UFC 266 is just around the corner and the excitement of fight week is growing by the hour. Die hard fans get to see MMA icon Nick Diaz return to their screens for the first time in six years, while newer fans might be watching him for the first time. The main event features featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski defending his belt against Brian Ortega.
UFC is one of the most difficult sports to predict, which leads to opportunities for big success and big failure in the betting world. Across every UFC card you have many big favourites who don’t show up on the night and underdogs who rise to the occasion. Below I will break down the heaviest favourites of the card, the biggest underdogs and some bets that might prove to be good value. All odds are taken from DraftKings Sportsbook.
Biggest Favourites/Underdogs of the Night
UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko has not opened up below -300 since September 9th 2017 when she took on Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight belt. She has lived up to all of the expectations put upon her and she doesn’t look like slipping up anytime soon. She currently sits at a massive -1500 against Lauren Murphy. The odds are severely stacked in the champions favour, and the risk does not outweigh the reward, so if you are looking to be smart with your money, stay away from this one. However, if you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the raffle. If you’re feeling ambitious you can back Murphy at +850. Sportsbooks have never fancied Murphy to win too much, she opened as underdog in eight of her last 11 UFC outings. She has won four of those bouts against the odds, but this seems a step too far for the American, as Shevchenko seems unstoppable in her current reign.
After Shevchenko, we go right to the start of the card, with Matthew Semelsberger currently pricing at -490 against UFC newcomer Martin Sano. Semelsberger seems to be a safe bet that you can add to an accumulator/parlay. Sano hasn’t won in three fights and his making his first appearance in the octagon on a massive card. If you were looking to get better value, you could perhaps back Semelsberger to win via finish to boost those odds up.
Taila Santos has looked the real deal since signing for the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series, and she currently sits as a -425 favourite against MMA veteran Roxanne Modafferi, who is currently +320. I think these odds are justified, Modafferi hasn’t looked great in her recent bouts and I expect more of the same. That being said, due to the chaos that occurs in MMA no big money is worth being placed on a -425 favourite, instead it is better placed in an accumulator/parlay.
The next favourite in line is Curtis Blaydes, who is currently priced at -310 to defeat Jairzinho Rozenstruik in their heavyweight bout in the main card. Anything can happen in MMA, and especially in heavyweight MMA. -310 is quite steep, especially as Blaydes is coming off a brutal KO loss to Derrick Lewis. I think the bookmakers are correct in having Blaydes as favourite but at -310 there is not great value as he could be put unconscious at any moment. Rozenstruik is currently sitting at +245. At heavyweight that could be worth a shot, he has momentum from his last fight where he finished Augusto Sakai in the first round, and it’s worth noting he opened as a +120 underdog in that bout also.
Where is the Value?
In every card you get your lopsided favourites, but you also get your pick’em fights, which makes cards so intriguing to watch. There are plenty of closely priced fights throughout this card. And I will start with the main event. Volkanovski is fighting someone not named Max Holloway for the first time since May 2019. His current run is not given enough respect in my opinion, and I think Volkanovski at -170 is quite a nice price. He faces a very dangerous foe in Ortega, and although he looked vastly improved in his last outing, championship level is another step up. If you do fancy a new champion to be crowned, you can get Ortega at +150.
Dan Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast have had the most dramatic fight week you could think of with both fighters having last minute visa issues. It looks as though they both got it over the line, and the fight seems to be taking place. Hooker opens up as the slight favourite at -145. He has taken a lot of damage in his last three fights, and his chin plus the travelling he is doing while cutting weight worries me. The New Zealander definitely has what it takes to win, but he is up against a top, dangerous prospect. There is definitely value in both but I would be leaning towards Haqparast at +125 in this one.
Lastly, Lawler is currently a -145 favourite in his rematch against Diaz. He hasn’t looked great in his last few bouts, but he has been fighting top opposition. It is the element of the unknown which would steer me away from backing Diaz, who is currently priced at +125. In my opinion, this is one of the most intriguing match-ups on the card, because we don’t know what version of Diaz will show up. My head says that six years out is far too long especially with how much the sport has evolved in that period. My heart says that we see a vintage Diaz display. Unfortunately, betting with your heart usually doesn’t end too well and Lawler at -145 is too generous a price not to be taken up on.
Hope you enjoyed my insight into this weeks card. Are you having a bet yourself? Let us know who you’re backing in the comments below! You can find me on Twitter on @ciansk96
Featured Image Credits: Embed from Getty Images