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UFC on FOX 20 odds, gambling guide

It's fight night and you know what that means, another gambling preview of the fights, the odds, and my own personal break down of where the value lies.

As always, all stats come from FightMetric and all the odds are from Best Fight Odds. Net Value means how much money you would have made if you bet $100 on that fighter in every one of his/her fights that odds could be found for and is calculated using the closing odds for each fight.

Doubly as always, I'm just trying to provide the most thorough guide I can for those who want to legally bet or who just enjoy following along. I include the percentage probability so it is easier for you to say "Oh yeah, Holly Holm wins that fight 8 out of 10 times" and determine if you think there is value there. If you are a person who chooses to gamble, only do so legally, responsibly, and at your own risk. And now, onto the info.


The main event is a contest between two of the most decorated strikers in the UFC, and as such, we can probably expect it to be contested predominantly on the feet. Holm is predominantly an out fighter who relies on volume to rack up points. Though she made her name as a professional boxer, it is Holm's kicking game that is a threat on the feet. Holm lacks real pop in her hands when coming forward because she doesn't transition any weight into her shots, preferring to flick her punches out as set ups for her left kick. When fighting on the counter, she is much better at sitting down into her punches and landing hard shots then pivoting out of the engagement. Unfortunately for Holm, that won't really matter here.

Shevchenko is almost purely a counter fighter and will rarely initiate an engagement. While she is an excellent counter fighter, this can sometimes lead to a lack of activity which can cost her rounds, especially against someone like Holm who is often content to sit outside and throw an assortment of naked kicks which won't land but will fulfill the criteria of "aggression" in the eyes of the judges. However, when she does open up her offense it is likely better than Holm's. Her combinations are more organic and she hits much harder than Holm. She is also a good defensive fighter in her own right.

The clinch is probably a stalemate but could be a Shevchenko advantage. Holm is athletic and big for the division. and has good positional awareness in the clinch, but she provides no real offense and mostly just looks to disengage, whereas Shevchenko can go to work with knees and elbows from different angles as well as a tricky footsweep that can catch her opponents off guard. If Ronda Rousey couldn't maintain clinch position with Holm then I doubt Shevchenko will be able to for long, but in the brief periods they are there, she should be able to land the more meaningful offense.

Neither woman is a particularly skilled grappler and should it go to the ground, whoever ends up on top likely has the advantage. Both women have proven to be opportunistic takedown artists if something presents itself and it would be a good idea for both women to take some shots so as not to concede an entire avenue but I doubt there will be substantial ground work in this fight.

On the feet, I suspect this will be a mostly even contest with long stretches of relative inactivity. After a while of throwing naked hook kicks and stepping sidekicks, Holm will start to feel the urge to take runs in on Shevchenko. These are a hallmark of her game and resemble the bombing runs of Carlos Condit who comes forward with a planned combination and throws that series, almost always finishing with a kick to the body or midsection. Shevchenko is a veteran of 50+ Muay Thai/kickboxing bouts and these are her opportunities to land meaningful counter strikes. Holm's punches in these combos are mostly diversions and I expect Shevchenko will be able to step in and crack Holly. Think Condit-Lawler only with about a quarter of the pure unadulterated violence.

In summation, I view this fight as a virtual coin flip and the fact that Shevchenko is +180 seems like a lot of value to me. In a mostly striking match-up, I think Shevchenko will land the cleaner, more effective blows and will have the edge in the clinch as well. She also hits harder and is a better defensive fight. Moreover, Holm is almost 35 and at the end of her athletic prime whereas Shevchenko is just coming into hers; Shevchenko is the one I would expect to see more marked improvements from in this bout. Holm's size advantage and Shevchenko's penchant for starting slow, combined with the strategic counseling of better fight camp mean Holm could very well win this, but over five rounds I think Shevchenko should be at worst +100. That is 80 points of free value.


There was a time when Gilbert Melendez may well have been the best lightweight in the world but sadly, that time is no longer. Melendez is returning to the octagon after a one year suspension for a failed drug test and he's facing a former divisional prospect who looks to finally be making good on all of his promise.

