Image courtesy UFC
Betting Tips for UFC 219
UFC 219, which is scheduled for December 30 in Las Vegas, Nevada, will go down as the last UFC pay-per-view of 2017. As is customary for end-of-year cards of this sort, it’s likely to be stacked to the edges with big-name UFC talent.
At the moment, this 2017 bookend card is only starting to come together. That said, there are already some very exciting fights on the bill to look forward to, and plenty of betting action to begin considering.
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With rumours of McGregor Vs Ferguson title fight on the cards (as yet unconfirmed) we thought we’d offer our thoughts on betting odds for these tough fighters.
Here’s a rundown of the UFC 219 lineup as it stands thus far:
Main Event: TBA
Carlos Condit vs. Neil Magny (Odds TBA)
Last month, we learned that all-action UFC welterweight contender Carlos Condit (30-10) had decided against retirement in favor of a return to the cage. Now, the details of his return are set in stone (though he won’t be fighting any of the opponents we suggested).
Condit will be welcomed back to the Octagon by long-time contender Neil Magny (19-6). While Magny is not exactly the kind of blood-and-guts matchup fans were craving for Condit’s return, he should provide a very clear indication of where Condit stands at this juncture of his career.
So, how does this fight unfold?
Well, in many ways, Magny is milder version of Condit. A Diet Condit, if you will. This is not to suggest he’s a worse version of Condit, simply that he’s a safer, more risk-averse version.
Like Condit, he’s a long, rangy striker. Like Condit, he has struggled with strong wrestlers and jiu jitsu players. Like Condit, he’s dangerous off his back when taken down. Like Condit, he’s got a solid chin, a near bottomless gas tank, and plenty of heart.
The main difference between Magny and Condit is that, where Magny favors a measured, strategic approach, Condit tends to fight with the unpredictability and aggression of a rabid timber wolf. Given this fact, it seems likely to me that Condit will expose Magny to a level of violence he’s simply not prepared for; a hellish world of slicing elbows, spinning back fists, flying knees and more…
Then again, it’s also possible that Magny’s commendable combination patience and ring craft pays off; that he’s able to keep his cool in the caged-hell that is a Carlos Condit fight, pick his shots, work takedowns as needed, and simply fight a better fight than his wild opponent.
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Will it be Carlos Condit’s ferocity and unpredictability, or Magny’s strategy and composure?
Think hard about the outcome you favor, and bet accordingly.
Gokhan Saki vs. Khalil Rountree
One of the most compelling features of the UFC 219 lineup will be the sophomore UFC bout of kickboxing transplant Gokhan Saki (1-1).
Saki recently debuted in the UFC light heavyweight division with a first-round thumping of Brazil’s Henrique da Silva. While he managed to produce the knockout, however, he almost went down chasing it, as he absorbed a good deal of punishment after gassing badly just minutes into the fight. Expending energy the way he did was a grievous error, and one he can not afford to make against an opponent like Khalil Rountree (6-2), who he fights at 219.
Rountree, after all, is an absolutely destructive puncher, as he proved without doubt with his two recent first-round executions of Daniel Jolly and Paul Craig. If he can find Saki’s chin with a fist – or even a shin – he could easily remove his batteries.
Yet do not expect Saki to make the same mistakes he made against da Silva in this fight. While he is relatively green in MMA, he is experienced as hell in the larger combat sports arena, and as such, we can expect him to correct the mistakes he made in his Octagon debut.
All that being said, however, he’s got a whole lot more to worry about than gassing out and getting tagged. Though Rountree is fully capable on the feet, he might well opt to avoid a firefight with Saki in favor of an easier path to victory on the mat. If this is the case, we can expect Rountree to shoot for takedowns early and often, which means this fight could come down to Saki’s takedown defense.
While anything can happen in MMA, it seems that there are really two key questions in this fight. One: is Rountree sharp enough on the feet to endure a prolonged stand-up fight with Saki? And two: will Saki’s takedown defense hold up if Rountree decides he wants to grapple?
It’s difficult to answer either question at this point, which means the odds for this fight, when they’re released, should be pretty close.
