UFC 261 betting preview

It’s that time again. Yep, another UFC PPV event, this time around it’s the return of fans and it features 3 title fights. For any of you who like to have a flutter on fight night, I’m going to break down this week’s main card and let you know where I see the betting value.

 

Anthony (13/8) vs Jimmy Crute (1/2) – Light Heavyweight bout

For me, the bookies have got this one all wrong. This should be at least a coin flip when you compare these two guys’ professional fighting records. Smith is a vet who’s been in there with the best of the best. Yes he’s lost a fair few fights in recent years, but when you look at who his losses have come against, I think he can be excused. Since 2016 Smith has lost to Thiago Santos, Jon Jones, Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic. All of these guys are absolute killers. In that same time he’s managed to pick up impressive wins against the likes of Volkan Oezdemir and Alexander Gustafsson.

Now Crute on the other hand is for sure a top prospect. But until he proves otherwise, that’s all he is. Crute’s best win on paper is probably against Paul Craig, who with the best will in the world, doesn’t quite compare to those on his opponent’s list. As well as this, Crute is clearly a striker. But is he as good a striker as Teixeira and Santos? He could be, but he needs to prove it.

In terms of betting, the value is definitely with Smith in this one. Both fighters are BJJ black belts, so that would relatively limit the threat of a submission for either of them. An important factor for me is Crute’s octagon time. He’s only been out of the first round once in his UFC career. Unless he is an elite, elite striker, then he very well may have to go the distance with Smith, which I believe would be a huge disadvantage for the up and coming Crute.

Selection: Anthony Smith via decision

Odds – 5/1

 

Uriah Hall (evens) vs Chris Weidman (4/5) – Middleweight bout

This one has been priced up as a pick’em. Former middleweight champ, Chris Weidman, has had a rough few years since losing his crown. Since 2015 Weidman has entered the Octagon on 7 occasions losing 5 of which by knockout. This will be music to the ears of Uriah Hall who is a serious knockout artist with one of the most diverse striking skillset in the UFC. Just look at his spinning hook kick KO from his time on The Ultimate Fighter.

Weidman did look better in his last fight where he scored a bounce-back decision win against Omari Akhmedov after an unsuccessful attempt to transition to the light heavyweight division. On top of this Weidman does hold a TKO victory over Hall from their time prior to the UFC back in 2010. But lets just say a lot has changed in the world of professional MMA since then and since Weidman’s reign at the top of this weight class.

I’m siding with Hall here. I have serious doubts about the chin of Weidman who was subject to some really nasty knockouts in his last 7 fights. If you haven’t seen the finish from his bout against Yoel Romero at UFC205 then let’s just say it’s the type of shot that changes people. Hall is the kind of guy who throws a wide variety of strikes from all different angles that is really, really hard to prepare for. I think he may only need to land one big shot to end this one and move his winning streak to 4.

Selection: Uriah Hall via TKO/KO 

Odds – 21/10

 

(C) Valentina Shevchenko (1/4) vs Jessica Andrade (3/1) – Women’s Flyweight bout

Our first title fight of this stacked main card. Dominant 125lbs champion Valentina Shevchenko puts her strap on the line once more, This time against former 115lbs champion Andrade. I think this one is by far Shevchenko’s hardest test yet in this weight division. Andrade possesses serious punching power that Shevchenko won’t have seen at flyweight before.

Jessica Andrade earned this title shot after just 1 fight at this weight after stopping former title challenger Kathlyn Chookagian in the very first round with body shots. The fact that Andrade is practically walking straight into a title shot shows just how dominant Shevchenko has been at the top of this division since she won the vacant belt in 2018. Shevchenko is no slouch on the feet either, in fact, she is probably the better technical striker of these two. Her head kick KO of Jessica Eye is one of the most brutal finishes I’ve seen in this division.

I see Shevchenko approaching this one far more cautiously than she has had to in her most recent defences. She will want to neutralise any potential threat of Andrade landing that one big shot she would need to take the belt. I see Shevchenko staying on the outside and picking her shots carefully, much like Rose Namajunas did successfully for the most part of her rematch with Andrade last year. A cover bet of Andrade via TKO/KO at 6/1 may be worth a small stake as that’s the only way she can win this one and 6/1 presents good value.

