With the Ultimate Fighting Championships coming through with a slew of shows in 2020 that afforded us plenty of betting opportunities, you expect another solid year of content from everyone here at the Line Movement family, as I’ll be providing you with everything from technical analysis to my favorite lines for upcoming UFC offerings.
UFC 257 is headlined by an important lightweight rematch between Conor McGregor (-285) and Dustin Poirier (+245).
As per usual with McGregor fights, the opening line (-175) on the famed Irishman was immediately steamed by sharps and supporters alike, leaving us with an inflated spread come fight week. And given that this sort of inflation usually generates interests in other angles of attack, I suspect that many of you will be looking for props to play.
Although I was admittedly interested in the in under 1.5 rounds at +105, I have a sneaky suspicion that Poirier may look to drag this fight out by playing more conservatively and using the big cage early. Should Poirier set that type of tone, then I suspect that under bettors may start to sweat.
That said, I’m sticking to my official prediction of McGregor by first-round knockout, regardless of whether or not I end up sprinkling (lightly, I might add) on the aforementioned under. McGregor by KO/TKO has also been sadly juiced to -185, as I believe you’re better off just sticking to the money lines here.
McGregor has a better chance of winning late than many are giving him credit for, while Poirier’s counters will be potent throughout the duration of this fight.
If you’re a big bettor, then anything under 3-1 odds for McGregor should still be within your range. But if you like Poirier or are looking for plus money, then you can’t be too picky about pathways when it comes to a number like +245.
The co-main event in Abu Dhabi features another potential lightweight war, as Dan Hooker (-140) welcomes Michael Chandler (+120) to the UFC.
Before I start breaking this fight down, let me first state my admitted bias when it comes to Chandler, as I’ve both known and trained with the former Mizzou Tiger since before he started his Bellator run. That said, I genuinely stand by my pick, as I believe that the underdog is live in this spot.
Don’t get me wrong: Dan Hooker is the deserved favorite, as public money seems to keep trickling in on the New Zealand native. I just suspect that the three-round nature of this contest favors Chandler.
Not only is the former Bellator champion used to being scheduled for 25-minute affairs, but Chandler also tends to implement more wrestling-heavy approaches when tasked with taller fighters that present potential problems on the feet. Unless Hooker is able to end Chandler’s night early with a perfectly-timed knee, I suspect that the American will be able to mute his opposition this Saturday.
Both money lines are more than playable depending on who you’re backing, but I would also suggest looking at the under 2.5 rounds (+100) if you’re interested in a potential hedge.
Regardless of who you’re supporting, both men are more than capable of either scoring a knockout or a submission at any point of this contest. So, despite officially picking Chandler by decision and playing him at plus odds, I’m also gonna lay a little on the under 2.5 for some insurance against a possible Hooker finish.
Straight play: Makhmud Muradov (-145)
Despite stepping in on somewhat short notice and opening as an underdog (+148), money has been steadily coming in on Muradov, who faces Andrew Sanchez (+125) this Saturday.
Sanchez is the more popular fighter to North American audiences, as the former wrestler and TUF winner has been quietly rounding out his game since moving shop to Tristar Gym in Canada. And though I’m an admitted fan of Sanchez, I suspect that this could be a bad stylistic pairing, particularly if the American elects to continue his current trend of jabbing at range.
Muradov may not have the boxing record or credentials that one might stereotype with a fighter who is managed/associated with Floyd Mayweather (The Money Team), but the 30-year-old appears to be very comfortable and well-trained within the striking realm, as he heavily leans upon his jab/jab interplay. The big cage should assist Muradov’s stick-and-move stylings, but the Uzbek appears to have solid grappling awareness and defensive wrestling to boot.
Should Sanchez follow the trends of his stablemates and invite a jabbing war, then I suspect that Muradov can either find the knockout or cruise to a decision. For that reason, I’ll be laying the chalk on what could quietly end up being one of the sharper opportunities on this card.
Other options: Brad Tavares (-125), Amir Albazi by submission (+550)
Brad Tavares, who takes on Antonio Carlos Jr. (+105), is another straight play that I’m on ahead of UFC 257.
However, akin to my underdog play above on Chandler, I have to admit my bias when it comes to both Tavares and his cornerman, Eric Nicksick. Still, I suspect that Tavares is favored for a reason, as I honestly see him having a stylistic edge over Carlos Jr., who is also coming off of a long layoff.
Tavares may have not looked great in his last fight opposite Edmen Shahbazyan, but Carlos Jr. doesn’t offer anything close to the same speed or power that the Hawaiian was up against prior. Coupled with Tavares’ underrated grappling ability, as well as the big cage at play, and I suspect that the 33-year-old American can either grind out a decision or produce a late knockout; but beware: bias is attached here.
Next up is a prop play that I took a small flyer on, as I suspect that Amir Alabazi (-105) gives Zhalgas Zhumagulov (-115) his first submission loss.
Zhumagulov comes from a country that can wrestle and does carry a Russian regional title (Fight Nights Global), but appears to be a subpar sprawl-and-brawler who actually carries zero wrestling accolades. Even the Kazak fighter’s best wins were stylistically-favorable fights where Zhumagulov still got help from questionable scorecards.
I’ve yet to see Zhumagulov tested by a higher-level submission specialist, as I believe that Albazi will be a bad matchup for him.
Albazi may only list himself as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, but the Iraqi has a slew of grappling titles that range from Europe to Asia. “The Prince” also appears to have solid wrestling and takedowns to accompany his submission prowess, as well as solid striking to boot.
Although I’m admittedly waiting to see if I can get plus money on what is already a playable money line, I couldn’t help myself in taking a stab at the submission prop.
Regardless of what you’re betting, bet responsibly, my friends!