On Saturday evening, the UFC heads to Perth, Western Australia with UFC 221, headlined by a short-notice middleweight interim title fight between former champion Luke Rockhold and Olympic freestyle wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero. It’s a card high on regional talent and action fights but low on name value. Still, it’s a 12-fight UFC card which means 12 opportunities to bet, and we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know for this weekend.
UFC 221; Perth Arena in Perth, Australia
Pay-Per-View (10 p.m. ET)
FS1 Prelims (8 p.m. ET)
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (6:30 p.m. ET)
Curtis Blaydes by decision +170
The co-main event of the evening features Mark Hunt trying to keep the last hopes of a heavyweight title shot alive against one of the few promising young fighters the division has to offer.
Everyone who follows MMA knows about Hunt at this point. He’s an accomplished kickboxer with elite power and solid takedown defense, but he’s on the wrong side of 40. Blaydes is a former JUCO national champion wrestler who keeps a great pace and is steadily improving.
This is a changing of the guard fight. Hunt is a good but not great defensive wrestler. Blaydes should outmatch him physically and with his relentless pursuit of the takedowns. Think of this fight looking a lot like Hunt’s fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 and you’ll get the idea. Blaydes will grind his way to a win, but Hunt is too tough for him to stop, so take Blaydes by decision at +170.
Damien Brown +120
The FS1 main event features a fight almost guaranteed to give the fans some fireworks.
Brown is a brawler with a penchant for countering and a maddening habit of backing himself up more than is good for him. He also occasionally forgets about defense but he’s durable and offensively potent enough to not be completely upended by that flaw.
Kim is also a brawler but one who prefers forward aggression and the occasional takedown mixed in for good measure. He is possibly even more reckless than Brown with his disregard for defense, but is also similarly durable to make up for it.
This is a coin flip fight. Both men will get to engage in the style and range of fighting they prefer and it’s only a matter of whether the pressure of Kim or the counters of Brown carry the day. Considering Kim’s lack of defense and willingness to throw himself into Brown’s preferred range, and Brown maybe getting a slight boost from the hometown crowd, I have to side with “Beatdown” and like him for a bet, especially if he gets even higher.
Ben Nguyen +100
The FS1 prelim opener features a bout that could potentially determine the next title challenger for Demetrious Johnson.
Jussier Formiga has been a mainstay of the flyweight division for almost a decade now and his game is a finished product. He’s a competent kickboxer when he has to be, but he’s managed to stay on the cusp of a title shot so long because he is one of the very best at getting to back control from all positions.
Ben Nguyen has a deceptively good striking game with a lot of variety and offensive potency. He’s also a competent grappler, though he is perhaps overconfident on the floor to his detriment.
The key question for this fight is: Will Nguyen scramble with Formiga? Though he’s shown a tendency to go to the ground in previous bouts, I have to imagine he’s been drilling constantly at avoiding those exchanges and his athletic and striking advantages are too big to ignore for me. I like Nguyen to win here over 50 percent of the time so I think a bet on him at plus money is good.
- Romero was slightly undervalued, but since he missed weight, I can’t feel confident in his preparation. Pass.
- Tuivasa should win and win early and the odds are appropriately lopsided. Stay away.
- Matthews is an interesting play because Jingliang is very hittable and his pressuring style plays into Matthews’ countering skill, but I don’t feel confident enough to go in on him.
- Pedro is likely to win but neither man should instill confidence with your money.
- Adesanya is going to win in spectacular fashion, but these are still long odds for a UFC debutant.
- Kennedy is another guy on the cusp of being worth a play. Volkanovski is definitely the better fighter but Kennedy’s wrestling could level the playing field here some. If you can get Kennedy at +200 or more, he’s worth a flyer.
- Pearson is on a four-fight losing streak, so Hirota as the dog is tempting, but I’m not confident enough to take a shot here.
- Quinonez by decision at +110 has a little bit of appeal.
- Abe should be a bigger favorite and I don’t hate a bet on him, I just don’t feel confident recommending one either.
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.)