In his earlier days, Melendez was a very aggressive fighter but as he's matured he's more likely to play at range behind a long jab while interspersing moments of aggression and countering when opponents step in on him. He also suffers from not having the most diverse arsenal of attacks on the feet, sticking mostly with the jab, left hook, and straight right and mixing in the occasional counter elbow (which he is very good at timing). His strength on the feet really comes from his versatility and his ability to fight moving forwards and backwards. This won't matter against Barboza because for him to have any chance of winning, it won't be accomplished by backing up.

Barboza is almost a pure out-fighter. He is a fantastic athlete with top level speed and good power. At range, he is one of the fiercest kickers in the UFC and he uses a lightning jab to keep distance effectively. He keeps a high pace and his combinations are thrown to hurt, making protracted standup battles with him something only a very select few fighters in the division should look to do.

Earlier in his career, fighters were able to have success by pressuring Barboza and forcing him to wilt in a firefight which is something the Melendez of old might be capable of doing. The problem here is that Melendez is coming off of a long layoff and has been showing signs of decline already, not to mention that Barboza looks to have improved his footwork and poise to prevent that type of thing happening anymore.

By today's standards, Melendez is probably a featherweight and facing a legit lightweight who is younger, faster, bigger, and more athletic than him. Though Melendez is a serviceable wrestler it is extremely unlikely that he will be able to get Barboza, who is an elite counter wrestler, down. I expect this fight to look a lot like the Melendez - Pettis fight where Gilbert pressures early but is stonewalled by the footwork and jabs of Barboza. Gilbert is still an elite fighter as best we know, and Barboza has been prone to inconsistency in the past so you never know what will happen, but the odds for this fight seem pretty spot on. Barboza by decision is +128 so if you think Gil is tough enough to stay in it for three rounds (he probably is) then maybe that is some action you can get in on if you're really looking for a bet.


This one won't get as thorough as a dissection because frankly, there isn't a whole lot to discuss here. Ngannou is the best heavyweight prospect in years and this is essentially a showcase fight for him. If MMA had a combine, Ngannou would score very well in all the tantalizing metrics. He has excellent size for the division, exceptional reach, he throws well in combination, and he throws with big time power. While still raw and improving, Ngannou has shown tremendous upside in his craft as well, improving his skill markedly between fights as well as showing in cage adaptability.

On the other side, Bojan Mihajlovic is making his UFC debut after amassing a 10 - 3 record on the regional circuit. He is predominantly a grappler who mostly just uses some awkward strikes to work his way into the clinch where uses body lock takedowns to get on top and employ some sturdy ground and pound.

I would be shocked if Ngannou lost this. He has an enormous size and skill advantage. Of Bojan's 10 wins, seven of them were against fighters with losing records. To say this is a step up in competition for him is drastically underselling the point. Bojan is not going to be able to take Ngannou down and his tendency to swarm forward with his head down is likely going to have him catch an uppercut on the way in that will end his night early. Having said all that, this is still heavyweight MMA and I personally would never feel that great about throwing my support behind a an unproven commodity like Ngannou despite the fact that I think he wins this fight 10 out of 10 times. If you're really trying to put action down on this fight, Ngannou by TKO is -185 which is more palatable but still, probably a pass for all but the most degenerate of gamblers.


This fight is a pretty classic case of prospect versus established veteran. Curran has only been fighting for three years and her game consists mostly of raw athleticism. Conversely, Herrig has been fighting professionally since 2009 and has the savvy and tricky grappling game that you would expect from vet in the game.

Herrig's strengths are her clinch work and active ground game. On the feet, she will throw but she lacks power and as you can see above, neither her volume nor defense are spectacular. On the floor, she is an above average grappler who sometimes foregoes position for submission which can hurt her against better scramblers. She also has a tendency to fade late in fights.