UPDATE! Lightweight Bout: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza (Odds TBA)
Barring a fight between Demian Maia and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect example of the timeless grappler vs. striker narrative than this UFC 219 bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0) and Edson Barboza (19-4).
Nurmagomedov, after all, good be the best grappler in MMA today, while Barboza stands out as one of the deadliest strikers in the game. Sure, Nurmagomedov’s stand-up is always improving, and Barboza is plenty capable on the mat, but what we have here is undeniably a fight between two dangerous specialists.
Given this fact, there would seem to be two clear possibilities in this fight. Either Nurmagomedov gets Barboza to the mat, where he beats him up to a stoppage or lopsided decision, or he gets knocked senseless as he works for the takedown. When the odds for this fight are released, they will probably suggest the former outcome is more likely.
Nurmagomedov’s near-certain status as this fight’s betting favorite can be attributed to the fact that he’s been able to ragdoll pretty much everyone that he’s stepped into the cage with, from Abel Trujillo to Rafael dos Anjos, to Michael Johnson. His track record suggests he should be able to replicate this success against Barboza.
Then again, we did see Nurmagomedov get tagged several times in his recent bout with Johnson. It’s very possible that Barboza is able to land on Nurmagomedov too, and knock him out before the grappling exchanges even become an issue. We know, after all, that the Brazilian striker has some absolutely impeccable timing – as evidenced by his highlight reel knockouts of Terry Etim and more recently, Beneil Dariush.
All this to say that while Nurmagomedov is certainly the safer bet, Barboza is as live as underdogs come. Either way, the stakes of this fight assure we’ll be seeing the best versions of each fighter yet. The winner, after all, might just be the next man in line for a lightweight title shot.
UPDATE! Welterweight Bout: Kamaru Usman vs. Emil Meek (Odds TBA)
Throughout the last week of October, Kamaru Usman was adamant that his UFC 219 fight with Norway’s Emil Meek was in jeopardy, and that the UFC was working on booking Colby Covington as his replacement opponent. After speaking to both Covington and Meek, however, our own Tom Taylor was able to confirm that the originally planned Usman vs. Meek fight is still on.
Usman is insisting UFC offered him Covington, but Covington tells me this is BS, and Meek tells me the Usman fight is 100% still on…
— Tom Taylor (@TomTayMMA) October 31, 2017
So who wins this clash of red-hot welterweight contenders? Well, the oddsmakers will surely peg the Usman as the favorite, though it’s hard to say just how much stock they’ll put in him.
The reason for this, first and foremost, is that Usman could well be the best wrestler in the welterweight division. He’s got the kind of grappling toolkit that could spell disaster for even the most experienced welterweights, let alone a rising contender like Meek who has not yet been exposed to a truly skilled American wrestler. Not only that, but Usman’s striking has also been improving. It looked fantastic in his decision defeat of Warlley Alves, and downright deadly in his recent first-round drubbing of Sergio Moraes. Needless to say, he’s got the technical tools to make Meek’s life miserable.
Then again, Meek is a wild man. Though he’s technically solid on the feet and on the mat, I would argue that one of his biggest strengths is his ferocity – ferocity that was all full display in his recent defeat of the much more experienced Jordan Mein. True to his Norwegian roots, Emil Meek is a Viking, through and through, which means that his fights are full of intangibles that make betting on his opponent a very uncomfortable experience.
The safe pick here is Usman. When considering your betting options for this fight, however, ask yourself if you really want to wager against a fighter who is possesses both limitless confidence and some truly wolfish killer instinct.
Dominick Cruz vs. Jimmie Rivera (Odds TBA)
Dominic Cruz is now OUT of UFC 219 due to a broken arm.
One of the most compelling fights on the UFC 219 bill will occur in the 135-pound bantamweight division, where Dominick Cruz (22-2) will take on Jimmie Rivera (21-1).
Cruz, who is arguably the greatest bantamweight to ever compete in MMA, has not fought since December of 2016, when he was upset Cody Garbrandt. This loss marked the end of his reign as UFC bantamweight champion. Against Rivera, he’ll be looking to return to the win column, and simultaneously assert himself as the next man in line for the winner of Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw’s UFC 217 title fight.
