The first big fight weekend of 2018 is upon us, and with it comes MMA Fighting’s revamped gambling guide, covering everything worth knowing for all your betting needs. This weekend we’ve got a doubleheader on our hands with the UFC’s first PPV event of the year and one of Bellator’s stronger showings in recent memory.
UFC 220; TD Garden Arena in Boston, Massachusetts.
Stipe Miocic +145 (41%) vs. Francis Ngannou -175 (64%)
Daniel Cormier -335 (77%) vs. Volkan Oezdemir +255 (28%)
Calvin Kattar +170 (37%) vs. Shane Burgos -210 (68%)
Gian Villante -155 (61%) vs. Francimar Barroso +125 (44%)
Thomas Almeida -130 (57%) vs. Rob Font +100 (50%)
Kyle Bochniak +120 (45%) vs. Brandon Davis -150 (60%)
Sabah Homasi +165 (38%) vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan -205 (67%)
Dustin Ortiz +110 (48%) vs. Alexandre Pantoja -140 (58%)
Dan Ige +120 (45%) vs. Julio Arce -150 (60%)
Matt Bessette +185 (35%) vs. Enrique Barzola -235 (70%)
Islam Makhachev -260 (72%) vs. Gleison Tibau +200 (33%)
Bellator 192; The Forum in Inglewood, California
Quinton Jackson -175 (64%) vs. Chael Sonnen +145 (41%)
Douglas Lima +195 (34%) vs. Rory MacDonald -250 (71%)
Michael Chandler -305 (75%) vs. Goiti Yamauchi +235 (30%)
Georgi Karakhanyan -120 (55%) vs. Henry Corrales -110 (52%)
Aaron Pico -900 (90%) vs. Shane Kruchten +550 (15%)
Dustin Ortiz at +110
In the sleeper fight of the weekend, former TUF 24 one-seed Alexandre Pantoja looks to make it three in a row against perennial top-15 flyweight Dustin Ortiz.
Ortiz is primarily a scramble-based grappler but in his last few fights, including a 15-second knockout win in his last fight, Ortiz has appeared much more fluid and confident on the feet. It’s a good a development that could help him finally move into actual contender status.
Pantoja is a former a blue-chip prospect who has developed into a legitimate top-level fighter with skills everywhere and a dynamic grappling game. He particularly excels at taking and controlling the back, but he rarely forces grappling exchanges, being content to work a slower-paced, kick heavy game on the feet.
Though “gatekeeper” is considered negative, it’s hard to argue the term doesn’t apply to Ortiz, who has only lost to title challenger-level talent. The question is, is Pantoja a future top-5 fighter? Personally, I don’t think so. Pantoja is already 10 years into his career and mostly a finished product, whereas Ortiz is still showing signs of improvement. I think this fight is mostly a striking match, with Ortiz’s improving boxing game slightly outworking Pantoja over the course of 15 minutes. It’s a coin-flip fight, so the plus-money on Ortiz looks like good value to me.
Gleison Tibau at +200
in a compelling, if potentially dreadful bout, surging lightweight prospect Islam Makhachev takes on UFC mainstay Gleison Tibau to open up the proceedings for UFC 220.
Makhachev is the training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his game very closely resembles that of the man many view as the best 155-pound fighter on the planet. That’s high praise but Makhachev is worthy of it as he’s a very strong wrestler and top-control artist.
Unfortunately for Makhachev though, Tibau is the only fighter to have arguably beaten Nurmagomedov, and he poses the same difficult style matchup for Makhachev as he did for Khabib. Tibau is an enormous lightweight with well-rounded skills but his best attribute is his takedown defense. A skilled wrestler with imposing physicality, no fighter has been able to take him down more than once in his 26 UFC fights. That bodes ill for the Dagestani, who relies on takedowns to win. The major concern here for Tibau is that he is coming off a two-year USADA suspension, so ring rust could certainly be a factor.
Early on, I expect Makhachev will have some success, but as Tibau shakes off the rust, I think he will be able to stuff Makhachev’s shots and outwork him on the feet, while possibly landing a few takedowns of his own for good measure. At the minimum, this line is too wide, so I like the value on Tibau.
Quinton Jackson at -175
The main event for Bellator 192 pits former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson against “The American Gangster” Chael Sonnen in the opening fight of the 2018 Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.
With well-known commodities like these two, there doesn’t need to be a huge breakdown but I will say, I am genuinely shocked by this line. I know Rampage isn’t anywhere close to the fighter he used to be but it’s not like Sonnen is on a tear either. Both of these men are well past their primes and in any condition, I struggle to see Sonnen’s avenue of success here.
Sonnen is a pressure fighter who needs takedowns to win, and for all his foibles, Rampage has had a stalwart takedown defense for his entire career. On top of that, Rampage looks to be in good shape so this seems like a pretty straightforward Rampage win for me and I like him for a bet at anything under -235.
Douglas Lima at +195
In what is arguably the best fight of the weekend, Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima defends his title against the toughest test of his career, former UFC welterweight challenger Rory MacDonald.
Since losing a decision to Ben Askren in 2012, Lima has quietly built himself into one of the best welterweights on the planet. Other than a loss to Andrey Koreshkov in which Lima fought with an injured knee, Lima has looked sensational, churning through the competition including avenging the Koreshkov loss with a third-round knockout win in their rematch. He’s a fluid striker with quick hands and serious power, and he’s become a very good defensive wrestler to force opponents to stand with him.
MacDonald, on the other hand, is a jack-of-all-trades. On the feet, he’s a power striker that works at range and prefers to slow the pace down to a crawl, but where he does his best work is as a top-position grappler. He’ll need to employ those skills here as his best avenue to victory is through replicating Lima’s losses to Askren and Koreshkov.
Though Tyron Woodley holds the title of best welterweight in the world, I genuinely believe Douglas Lima is the best fighter at 170 pounds. I think he forces MacDonald into a kickboxing match and busts up the fragile nose of “The Red King” with his superior boxing. I’m picking Lima to win outright so I love the odds on him.
- I’m picking Ngannou to KO Miocic but the value is on Miocic as Ngannou still has so many unknowns.
- Cormier is a big favorite over Oezdemir and actually solid parlay fodder if there’s another fight you feel confident in.
- Kattar is too big a dog to Burgos but it’s not enough to entice a bet.
- Villante-Barroso is the exact type of fight you should never bet on.
- Ditto for Bochniak-Davis.
- Almeida is possibly a little undervalued against Font but Tommy Two Guns gets hit so often that betting him is a risk.
- Homasi looked better than expected in their first fight but he was still on his way to losing so if you wanted to parlay Alhassan with Cormier, it’s not the worst.
- I would strongly caution against betting on fights between debuting fighters like Ige-Arce.
- Barzola should outwork Bessette but it’s possible he gets caught with something in transition so definitely don’t lay these odds.
- Chandler should cruise against Yamauchi and he’s your best bet to parlay with Cormier.
- Corrales has only lost to the best Bellator has to offer and I just don’t trust Karakhanyan. If Corrales gets to plus money, take a shot on him.
- Re: Pico-Kruchten: Never lay these odds in MMA, especially on a guy with two fights.
That’s all for this week. If you have any questions or you’d like to talk more about MMA betting or the fights in general, reach out to me @JedKMeshew. Otherwise, good luck and enjoy the fights!
(Editor’s note: All of this advice is for entertainment purposes only.)