Six fights will feature on the preliminary card of UFC Vegas 16, which is set to kick off on December 5 at 7 p.m. ET (12 a.m. GMT)
AmericanGambler runs through each of those bouts with analysis, picks and betting predictions, complete with all the latest odds according to the major U.S. sportsbooks.
UFC Vegas 16 Betting Prediction: Preliminary Card Fights
Gian Villante vs. Jake Collier
Prediction: Collier via KO/TKO
Gian Villante will open the UFC Vegas 16 preliminaries against Jake Collier in a clash between veteran talents, not to mention the only heavyweight bout scheduled taking place on Saturday. And it’s far from the best advertisement for the division at that.
Villante (17-12) has lost four of his last 11 fights and suffered a submission defeat to Maurice Greene in his return to heavyweight back in June. Collier (11-5) was knocked out in less than a minute when he made his heavyweight debut against Tom Aspinall a month later, but in his defense, “The Prototype” was coming back from a hiatus of of almost three years against a very game opponent.
Despite that dismal record dating back to July 2015, Sugarhouse have Villante picked as a -225 moneyline favorite, but there’s not a great deal of belief he’ll live up to that billing.
Collier has never lost successive fights in his career and hopes to keep that particular trend alive come Saturday. Villante has suffered back-to-back losses and looks more vulnerable the longer his recent fights have lasted, giving +175 underdog Collier a big chance to spring the early upset.
Jordan Leavitt vs. Matt Wiman
Prediction: Leavitt via submission
These two fighters are at polar opposites in their career trajectories, with sky-high prospects in front of 7-0 Leavitt, still only just starting out at 25 years old, while Wiman—12 years his elder—looks to be heading for retirement and has only one win in his last four fights.
There isn’t much ambiguity to Leavitt’s tactics: He’s going to grapple. He’s going to go for a submission, and if his career to date is anything to go by, he’s probably going to get it. The rising star is the -400 pick with Pointsbet offers and odds after impressing in Dana White’s Contender Series, where he tapped Luke Flores with an arm triangle inside the first round.
The one thing working in Wiman’s favor is he’s never been submitted to date, but Leavitt—who boasts a four-inch reach advantage—looks that unique a grappling talent that we could well see that perfect run end on Saturday.
Jimmy Flick vs. Cody Durden
Prediction: Durden via KO/TKO
One underdog very much worth jumping on at UFC Vegas 16 is flyweight Cody Durden, whose price opposite Jimmy Flick looks like it could be the steal of the evening.
Both fighters will make their UFC debuts in Las Vegas, with Flick (15-5) earning his contract via Dana White’s Contender Series, but it’s Durden (11-2-1) whom many might have thought would be the frontrunner here. The latter is switching down to 125 pounds after fighting at bantamweight for much of his career, a move that promises to serve his overload approach well.
Durden is well worthy of attention as the +145 moneyline dog with BetMGM Offers a far more appealing price than the -182 odds offered on “The Brick.”
The extra size to his frame should help Durden stuff Flick’s takedown attempts in particular, by far the latter’s biggest threat considering 13 of his 15 career wins have come via submission. Durden is the more balanced fighter by contrast and has divided his 10 career finishes evenly between knockouts and submissions, giving him the major edge in terms of versatility.
The 29-year-old also trains out of a very respected camp under Dhiego Lima at American Top Team Atlanta, all the more reason to believe the sportsbooks may have misjudged their pricing here.
Ilia Topuria vs. Damon Jackson
Prediction: Jackson via submission
One of several underdogs on the preliminary card who look well capable of surprising the sportsbooks, Damon Jackson has a fine chance of handing Ilia Topuria the first loss of his career at UFC Vegas 16.
Jackson (18-3-1) submitted a respectable name in Mirsad Bektic back in September, while Topuria (9-0) got the unanimous decision over Youssef Zalal in his UFC debut one month later.