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Rivera will also be looking to assert himself as the next bantamweight title challenger. Where Cruz is riding a loss, however, Rivera is riding a jaw-dropping 20-fight win-streak, the most recent of which have come against top-flight foes in Marcus Brimage, Pedro Munhoz, Iuri Alcantara, Urijah Faber and Thomas Almeida.
So, who wins this clash of top bantamweight contenders? When the odds are released, they’re likely to suggest a Cruz win, but don’t discount Rivera.
Though Cruz’s herky-jerky movement has confused a long procession of fighters in the past, people seem to be figuring it out. TJ Dillashaw very nearly defeated Cruz back in January of 2016. Then, in December, Cody Garbrandt succeeded in doing so. While Rivera isn’t quite on the level of Dillashaw or Garbrandt, he’s more than capable of emulating their success against Cruz. Furthermore, he’s got far more power than the 15 decisions on his record would lead you to believe. Cruz will not be able to eat too many bombs from his rising foe.
The question, it would seem, comes down to whether or not Rivera can navigate Cruz’s erratic movement and get to work with his own blend of pressure, takedowns, and power shots. We’ll have to wait and see.
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza (odds TBA)
Cynthia Calvillo (6-0), who trains alongside monsters like Cody Garbrandt, Chad Mendes, Andre Fili and Urijah Faber at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, has quickly established herself as one of the UFC strawweight division’s most exciting contenders. At UFC 219, she will face the starkest test of her career in Carla Esparza (12-4).
In her last fight, Calvillo proved that she absolutely deserves a spot in the strawweight top-15 by dominating long-time Scottish contender Joanne Calderwood to a sound unanimous decision win. In Esparza, however, she faces a different animal altogether.
Esparza was the first-ever UFC strawweight champion – an honor she earned by submitting UFC 217 title challenger Rose Namajunas in the Ultimate Fighter 20 finale. Since her strawweight title win, she’s been hot and cold, first losing the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, then rebounding with a defeat of Julianna Lima, then losing to Randa Markos, and most recently rebounding with a defeat of Maryna Moroz. Despite the back-and-forth nature of her recent record, however, she remains one of the division’s premier players and perhaps its very best wrestler outright. Indeed, the dangerous combination of her experience and wrestling could spell disaster for the rising Calvillo.
Then again, Calvillo has already shown she is more than capable on the canvas. While Esparza will almost certainly give her some new looks on the mat, Calvillo is likely to put up a very good fight – and perhaps even win. The opening odds for this fight are likely to reflect the fact that it could go either way.
Louis Smolka vs. Matheus Nicolau (Odds TBA)
It is hard to say whether Louis Smolka (11-4) and Matheus Nicolau’s (12-1) flyweight bout will wind up on the UFC 219 main card, or be buried somewhere on the undercard. Either way, it’s likely to be a very fun fight.
Hawaii’s Smolka is undeniably the better-known of the two fighters, as he has already fought 9 times in the Octagon. In fact, there was a time not all that long ago when the Hawaiian seemed to be just a win or two shy of a shot at dominant divisional champion Demetrious Johnson.
Unfortunately, the wins over Richie Vaculik, Neil Seery, Paddy Holohan and Ben Nguyen that Smolka was riding at the time gave way to his current skid: a parade of losses to Brandon Moreno, Ray Borg and Tim Elliott. Now 0-3 in his last three, it’s possible that he will be fighting for his UFC contract at UFC 219.
Brazil’s Nicolau is in a very different situation. He’s won his last five fights, including his first two fights in the Octagon. With his last win, a decision defeat of John Moraga, he earned himself a big step up in competition, which led him to the struggling Smolka.
While oddsmakers might be swayed by Smolka’s big-stage experience when creating the line for this fight, keep in mind that Nicolau possesses both momentum, and a proven propensity for capitalising his foe’s mistakes, having earned four of his 12 wins by KO and four by submission.
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