Betting Guide for UFC 251
After a whirlwind of a week, that started with Jorge Masvidal taking over for Gilbert Burns, the UFC is ready to kick off the action on Fight Island. This will be the first of two events this week and a total of four events on Yas Island.
This loaded card is topped with three title fights and FanDuel Sportsbook has plenty of odds: outright winners, method of victory, and more.
Let's take a look at the best bets to make.
Kamaru Usman (-260) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+215)
Much of the hype this week has centered around Masvidal. As mentioned above, he grabbed headlines by took the fight on short notice once Burns tested positive for COVID-19. He's also riding a three-fight win streak over three big-name opponents, including a record-setting five-second KO over Ben Askren. If you're looking to bet Masvidal to continue his winning streak on Saturday, the bet to make is for him to win by KO/TKO at +270.
But keep in mind he lost two fights in a row prior to his current win-streak, including a decision loss to Demian Maia, who lost a decision of his own to Kamaru Usman. Looking at Masvidal's current streak, he knocked out Darren Till, who was cutting so much weight that he has since moved up to middleweight. Next was the highlight KO over Askren, which came on the first strike of the fight. And finally a doctor stoppage over Nate Diaz. A lot of that is reason to propel the hype, but none of it shows the ability to take on someone like Usman over five rounds.
Usman has never been knocked out in his 17 fight career. He's also on quite a hot streak of his own, with an 11-0 start to his UFC career, including two championship fights in his most recent outings. Usman also holds a significant advantage in the grappling department, as the former NCAA Division II Wrestling All-American averages 3.44 takedowns landed per 15 minutes and holds a 100% takedown defense rate, compared to just 1.70 takedowns and a 78% takedown defense rate for Masvidal.
If Usman sticks to his wrestling, he will likely be able to control this fight and he is the pick to win. That certainly doesn't spell an early finish, as all six of Masvidal's UFC losses have come by decision. With nine of Usman's 11 wins by either decision or a fifth-round finish, the bet that really stands out in this one is the fight going over 3.5 rounds at -102. If you want to get riskier, Usman winning by points can be had at +160.
Alexander Volkanovski (-198) vs. Max Holloway (+166)
This fight is an immediate rematch from UFC 245 when Alexander Volkanovski beat Max Holloway by a five-round decision to claim the featherweight championship. Both fighters attempted 303 significant strikes in that fight, with Volkanovski landing 7% more, and out-striking Holloway in each of the first three rounds. His strategy revolved largely around leg kicks, with 47% of his landed significant strikes coming to Holloway's legs. Even in the final two rounds, Holloway only out-landed Volkanovski by a total of four significant strikes.
Holloway did stuff all four of Volkanovski's takedown attempts, but Volkanovski still averages 2.16 takedowns per 15 minutes, giving him an edge over Holloway's 0.24 average.
The betting lines are essentially flipped from where they closed going into the first fight, providing little value on Volkanovski to win. But with little change between the two fights, it's hard to find a reason why he won't win again. The champion has been vocal about wanting to end this fight early, but that's a tall order against Holloway, who has been finished just once in his 26 pro fights, and that was all the way back in 2012.
There's no glitz or glamour to this pick, but the bet to make here is Volkanovski at -198.
Petr Yan (-235) vs. Jose Aldo (+194)
After a perfect 6-0 start to his UFC career, Petr Yan will get a shot at the vacant bantamweight title against former featherweight champion Jose Aldo, in just his second fight at 135 pounds. It's important to note that he also weighed in at 136 pounds for that first fight, but will have to get all the way down to 135 for this championship tilt. Interestingly enough, Aldo is 0-1 in that division after losing a controversial split decision to Marlon Moraes in his last fight.
Yan is very active offensively, landing an average of 5.65 significant strikes per minute to go along with his average of 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes. On the other side, Aldo averages 3.47 significant strikes per minute, and put up a 3.87 number in his lone bantamweight bout. He also gave up one takedown on two attempts in that fight, but still holds a 91% takedown defense rate.
Aldo has fought nothing but top competition since even before his UFC days, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he is 3-5 over his past eight fights, with three of those losses coming by KO/TKO. Yan has finished three of his UFC fights by KO/TKO, but keep in mind that the three decision victories were only three rounds. With two extra rounds to work in this championship fight and Aldo still posing weight-cutting concerns, Yan certainly has a route to ending this one early.
At -235, a straight bet on Yan is certainly a solid bet. But his line at -105 to win by KO/TKO or submission is even more attractive.
Muslim Salikhov (-136) vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (+116)
There is some value appearing on the underdog here, after Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos actually opened as a slight favorite before coming down to +116. He holds a big edge in experience coming into this one, with 28 pro fights (10 UFC) compared to 18 (4 UFC) for Muslim Salikhov, who is actually the older fighter in this matchup by three years.
Zaleski dos Santos also holds a three-inch reach advantage despite the fighters both standing at 5'11". He has compiled an 8-10 record in the UFC, with wins over quality fighters. On the other side, two of Salikhov's four UFC opponents have already been cut from the promotion, including Alex Garcia, who submitted him in the second round.
As the line suggests, this is a close matchup, but Zaleski dos Santos getting some juice as the underdog, the value lies on him at +116.