The Ultimate Fight Championship returns Saturday with a relatively strong card from top to bottom, featuring a highly-anticipated grudge match and another quick turnaround for one of the sport’s rising stars.
MMA isn’t a huge moneymaker for the online/mobile sportsbooks in New Jersey, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle for any fledgling regulated book. MMA fans can find several intriguing betting options for Saturday. For casual sports bettors/fans, it’s worth mentioning that MMA is considered a more beatable sport for wagering, at least that’s what the gambling sharps imply. The sportsbooks tend to be more efficient at beating you on the NFL, for example.
Below is a look at the two high-profile UFC fights on Saturday, watchable via ESPN.
Covington vs. Woodley
This five-round welterweight bout has been anticipated for quite some time, featuring the controversial Colby Covington against former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Coming off back-to-back losses, Woodley (19-5-1) is a +285 underdog at FanDuel Sportsbook. Woodley hasn’t been a 2/1 underdog or worse very often in his career. He’s been a favorite or around even money in every fight since 2016. Many folks are wondering if the 38-year-old Woodley has enough left in the tank to remain at the top of a stacked 170-pound division.
As for Covington (15-2), who sits at a -375 favorite, he hasn’t fought since losing to current champion Kamaru Usman in December, a relatively close fight that Usman ended in dominating fashion. The 32-year-old Covington is known for his wrestling and relentless fighting pace, while Woodley is also known for his wrestling whose striking is more deliberate but carries one-punch knockout power.
Many MMA analysts are skeptical that Woodley can match Covington’s pace in this fight and that Woodley’s most realistic path to victory is by stoppage.
FanDuel’s odds reflect this perception.
Here’s a look at the method of victory market at the sportsbook:
If you agree that Covington isn’t knocking Woodley out, you can discard the +500 line on that outcome. It’s probably a -EV bet. If you are skeptical that Woodley will have what it takes to finish Covington, you can also forget about that +500 line, but it probably is a better 5/1 wager than the aforementioned bet.
Seven of Woodley’s 19 wins have come via knockout, but he hasn’t scored one in his last six fights.
If you believe Woodley is a live underdog and think he will come in with a game plan that keeps the fight competitive over the five-round distance, the +1100 price on him by points might be your best bet for method of victory. It’s hard to say it’s +EV, but it could very well be the best bang for your buck if you elect to bet on this match-up.
It’s worth considering the implications of Covington himself being on the record criticizing the betting odds, arguing that it’s going to be a much closer fight. Then again, combat sports athletes are known for sometimes crediting their opponents as a form of salesmanship.
Covington: "I can't look at the odds, that's not going to be reflective of what the fight is going to be like… because if I look at the odds, it just looks like it's going to be a cakewalk and I'm just going to walk through him. Realistically, that's not what it's going to be" pic.twitter.com/brquBhH1v2
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) September 16, 2020
FanDuel, as well as the other New Jersey sportsbooks, have many other markets on this fight in addition to the moneyline and method of victory market, so be sure to shop around.
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Gerald Meerschaert
This is the second of the very high-profile bouts on Saturday’s card.
Khamzat Chimaev (8-0) has taken the MMA world by storm this summer, winning in absolutely dominating fashion reminiscent of the 28-0 lightweight grappling kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov. The UFC is pushing the 26-year-old Swede about as fast as any fighter in recent memory, even going as far to schedule a second fight for him before he gets through Gerald Meerschaert (31-13) first.
Naturally, Meerschaert feels disrespected by the promotion, putting a chip on his shoulder that won’t leave the veteran lacking in motivation on Saturday.
Despite the fight being at 185 pounds (Chimaev’s recent fights have been at 170), he’s a -410 favorite, while Meerschaert is +310.
That’s probably priced fairly. In other words, strongly consider avoiding it.
Like the main event of the card, the method of victory market is more appetizing.
Only six of Meerschaert’s career professional wins have come via KO/TKO, so as far as roughly 10/1 odds go, the better bet is probably on him via decision. He has a whopping 23 wins by submission, so +750 there is somewhat enticing. The problem is that Chimaev seems like the kind of UFC fighter who will never lose by submission. He’s too dominating on the ground. If you have to bet on a Meerschaert method of victory win, +1000 on points is probably it. It is a three-round bout.
Now over to Chimaev. The betting odds say he has strong chances of winning by any method. The odds of a decision win are longest at +420, but that might be the least -EV of the wagers. It might have value if you consider Chimaev is moving up a weight class and might not be able to rag doll Meerschaert as easily as past opponents.
Chimaev vs. Meerschaert should be a fun fight to watch, but it’s a tricky one to wager on, considering we haven’t seen much of Chimaev yet.
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