Curran is, in many ways, Paige VanZant lite. Her game is raw but promising and she relies heavily on her athleticism and pace. She doesn't have the ferocity of top position that VanZant has nor can she float on top as well but she is a decent takedown artist. On the feet she mixes her combinations well and throws a ton of them. In the clinch she is active with knees but can at times get caught being controlled when disengaging is her best option. She also likes the head an arm throw so many WMMA fighters use and that can get her into trouble against a scrambler like Herrig who took VanZant's back off such a throw.

In prospect vs. vet fights I tend to favor the prospect, especially with regards to WMMA where because of the relative newness of the divisions (as far as widespread viability goes) the veterans often aren't dramatically technically superior and are often significantly behind in the athleticism category. Here, Herrig is a plus athlete for the division but is still behind Curran in that regard and all other intangibles point to a Curran victory as well. She is younger and rapidly improving from fight to fight, while Herrig is mostly a finished product and has been out for over a year. Curran throws much more volume on the feet, is the superior wrestler, and should have an advantage in cardio as well. Herrig's offensive submission game is definitely a threat to Curran's haphazard grappling game but it seems much more likely that Curran is able to rack up points in every phase of the game while avoiding getting caught. The odds here seem mostly correct, though I think Curran should be somewhere in the neighborhood of -120. Still, that isn't enough of a discrepancy to feel like a value bet. On the prop bet tip, if you're feeling frisky but conservative you could always try Curran by decision at +165 (Herrig is quite durable, I can't see her getting stopped) and hedge it with Herrig by submission at +415 which seem like the 2 most likely outcomes.


If Frankie Saenz wasn't 35, he would be a great prospect. A former college wrestler, Saenz has good takedowns, a punishing clinch, and he's aggressive and active on the feet, throwing with intent if absent some polish. Saenz was giving Urijah Faber a good amount of trouble in their fight which proves he is a legit talent at 135.

On the other side, Wineland appears to be on the downswing of his career. Despite being younger than Saenz, Wineland started competing 13 years ago and it appears that all the wear and tear is catching up with him. He has fought just once in the last two years, a loss to Bryan Caraway. The Wineland of old had some of the best striking in the division and the excellent takedown defense to remain upright against most opponents. He employed a stinging jab and followed it up with a fierce right hand which could really thump people up. It was these tools that earned him the first round in his title shot against Renan Barao, and were he still that fighter, he would likely be favored here.

Honestly, the odds here feel a bit light for Wineland. He is over two years removed from his last win and his heart doesn't seem to be in it anymore. Meanwhile, Saenz has been pretty impressive in the UFC so far and his volume and pressure are likely going to result in him beating up Wineland. Barring Wineland suddenly turning back the clock despite coming off a year long layoff (and I believe working a full time job outside of fighting), this appears to be Saenz's first big win in the UFC, and I would have him closer to the -200 side of things, meaning I see some value in him.


This fight is the exact fight Darren Elkins has made a career out of: dynamic, action fighter vs. smothering grinder. Elkins is one of the UFC's foremost grinding wrestle-boxers. While not an especially potent wrestler, he is dogged in his pursuit of the takedown and once he forces a clinch, more often than not he will find a way to drag his opponent to the mat. On the feet he is somewhat hittable but he presses the action well and has good volume.

Pepey is the polar opposite of Elkins. If Elkins game is the endless erosion of running water, Pepey's game is the violent destruction of a lightning bolt. His game is dynamic and aggressive, throwing powerful strikes on the feet and exploding for submissions on the mat.

Darren Elkins is a gambler's dream because he wins the fights he is supposed to win and his odds are frequently depressed because his style and entire ethos is unassuming to the point that the public consistently underestimates his abilities. Diego Brandao closed as a -360 favorite over Elkins; looking back, doesn't that seem insane? This is the type of fight that seems tailor made for Elkins to do his thing and smother the dynamic Pepey over the course of three rounds. On the feet, Elkins is durable enough to survive the short powerful shots of Pepey and Pepey isn't a great defensive wrestler so Elkins will be able to get him down. Once on the floor, Pepey is active with submissions but catching Elkins is pretty much a pipe dream. The only man to ever do it was Charles Oliveira (maybe the division's most dangerous submission threat) and that was 6 years ago. I expect Elkins to win a very Elkins like decision and honestly believe he should be a bigger favorite here but that price will probably fall as Elkins will likely be a big parlay include. Also, Elkins by decision is +105. Darren Elkins has stopped one person in the UFC. Just saying.


