After a recent string of marquee fights featuring significant favorites, the UFC Fight Night 174 main event on Saturday is basically a pick’em.
A top-level middleweight bout between former champion Robert Whittaker (20-5) and Darren Till (18-2-1) is giving sports bettors intriguing options. The fight, scheduled for five rounds, will take place on the UFC’s so-called Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
At FanDuel Sportsbook, one of many legal online/mobile sportsbooks in the state of New Jersey, Whittaker is a slight favorite at -132, compared to Till at +112. The sportsbook said that as of Thursday morning, 52% of the moneyline handle had been on Whittaker, with 48% on Till.
Till is coming off a win against top contender Kelvin Gastelum in November, while Whittaker hasn’t fought since an October title fight loss to current champion Israel Adesanya. Despite the recent performances, it makes sense that Whittaker is basically the pocket queens to Till’s ace and king.
Whittaker has been more tested at the 185-pound weight class. This will be Till’s second fight since moving up a division, after a devastating KO loss to Jorge Masvidal in the welterweight division back in March 2019. Whittaker also once fought at 170 pounds.
Prop bets for the bout
Bettors are liking the price on a finish by KO or TKO.
At FanDuel, 60% of the “how will fight end” handle so far has been on a KO/TKO at -135. As for a decision, 31% of the handle has been on that outcome at +125.
A submission finish, listed at +1000, has attracted 9% of the handle. Neither man has a submission win in the UFC, so even a 10/1 price more than likely isn’t worth a bet.
The two men, both listed at six-feet tall, had a face off on Thursday.
💀 Whittaker v Till 🦍
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 23, 2020
Any value plays?
Whittaker on paper looks like the better bet, but there have been some concerns lately about his motivation in the sport. He reportedly pulled out of a fight earlier this year because of “burn out” in his training. Whittaker has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries during his career, as the recent withdrawal was apparently due to sports psychological issues.
Whittaker is only 29, but he has a lot of fights on his resume.
Till, 27, also has some miles on him despite his relatively young age in the sport. One could argue, though, that Till is still on the upward trajectory of his career while Whittaker might not be heading to the top of the middleweight mountain once again. Whittaker once said in an interview that holding the title put a lot of pressure on him, so the signs are there that he might not be as hungry in MMA as he once was.
At any rate, Whittaker is still a world-class and dangerous fighter, posing a big test for Till. A win over Till puts Whittaker in position for another title fight. While he’s a relatively soft-spoken fighter and not one to generate much buzz in terms of trash talking or building up the drama of a fight, he’s still a big star in the Australian market, and the UFC appears ready to try to get as much value out of his popularity as it can.
For these reasons, the moneyline is probably fairly priced and something you should avoid if you’re looking for a potential edge against the house. By all means, wager on either fighter if you are a fan and want some skin in the game. However, it more than likely isn’t a +EV bet in the long run.
A possible value play is on the fight going to the judges. Consider that Whittaker is coming off that devastating TKO loss last year and has the aforementioned sports psychology issues going on. That seems like a recipe for a rather conservative fight for Whittaker. Till’s win over Gastelum was a calculated fight, and he may be looking to replicate that tight-aggressive (to use a poker term) style against Whittaker. The two men might be both in the mood for trying to avoid getting knocked out.
The vicious KO Till endured about 14 months ago is not something he’s ready to repeat anytime soon.
For value one could look at Till by points at +450, but ultimately this fight is just a tough one to bet.