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Khabib’s Boys Headline UFC 272 Early Prelims

Mixed Slate Pits Various Stylistic Matchups

UFC 272 Early Prelim Picks

After some lackluster events, the UFC has stacked UFC 272 beginning with the early prelims. Four matchups pit Americans against Europeans, headlined by two of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s disciples. As expected, they are favorites on the UFC betting lines, opening room for an upset or two.

  • Date: March 5, 10 p.m. ET
  • Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV
  • Watch on: ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass

Brian Kelleher vs Umar Nurmagomedov

  • Moneyline: Brian Keller +450, Umar Nurmagomedov -700
  • Round Totals: Over 2½ (-140), Under 2½ (+110)
  • Weight Class (Rounds): Featherweight (145 lbs) (3 Rounds)

The cousin of the great Khabib Nurmagomedov himself, Umar is sometimes seen as a 145-pound version of him and fights like him to a degree: with suffocating wrestling. Nurmagomedov (13-0-0) is unbeaten and easily dispatched of his debut opponent (as a -540 favorite no less) in a manner similar to Khabib’s last fight.

Khabib’s Boys Headline UFC 272 Early Prelims
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images/AFP

Now, Nurmagomedov gets longtime UFC veteran Brian Kelleher and is an even bigger favorite. Kelleher (24-12-0) is on a two-fight win streak and fought in January. He’s ready to pull off the upset. But his wrestling is not at Nurmagomedov’s level and he will get out-grappled like he did against Ricky Simon. But we can’t lay that kind of juice on Nurmagomedov. Instead, the over 2½ rounds may be a better alternative.

Pick: Over 2½ (-140)

Tim Elliott vs Tagir Ulanbekov

  • Moneyline: Tim Elliott +175, Tagir Ulanbekov -220
  • Round Totals: Over 2½ (-160), Under 2½ (+130)
  • Weight Class (Rounds): Flyweight (125 lbs) (3 Rounds)

Right before Nurmagomedov steps into the octagon, Khabib’s other protege sets the stage: Tagir Ulanbekov takes on Tim Elliott. But unlike Umar’s bout, this one may be a tougher test. Ulanbekov (13-1-0) is not quite on the same level as Umar or Khabib in terms of grappling and his striking is nothing special, either.

On the flip side, Elliott (17-12-1) is one of the top gatekeepers of the division. Even with that record, he has fought champions and title contenders. You don’t get past Elliott unless you are a top-10 fighter and we’re not so sure Ulanbekov is one given his lackluster fights in the UFC so far. Bet online on Elliott is to edge this one or pass.

Pick: Tim Elliott +175

Devonte Smith vs Ludovit Klein

  • Moneyline: Ludovit Klein +135, Devonte Smith -165
  • Round Totals: Over 1½ (-140), Under 1½ (+110)
  • Weight Class (Rounds): Lightweight (155 lbs) (3 Rounds)

Devonte Smith and Ludovit Klein should combine for one of the most exciting fights of the evening. Get this: All of Smith’s (11-3-0) fights have ended in a finish, including all five of his UFC bouts. He is a prolific striker who can dish it but can’t quite take it. Klein has some value as an underdog here.

Klein (17-4-0) is coming off two losses, though Smith is not the type of grinder that will wear him down. Smith will stand in the pocket and exchange with Klein. We will see someone get rocked and finished before the third round. We give the edge to Smith, and for online sports betting purposes, bet on it to happen within the first half of the fight.

Pick: Under 1½ (+110)

Michal Oleksieczuk vs Dustin Jacoby

  • Moneyline: Michal Oleksiejczuk +155, Dustin Jacoby -190
  • Round Totals: Over 2½ (Ev), Under 2½ (-130)
  • Weight Class (Rounds): Light Heavyweight (205 lbs) (3 Rounds)

Kicking UFC 272 off is a no-nonsense fight between big-boy brawlers. Dustin Jacoby is one of the best-kept secrets in the UFC — is 4-0-1 and a prolific striker. Michal Oleksiejczuk is a boxer who has the edge in knockout power here. However, Jacoby (16-5-1) won’t be a sitting duck for Oleksiejczuk (16-4-0) to finish.

Skill-for-skill, Jacoby is the better fighter and has a more diverse arsenal. If he can survive Ion Cutelaba, he’ll be good enough to go around Oleksiejczuk, whom he should beat by a decision. Jacoby to win by points is +210, which could be the best UFC bet in this fight.

Pick: Dustin Jacoby -190

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