If you follow MMA, you’re probably aware that the interim lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson is the co-main that’s actually the “real” main event of this Saturday’s UFC 209.
It’s not often that we see two elite fighters meet under such circumstances, where the strap at stake is somehow the least significant factor involved. It took a long time for us to get here, and with each obstacle fight, the anticipation has only gotten greater.
This Bout is a Long Time Coming
Nurmy and El Cucuy were scheduled to meet twice, once in 2015 and another time in 2016, only to have both match-ups fall apart due to injuries. They went on to defeat a few other opponents, and now Khabib is 24-0 and El Cucuy is riding nine straight wins. Ferguson held out further due to a contract dispute, leading to even more trash talking between the two.
The Winner May Fight McGregor
But finally, they’re throwing down this Saturday in Las Vegas, and–most importantly–the winner of this matchup might get to face off with Conor McGregor. According to Nurmy’s coach, the Irishman might elect to defend his belt if there’s enough pay-per-view to profit from, even though McGregor is fairly certain about facing off with Mayweather.
In terms of personal notoriety and financial prowess there’s nothing more jaw-dropping than stepping into the cage with Mystic Mac. The Irishman himself dreams about fights like these.
Everyone is super stoked about this fight, but when it comes to betting, let’s think rationally and practice common sense. Check out the odds at BookMaker.eu, where you can bet on MMA all year – and let’s deduce how to get paid on fight night.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (-191) vs Tony Ferguson (+161)
Over/under 3.5 rounds, over -165, under +140
How Does Nurmagomedov Answer Ferguson’s Pace?
This is the primary factor driving Nurmy’s status as a 2-1 favorite, and Nurmy himself is sure of his impending win. Since opening at -170 in January, his line has only gotten more expensive – and there’s always a chance that sharps betting drastically shifts them further on fight night.
With the exception of Gleison Tibau, Nurmagomedov has taken all of his UFC opponents to the ground. Don’t be fooled by his 48% takedown accuracy – the stat doesn’t accurately portray a fighter who is widely considered one of the best MMA wrestlers of this generation.
The Russian’s natural strength is, well, unnatural. Once he gets a body lock on an opponent, a takedown or slam is inevitable. And once he’s on top, the round is pretty much over. His top control is that dominant.
And that top ride isn’t your garden-variety GSP-style control, nor is it the Tito Ortiz half-guard GNP special. “The Eagle” is doing something completely different, and shows an extraordinary ability to trap a limb, taking away nearly half of his opponent’s defensive capabilities. It was hard to watch Michael Johnson try to defend himself with only one arm against Khabib’s brutal strikes.
How Does Ferguson Answer Nurmagomedov’s Wrestling?
It’s a fair question. Ferguson is one of the few fighters in the UFC who’s weaponized cardio. This goes far beyond the ability to last five rounds: it refers to the ability to turn your gas tank into an offensive weapon, which is as potent as any strike or submission attempt.
We’ve seen Ferguson’s opponent visibly wilt from his pressure and pace. Leg kick extraordinaire Edson Barboza crumpled from their firefight. Against former champion Rafael dos Anjos, Ferguson threw 199 strikes over five rounds (at Mexico City altitude). El Cucuy looked like he could easily go another five rounds.
What’s more, his endless cardio fuels a dynamic offense that seems tailored to wear opponents down. He’ll roll for leg locks, throw spins with reckless abandon, and jump all over high-risk submissions with no regard for his well-being. It’s impossible to settle into a rhythm against him, and mentally it’s draining to always be on the defense.
This output isn’t just limited to the standup either. Khabib can try to hold him down, but it’d be a lot like holding a slithering eel in place. Throw in Ferguson’s penchant for catching subs or elbowing from the bottom, and it’s possible that Khabib could lose rounds from the top position.
Common Sense Betting
Khabib’s cold, efficient wrestling should be able to iron out Ferguson’s multifaceted offense. The operative word is should. You could say that Ferguson’s never faced a guy like Khabib, but the opposite holds true as well.
Even if you’re convinced Khabib’ll take this, consider Ferguson’s durability, which is again tied to his cardio. It will be extremely difficult to pound him into submission, and even harder to submit an excellent jiu-jitsu practitioner. The same goes for Ferguson’s chances of ending the Russian’s night early. Khabib showed he can take a punch, and knows how to defend against submission attempts.
The Long and Short of it
The over on 3.5 rounds at -175 is the safest play here, as it hedges against either man winning. But if you really want to gamble, consider Ferguson at +175, and lock in a bet if he gets anywhere close to +200. The man who figures out a way to win, and the longer the fight goes, the more it favors the bettor.
Our picks: Over 3.5 rounds -165, Ferguson to win IF money line approaches +200
Check the latest UFC 209 betting odds on our MMA odds comparison page.