiting him at the top of the division.

I’m always excited to see the fights in London. You can count on a loud and energetic atmosphere at the O2 Arena, whether it’s pay-per-event or a Fight Night card. It’s a fun crowd that shows up for its fighters, and having some of the biggest names in the region on the same map brings a different dynamic.

The most underrated benefit is the early start time. The first fight is scheduled for noon ET, with the main card starting at 3 p.m. If you’re like me and want to get some bloodshed early, there are a few live underdogs on the preliminary map worth checking out.

We’ve been able to grab early-line value over the past two weeks, and it paid off last Saturday when Alexander Munoz got the better of Carl Deaton III.

This week we look to the women’s bantamweight division as #4 Ketlen Vieira takes on #6 Pannie Kianzad as a -160 favorite at BetMGM. Here’s why I’m backing the underdog, and I expect the odds to diminish as we get closer to Saturday.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – APRIL 16: Pannie Kianzad of Iran reacts following the conclusion of her bantamweight bout against Lina Lansberg of Sweden during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Pannie Kianzad takes on Ketlen Vieira on Saturday in London. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Ketlen Vieira (-160) against Pannie Kianzad (+125)

Vieira (7-3 UFC) climbed the rankings after back-to-back wins over Holly Holm and Miesha Tate, only to be kicked out of title retention after dropping a decision to Raquel Pennington in January. The loss to Pennington was concerning on several levels. Vieira doesn’t have the fastest hands in the division, but she can make up for it against most opponents with her power. However, we don’t see Vieira’s aggressiveness that power-dependent fighters use tactically to give themselves the best chance of winning. Instead, Vieira starts slow offensively and finds herself in those lulls where she is all too happy to compete from distance.

Pennington has flaws like everyone else in the division, but she has that dog in her. Pennington fought with a lot more urgency and Vieira let her take the fight from him. A fighter of Vieira’s size and power should not be outgunned 22-8 in the clinch of the biggest fight of her career. Vieira’s lack of volume makes it difficult to control fights and win rounds. In 10 fights with the UFC, Vieira has edged only one opponent (Ashlee Evans-Smith). She’s 2-2 in her last four fights, and her wins over Tate and Holm aren’t as impressive as they initially seemed.

Kianzad (6-3 UFC) will take the center of the Octagon and make it a nasty fight for Vieira. She’ll put the pace on Vieira while looking to exploit him in the clinch, similar to how we saw with Pennington. Kianzad has a strong enough combat IQ to know that she needs to close the distance to minimize Vieira’s length and avoid being downed. Neither fighter will fare well with the other at the top, but I’m confident Kianzad can avoid that fate in a three-round fight. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Kianzad attacked the legs early, compromising Vieira’s ability to drive for those takedowns in an attempt to steal a close round late. Keep an eye out for when the odds of Kianzad winning by decision open up at BetMGM. Her last eight fights have all gone to the scorecards, and she hasn’t finished an opponent since 2014. She gets wins, almost always by decision, and I bet that’s exactly how this fight goes counts given Vieira’s recent form. We get a solid price at +125 for the fighter who has all the tools to exploit their opponent’s weakness. I’m going to bet on his aggressiveness to get him the green light. The bet: Pannie Kianzad (+125)

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