Despite that level playing field, Topuria is highly favored as -250 moneyline frontrunner with Sugarhouse for New Jersey customers, though that may be paying too much respect to the fact he’s yet to lose in his career. “The Leech,” on the other hand, has lost three times in his career, two of which were devastating knockouts against power strikers, while his first came at the hands of veteran Yancy Medeiros in his first UFC debut back in August 2014.
Jackson has been around the block and looks a much improved fighter for his troubles, persevering through his UFC release in 2016 and earning his way back into MMA’s elite circle.
Georgian-Spanish sensation Topuria looks impressive himself, but the 23-year-old is at a major deficit in experience and could rely too heavily on his ground work to get him through.
This matchup pits two submission specialists who have each collected the vast majority of their wins by tapping opponents, but Jackson has the tools and know-how to get this job done.
Gabriel Benitez vs. Justin Jaynes
Prediction: Jaynes via KO/TKO
Underdog supporters may be inclined to throw their weight behind Justin Jaynes when he faces Gabriel Benitez at UFC Vegas 16, a winnable matchup for “Guitar Hero” despite entering at +195 moneyline odds at William Hill USA.
It’s been a journey, believe in yourself ? UFC December 5 vs Gabriel Benitez #jaynestrained pic.twitter.com/l0qrjFU38p
— Justin Jaynes (@JustinJaynesMMA) November 23, 2020
Those odds look appealing for a man who’s 10-2 in his last 12 outings. Jaynes (16-5) most recently lost to a major talent in Gavin Tucker back in August, and he’ll take on another submission threat in Benitez (21-8), who opens as the -250 moneyline favorite. That being said, the fight is there to be won if Jaynes can keep things standing, particularly as Benitez looked far from his best when he returned to lightweight in a unanimous-decision loss to Omar Morales in May.
The transition back to 155 pounds was not kind to “Moggly,” who has lost four of his last seven bouts (two KOs, two decisions). Grappling is Benitez’s go-to method of fighting, but his last submission win came against Sam Sicilia in September 2016.
Underdog odds accounted for, Jaynes holds the upper hand as long as this fight stays standing, though he’s no slouch on the floor himself considering two of his last four wins were submissions.
Benitez should represent a step down in intensity compared to Tucker, with a turn-up for the sportsbooks on the cards in this one.
Louis Smolka vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez
Prediction: Quinonez via decision
Predictions won’t come much harder than this at UFC Vegas 16 as Louis Smolka looks to prove why he deserved the favorite tag for his clash opposite Jose Alberto Quinonez.
Calling the matchup close doesn’t do things justice, with Smolka the slightest of moneyline favorites at -137 with bet365, while Quinonez could surprise from just behind at +110.
There isn’t much to separate this pair as far as physical traits go either, with only half an inch’s reach difference running in favor of Quinonez, though that’s balanced out by the fact he’s an inch shorter. “El Teco” (8-4) is coming off the back of a disappointing TKO defeat to Sean O’Malley in March, but he can regain some swagger in the UFC bantamweight power rankings with a win Saturday.
Smolka (16-7) has won twice and lost twice in his second stint with the UFC. He most recently lost to Casey Kenney in May after succumbing to a guillotine choke, failing to back up a vicious TKO defeat of Ryan McDonald in September 2019:
SHARP STRIKES BY @LASTSAMURAIUFC SEAL THE DEAL #UFCVancouver pic.twitter.com/bAqkBVQmTe
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 14, 2019
The issue for “Da Last Samurai” is we haven’t seen that kind of proficient striking enough in his UFC outings, and a points fighter like Quinonez is well-placed to expose the holes in his game. The Mexican suffered one-sided losses to O’Malley (TKO) and Nathaniel Wood (submission) in the past 20 months, but Smolka won’t be close to the same output as that duo.
With that being the case, expect Quinonez to enforce the tempo in this clash and condemn Smolka to successive defeats as the underdog.