Selection: Valentina Shevchenko via decision 

Odds – 11/8

 

(C) Zhang Weili 1/2 vs Rose Namajunas (13/8) – Women’s Strawweight bout

I can not wait for this fight. This has fight of the night written all over it. Zhang Weili returns after her all time classic war with Joanna Jedrzejczyk in which she defended her title via split decision. Rose Namajunas lost this very belt in 2019 as she was knocked out by Jessica Andrade when she was slammed on her head as she held on to a submission attempt. I suppose that one can be written off as a freak loss, especially as Rose came out victorious in the rematch last year and by all account had been dominating the fight up until that point.

Zhang Weili is a striker who hits hard and in high volume; throwing nasty elbows and knees from the clinch. I can’t stress enough how brutal her last fight was. She has rightfully taken a long time off to recover, but even so, it was the type of fight that not everyone comes back from. Well, at least not the same anyway. Prior to this she had captured the belt with a knockout of Adrade in the very first minute of her title challenge. There can be no doubts over just how good the champion is. Rose Namajunas has been priced up VERY generously. I personally feel like this one should be a coin flip. Rose has shocked the world before when she captured the belt from Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2017. She went into that one as an even bigger underdog than she does heading into this weekend, also winning as an underdog in their rematch. Amazingly, Rose is still relatively young in her pro MMA career with only 13 fights. This makes me feel like we are going to see an improved version of the former champ every time she takes to the stage.

Prior to her UFC title run, Rose was known as more of a submission orientated fighter. I recall her finishing all 3 of her opponents on The Ultimate Fighter by sub, as well as 5 of her pro wins. I think this is the path to victory for Rose here. I imagine the game plan will be to strike on the outside for a little while but ultimately take it to the ground and look to make the champ tap. She outranks Weili in terms of her BJJZhang Weili probably has the better stand up of the two, but she has been known to throw spinning attacks and big kicks which Rose may look to capitalise on by using them to get the fight to the ground. I’m personally not betting a lot on this fight, I have a feeling it could be an absolute classic. So my main advise would be to sit back and enjoy. Having said this, I do see the odds on the Rose submission win extremely generous and I will be on that.

Selection: Rose Namajunas vis submission

Odds – 8/1

 

(C) Kamaru Usman (1/4) vs Jorge Masvidal (11/4) – Welterweight bout

When a champion decisively beats a challenger and then defends their belt again, it is very unusual for them to then call out the guy who they decisively beat previously and hasn’t been in action since. But that’s exactly what Kamaru Usman did. These two previously met just last year when expected challenger Gilbert Burns tested positive for coronavirus on fight week and vet Jorge Masvidal stepped in. The fight was very one sided as two judges scored the fight 50-45 in the favour of Usman. However, Mavidal did only have 6 days to prepare and by all accounts had to endure a brutal weight cut. Allegedly Masvidal was training at the time, but there is a difference between training and a fight camp.

Usman has absolutely tore through the entire welterweight division since his UFC debut and is now onto facing challengers for the second time. He’s predominantly a wrestler, but since moving to Denver to work with world class striking coach Trevor Wittman, his hands have improved tenfold, specifically his jab that Gilbert Burns found too much to handle. However, Masvidal is not Gilbert Burns. Jorge Masvidal is an elite striker where as Burns is a grappler who can strike. I do think that even with a full training camp, the only way Masvidal can win this fight is if Usman tries to strike with him. I don’t think this is likely. Usman is not the sort of champion who would risk everything he’s worked for just to impress visually; and Wittman is not the sort of coach to let that happen.

I see this one going very much the same as the last time these guys met. Masvidal is as tough as they come and has good defensive BJJ which I believe should see him to the judges scorecards. I just feel the skill gap was too large in the first fight to be solely down to a fight camp. If Masvidal is going to win it’ll have to be early. The value for him to win may lie in a knockout before round 3. Usman is a fighter who really drains his opponents with constant pressure, meaning every round that passes by, only increases his chances of winning.

Selection: Kamaru Usman via decision 

Odds – 5/6

 

Tip of the card:

Kamaru Usman & Valentina Shevchenko both to win by decision – 3.35/1

 

If you’ve read this far, please listen to an MMA betting podcast I recently appeared on that goes more in depth looking at this weekends card –

https://player.fm/series/the-mma-movement-podcast/between-the-lines-ufc-261-betting-preview

Also available on all your other favourite podcasting sites like Spotify

 

 

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