Dan Tom’s favorite lines from UFC 254. Khabib vs Gaethje

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With MMA in full swing since this summer, you can expect to see weekly betting articles from us here at Line Movement, as I’ll be providing you with everything from fight analysis to the potential plays I like for UFC’s offering in Abu Dhabi this weekend. 

Main event:

UFC 254 is headlined by a lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov (-310) and Justin Gaethje (+255).

Despite officially picking Nurmagomedov to grind out a submission win by the fourth round, I don’t hate anyone who sees value in the underdog in this spot. 

Gaethje is a former All-American wrestler who has always had solid first-layer defense to go along with his explosive scrambling ability. Couple that with Gaethje’s improved counter punching acumen, and I suspect that the 31-year-old will be hell on wheels for at least the first two rounds of this contest. 

Should the fight not be going Gaethje’s way, then I suspect that Nurmagomedov’s slow-burn stylings could allow for a small live betting window to try and hedge out on. However, that line will likely be too chalky for my blood, as I recommend taking a look at props like “fight won’t start round 5” for -180 for some extra leverage. 

Although that prop still covers my official prediction, it wouldn’t hurt to check out other angles like “Nurmagomedov by submission” for +200 if you have your heart set on playing the Dagestani fighter. But other than the degenerate angles I presented above, this fight still largely feels like a dog or pass spot at the end of the day. 

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The co-main event on Yas Island features an important middleweight matchup between Robert Whittaker (-110) and Jared Cannonier (-110).

Despite the oddsmakers opening Cannonier as the favorite (-145), public money has come in on the former champion Whittaker, making this fight a pick’em at the window. Although I’m picking Whittaker to prevail, I can understand why oddsmakers and bettors alike seem to be leaning toward Cannonier. 

A man who has already gotten the rub from reigning champion Israel Adesanya, Cannonier has looked nothing short of unstoppable since moving down to 185 pounds. The 36-year-old has also moved shop to the MMA Lab in recent years – a place where Cannonier has been able to both acquire and process new weapons. 

From intercepting hooks to crushing leg kicks, Cannonier’s pressure is almost juggernaut-like, as he has no qualms about his game plan here. That said, Whittaker has faced athletic, forward-moving threats before, arguably having his best performances against said foes.

Many still point to Whittakers 10 rounds spent with Romero, which, at this point, seems to be valued as more damaged goods than a badge of honor (something I don’t exactly agree with). Sure, Whittaker has lost a couple of his fights by knockout on paper, but those came to some of the sport’s best precision/counter strikers – something Cannonier is not.

Now, does that mean that Whittaker is going to win? Of course not.

I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Cannonier can catch Whittaker with something find-ending, as I don’t hate anyone sprinkling on a plus money prop like “Cannonier by TKO” at +170. And if you want to attempt to compound or hedge that play, then perhaps take a look at “fight doesn’t go the distance” at -140 in case Whittaker delivers on his promise of a second-round stoppage.

Ultimately, I’m picking Whittaker to get it done by decision, which currently is hanging out in the neighborhood of +205 for those interested. But with over numbers roughly matching the current money line, then I suggest sticking to sides in a spot that offers reasonable points of entry across the board.

As per usual with my content, I’ll offer my honest analysis as I try to explain my angles and attempt to add to your insight when it comes to both breaking down and betting on fights. 

This article is for entertainment purposes only, as I stress to anyone, that gambles to do so legally and responsibly. 

Parlay: Magomed Ankalaev (-315), Casey Kenney (-175) = +107

With most of the live dogs on this card coming in the form of unreliable heavyweights or fighters who are now favorites, I find myself somewhat reluctantly look toward chalk in regards to opportunities.

Full disclosure: I admittedly rubberbanded a bit on whether or not I was going to write this play up, as I realized I made a mistake on this week’s betting show (embedded above) when referencing the southpaw opposition of Nathaniel Wood (+150), who faces Casey Kenney (-175) this Saturday. However, after doubling back through the footage, I still ended up liking what I saw and played the pairing listed above.

Even though Wood is an incredibly well-trained and well-rounded fighter, I suspect that the Englishman may need the threat of his underrated submission game in play to get the full power and flow of his skills going. And when he’s faced southpaws who can wrestle in the past (John Dodson), we’ve seen Wood forced to play a game that doesn’t always behoove him.

Although I suspect Wood has learned from that fight (as he looked more composed against a game John Castenada last time out), I believe that Kenney’s southpaw stylings offer a slightly different swagger. Unlike any of the UFC-level lefties Wood has faced thus far, Kenney offers up a classic southpaw double-attack, which combines a slick counter cross and powerful kick from the rear (that can deceptively change levels).

I also believe that Kenney, who is a credentialed judoka and wrestler, will be the better overall grappler who can both dictate and win out exchanges. This could get sweaty, but I’d rather take my chances with a proven product who has never been stopped or submitted and will fight hard for your money.

The second leg of this parlay should be more secure but make no mistake about it:

Magomed Ankalaev (-315) vs. Ion Cutelaba (+255) will be a light heavyweight slugfest for at least the first minute of the fight. 

The odds have seemingly opened wider and wider every time this matchup has been booked, as it appears most of us are on the same side here. 

Yes, Cutelaba is a very scary individual who has the power to do damage given ample opportunity. However, the Moldovan fighter has largely been a do-or-die bust, showing no semblance of the Greco wrestling credentials he claims in his bio. 

Across from him is a scarier man who comes from an even scarier team. Ankalaev, who looks like the Dagestani version of Stipe Miocic, is a heavy-hitting southpaw who has legit Greco championships (that he won in Dagestan), as well as a Master of Sports in MMA. 

Although I picked Ankalaev to finish this fight in under 6-7 minutes via ground-and-pound, Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick shared with us on this week’s betting show that Ankalaev has been lighting people up in the gym with the same head kicks that have been earning him finishes in the octagon – which is enough to get me to lock in a play here.

Regardless of what you’re betting, bet responsibly, my friends!

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