This is a great fight. Usman is a legit prospect in the division and Yakovlev has the type of game to give him clear troubles. Usman, a former D-II national champion wrestler, is predominantly an explosive wrestler who has shown a good chain wrestling game and has proven to be a better MMA wrestler than even his pedigree would suggest. On top of that, Usman has complimented his takedown game with an emerging striking game based in good fundamentals and constantly threatening reactive shots which opens up more opportunities for his rangy, voluminous game.

Yakovlev is tall and rangy for the welterweight division with skills in all areas. He is predominantly a striker who prefers to work at range with a mixture of kicks and stepping right hands, though his low output is a concern. He's actually a pretty crafty at entering into boxing range but while there he is hittable. He's a very good defensive wrestler but when put on the floor he can be content to stay in bottom position.

Like I said, this is an interesting fight. Usman's wrestling is really the straw that stirs his drink so if Yakovlev can nullify that, it will be interesting to see how Usman is able to adapt. Still though, Usman is improving on the feet and his forward pressure, willingness to blend his attacks, and volume will have Yakovlev be far too defensive. Also, Yakovlev's footwork isn't exactly sharp enough to keep Usman from being able to force tie-ups and Usman's chain wrestling game may be good enough to get Yakovlev down. This fight is probably a little closer than the odds suggest but not so much so that it is egregious. Nothing here I'm super interested in.


In lieu of giving a full breakdown here, I will just say this, if we have learned anything this year it should be that betting on short notice fights is a fool's errand. By all accounts, Prazeres should win this fight but Cottrell has some key athletic advantages and short notice fights are a crap shoot. Stay away.


This looks to be a fun fight between talented prospects on the come up. Oliveira is a competent striker who throws with real power in his strikes. His grappling game is still a work in progress but he is a good clinch fighter, working knees and takedowns effectively. Moontasri is a Taekwondo specialist and thus really prefers to strike. He throws a plethora of exotic spinning and jumping techniques and has the solid takedown defense to complement his desire for kicking things.

If this fight is contested at kicking range then Moontasri has a pronounced advantage. However, he hasn't shown the elite-level distance management skills of other traditional martial art practitioners and so I expect Oliveira will be able to work his way into the clinch behind long strikes. From there he is the better wrestler and probably even has the advantage on the floor, especially if he is in top position. Ultimately, I like Oliveira to win the fight and think the odds are in a fair place, though perhaps skewed a mite too heavily towards "Cowboy."


Jason Knight has a funky and aggressive guard game which is fun to watch but likely won't serve him well here, partly because Alers is a good enough grappler to not get caught in any of Knight's rubber guard work but mostly because Alers is the much, much better wrestler and doesn't have to go to the ground unless it is to his advantage. Aler's stand-up game is nothing flashy but it is effective and will be doubly so against Knight who isn't a great technician on the feet. This fight seems to favor Alers pretty clearly and I think the odds are spot on.


I'll keep this one brief. No one should bet on this fight because you can have zero confidence in it. Smolyakov is a pedigreed wrestler with cleaner striking than Henrique but you can't glean a lot from the limited tape you can find on him. Meanwhile, Henrique is only 22 and has the potential for dramatic improvement while already being a better than average grappler. If Henrique gets on top, he is probably going to win but he isn't a great wrestler so whether he can do that is questionable. The general rule of "be extra careful when betting on heavyweight MMA" goes double for untested heavyweight prospects. Off the limited information available I would say Smolyakov is going to win but this is definitely a dog or pass situation and really, it's just a pass situation.


And there you have it. Enjoy the fights this evening and good luck to those who need it.


(Editor's note: All this advice is for entertainment purposes only.)

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