(Image via The Sports Geek)
I literally cannot overstate how excited I am to watch the fights this Saturday night. We have three (FUCKING THREE) title fights on the main card and a lot of other potentially exciting bouts leading up to that. Another reason to be excited for UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi (streaming on ESPN and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET) is that none of the championship fights have an overly heavy favorite. Most title fights you have a decent chance at seeing one guy at -400 or higher odds which makes finding a valuable bet really difficult. No favorite is even -300 in any of the 3 fights, and I don’t expect to see any of the 6 guys fighting outmatched in their fight. On a separate note, I think this a huge night for the future of the UFC. Dana White has fought and clawed to keep the UFC up and running during the pandemic and as quarantine restrictions have eased up; the UFC will resume their competition for viewership with all the other major sports leagues.
This is one of the UFC’s last big events before ESPN goes back to streaming the ZionCam 24/7, having the 3 title fights on Saturday was no coincidence. This is the UFC’s last attempt of the pandemic to turn sports fans who have nothing to watch into UFC fans. I don’t know exactly how well their doing on that mission, but I can tell you my interest and knowledge of the UFC has improved a ridiculous amount since we entered lockdown. Below I outline the three title fights in detail, give some thoughts about non-title fight betting plays, and a couple value parlays to win some serious KEESH 🤑. AFTR PRTY presents PRTY Favors, our definitive betting guide for major sporting events:
Usman vs Masdival for the Welterweight belt
This is the main event of the night and arguably the most interesting one. First of all, this was supposed to be No. 1 contender Gilbert Burns challenging Kamaru "Nightmare" Usman for the welterweight belt, until Burns tested positive for COVID-19. Jorge Masvidal was given just 6 days’ notice for this fight, so it makes sense why he’s hovering around a +190/+205 underdog. On Sunday, Masvidal was quoted saying he weighed 192 pounds...and welterweights fight at 170 lbs. He has 6 days to prepare for this fight AND lose 22 pounds, I can’t imagine he’s ready for what Usman can bring to the table. Masvidal can’t just be dismissed, he’s strong and has proven he has serious KO power. He has also proven that he tends to struggle against powerful wrestlers, which is exactly Usman’s M-O. Usman actually holds the record for least total amount of time in bottom position at only 2 fucking seconds. The only argument I could entertain in Masvidal’s favor is that Usman has been training for a smaller/shorter grappler in Gilbert Burns while Masvidal is a tall/long upright power-puncher. Still, you have to like the guy who got to have any camp at all. These are 2 older experienced fighters (Usman is 33, Masdival is 35), and I believe the one with better stamina will ultimately win by decision. Usman is known for his cardio, and I think he can wear down Masvidal while avoiding getting caught off guard and going lights out. So, I’m taking Usman to win at -240, but I’m going to have more than 1 play in this fight. Masvidal has never been finished in his entire career, and I think it would be an overly-risky play for Usman to try to do so. I will also be taking the over 4.5 rounds. Finally, I’ll be putting those 2 bets together and playing Usman wins by decision at +120.
Holloway vs Volkanovski Featherweight rematch
One of the things I tell myself when I sit down and make my UFC plays is that these matchups are set up by Dana White, and his sole purpose is to make the UFC money. Maybe that’s a cynical way of looking at it, but it can offer some perspective when analyzing a fight. This fight is one of those times where I think it can offer some great perspective. Max Holloway (21-5) hasn’t had a great last few fights, losing 2 of his last 3. The caveat is that those loses come from 2 of the best 3 fighters at the 145-pound mark. Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) is an experienced fighter at 31 years-old and is in great form, he hasn’t lost since 2013 (going 19-0 over that time). This isn’t the first time these two have squared off, Volkanovski took Holloway’s featherweight belt in a unanimous decision last December, and now Holloway has a chance to take it back. How awesome would it be to see Holloway win, then have a 3rd fight to see who the “ultimate” champ is? I have to imagine that that scenario gives Dana White a half-chub. I don’t think he would throw them back in the ring together unless there was a solid chance to get a huge pay-day on the potential “best 2 out of 3” fight. Part of the reason I think that is because Dustin Poirier should realistically be fighting Volkanovski for the belt. Poirier beat Holloway in early 2019 (the first of his two previously mentioned loses), and actually made an Instagram post with his prediction for who wins the fight:
Another reason I like Holloway is how he fights. He sizes you up in the first, begins poking and prodding in the second, and absolutely murders you in rounds 3-5. Volkanovski used his speed in their first fight to not let Holloway get into his rhythm and Holloway never got to the stage of beating the shit out of him. If Holloway can get into his rhythm he can win. Volkanovski still scares me and he has vowed to knock Holloway out within 5 rounds after Holloway made some comments about how he thought he actually won the first fight (he didn’t). I don’t really think this fight goes to decision, if you’re looking for some big value plays, I would take Volkanovski by KO/TKO in rounds 1-3 and/or Holloway by KO/TKO in rounds 4-5. I’m not going to place too heavy on this fight but I am going to play some decent plus money odds. I’m seeing Holloway’s ML in between +165/+175, and Under 4.5 rounds between +200/+205 and will be playing both of those
Yan and Aldo fight for Cejudo’s Bantamweight belt
Petr Yan (14-1) and Jose Aldo (28-6) will fight for the vacated bantamweight belt, previously owned by Henry Cejudo. Cejudo retired after TKO’ing Dominick Cruz a couple months ago, leaving the belt ripe for the taking. Cejudo was actually supposed to fight Aldo right before the pandemic hit, so he was instead asked to fight in this match. If you ask me, Aljamin Sterling got absolutely robbed by not being in this vacant title fight against Petr Yan.
Jose Aldo was a once great featherweight, his record of 7 successful featherweight title defenses is honestly disgusting (no other featherweight has more than 3). Unfortunately for Aldo, the end of his career has not been as impressive. Of his last 3 fights, he has won, lost, lost; and his most recent loss is his only bantamweight bout ever. At 33 years old, I just don’t think he has the gas anymore. Even though Aldo is probably the most polished boxer Yan
has seen, he loves his counter throws and can tire himself out as was shown in his fights with Max Holloway.
Now, onto Petr Yan. This dude is awesome to watch in the octagon; he can grapple, punch, or kick really well and applies constant pressure to his opponent. This bodes really well for the 27-year old as he gets an old Aldo who does not seem ready for the kicking/grappling Yan can execute. Yan has risen through the bantamweight for some time now, and is on a 9-fight win streak spanning about 4 years. Of his 14 wins, 6 have come by TKO/KO (or 43%). Winning this fight would be massive for Yan and it seems like they just threw Aldo in for the sake of name recognition. I really don’t see Aldo grabbing his first bantamweight W against someone like Petr Yan. I’m seeing Yan’s ML being offered between -200/-220; I’ll be playing that straight as well as using is as a parlay piece with Usman’s ML.
Petr Yan ML -210
Max Holloway ML +170
u4.5 rounds in Holloway vs Volkanovski
Kamaru Usman ML -240
o4.5 rounds in Usman vs Masdival
Usman to win by decision
Volkanovski wins in round 1(R1) +1200 / R2 +1300 / R3 +1500
-Holloway wins in R4 +3000 / R5 +3500
Volkan Oezdemir ML -150
Muslim Salikhov ML -150
Rose Namajunas ML -200
Petr Yan ML -210
Kamaru Usman ML -240
Petr Yan -210
Kamaru Usman -240
As more and more sports return look out for more PRTY Favors 🎰