Betting Guide for UFC 266
For the first time in six weeks, the UFC is back on pay-per-view with one title fight that is really fun and another that is....not so much.
UFC 266: Volkanovski vs. Ortega takes place Saturday from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Where is the sharpest place to wager on Saturday's card using UFC odds?
Valentina Shevchenko, Taila Santos, Merab Dvalishvilli, and Curtis Blaydes All to Win (+134)
A four-fighter parlay that only pays +134? Well, one of the fighters is essentially a free square. Valentina Shevchenko (-2000) has a 95.2% implied probability to win her fight. All she does is increase the payout from +122 to +134, and consider me a skeptic that the biggest upset in UFC history (nearly twice over) occurs Saturday.
The other three fighters are in more volatile, but still quality, spots. Taila Santos (-420) has the softest matchup of the three. The Brazilian is an efficient wrestler, posting 2.00 takedowns per match historically on a tremendous 80% accuracy, and Roxanne Modafferi's 30% takedown defense has not provided resistance to her other, less athletic opponents. She has ceded at least two takedowns in each of her past three fights. Santos controlled 85.2% of her last fight with Gillian Robertson and profiles to do the same Saturday.
Curtis Blaydes (-350) is arguably the best heavyweight in UFC if finishes were excluded. He averages 6.64 takedowns per match on 54% efficiency. His 57% striking defense is actually a plus skill, but his three knockout losses have come from a stray punch that Jairzinho Rosenstriuk can provide. Still, Blaydes enters with even better striking peripherals given Rosenstriuk's -0.12 striking success rate and wretched 40% striking defense.
Merab Dvalishvilli (-250) avoiding a Marlon Moraes submission will be the key cog of the parlay. Moraes, however, has just two submission attempts in nine UFC fights, and Dvalishvilli has only been submitted once in eight UFC fights contested primarily on the mat. Dvalishvilli profiles to tire Marlon Moraes out given Moraes' well-known cardio issues, and "The Machine" has a 61% striking defense that has kept him from ever allowing a knockdown in UFC. Without one-moment upside, it's extremely unlikely Moraes can keep up with Dvalishvilli's ridiculous 7.38 takedowns per match.
Brian Ortega to Win (+142)
After totally whiffing on a +142 main event underdog last week, what could go wrong with deploying another?
This fight is far more important than Ryan Spann's last week, however, as Brian Ortega (+142) enters his second UFC Featherweight Championship against Alexander Volkanovski (-178). Ortega is not receiving much love in the media against the dominant champion, but his limited sample provides a reason for optimism.
Ortega has always had world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but his striking improvement against Chan Sung Jung was the mark of a fighter reborn. Off a two-year layoff switching camps, Ortega averaged 5.08 significant strikes per minute, scored 2 knockdowns, and posted a razor-sharp 62% striking defense. Those are plus striking numbers for Ortega that could translate to an unbeatable, multi-faceted champion.
Volkanovski is well-known for outboxing Max Holloway, but Volkanovski shot 13 takedown attempts in two matches against Holloway. That wrestling threat helps his striking considerably. If Volkanovski shoots on Ortega, Ortega likely grabs his neck. His efficiency numbers should drop without that added element to his standup.
Overall, the call is to fade the public and roll with "T-City" at friendly, plus-money odds.
Dart Throw of the Week: Jalin Turner by Submission (+700)
The nearly pick-'em fight between Jalin Turner and Uros Medic is a showcase on sample size.
Uros Medic (-148) pops off optimizers and betting models due to his 19.91 significant strikes per minute. However, that mark has come in two quick knockouts and a total of three minutes. Surely, the prospect is capable of doing it again against Jalin Turner (+100) -- and his poor 45% striking defense -- but the implied 38.5% probability that happens opens up a lot of avenues for betting.
Turner's sample -- against better competition -- is much deeper in a 4-2 UFC tenure, and his marks are still solid. His 6.20 significant strikes per minute -- with a five-inch reach advantage -- is terrifying in his 6'3", athletic frame at lightweight. Turner's jiu-jitsu is also incredibly underrated, and he is confident in it. Turner has posted at least one official submission attempt in his past three fights, and he locked up his first submission in his very last bout.
Medic's grappling is totally untested in the UFC. His striking essentially is as well, as he injured both of his opponents while only taking just two significant strikes total in two fights. Turner is +270 inside-the-distance for the less bold, but the pick is that "The Tarantula" leans on his favorite weapon once again to choke the red-hot Medic.