UFC 218 has the unenviable task of following up one of the greatest cards of all time. But this Saturday’s lineup has definitely go the potential to do so – the potential for violence on the main card alone is through the roof.
You’ve got Max Holloway, a lanky pitbull with non-stop motor making his first title defense in a rematch with featherweight GOAT Jose Aldo. Heavyweight Francis Ngannou, a real-life Predator masquerading as a human, meets giant kickboxing machine Alistair Overeem in a title eliminator.
And then there’s 18-0 Justin Gaethje, who makes his encore after putting on the likely Fight of the Year in his UFC debut. The former WSOF champion, whose concept of defense is eating punches until his opponent gets tired, meets an actual Fight of the Year owner in Eddie Alvarez.
Rounding out the main card is a flyweight tilt between Henry Cejudo and Sergio Pettis, and an awesome strawweight scrap featuring “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson and longtime contender Tecia Torres.
There’s a lot to get into here, so let’s jump right into your betting options, courtesy of the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu. We’re getting into Cherry Picks, which are relatively safe plays, and Calculated Risks.
Jose Aldo +247 vs. Max Holloway -307
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -145, under +125
Holloway is kind of like a featherweight version of Tony Ferguson – a rangy, aggressive fighter who breaks opponents down with pace and a relentless stream of murderstrikes. It’s scary to think about how good the 25 year old is now, and how much better he can be as he enters his physical prime. His current 12-fight win already makes him the second-best featherweight in UFC history, only behind Aldo.
Speaking of Aldo, this just feels like one of those things where a guy has his number. The length of Blessed negates Aldo’s speed. The champ’s iron chin lets him survive the lightning quick counters. And that cardio, man: Holloway’s ability to push an insane pace against a dude with a historically sketchy gas tank is probably the reason why he’s such a big favorite.
We’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well for Aldo. Sure, he might throw more leg kicks this time around, but that would probably just make Holloway fight with more urgency. The price on Holloway is expensive but it’s a relatively safe play. Holloway inside the distance pays out better, but you have to make the assumption that Aldo can’t make necessary adjustments to preserve his energy.
Cherry Pick: Holloway inside the distance at -140
Francis Ngannou -240 vs. Alistair Overeem +190
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over +110, under -130
Overeem is better in just about every MMA skill. We all know that the former K-1 kickboxing champ is a monster on the feet, able to score knockouts with all eight of his limbs. And he’s even got more submission wins than knockouts, which speaks to serious grappling prowess. When he wants to, he can bully guys to the ground and beat the tar out of them with GNP.
But physically, The Reem can’t hang with Ngannou. While the knockout power is about the same, the speed, explosiveness and cardio is all Ngannou, and it isn’t particularly close. The Predator has the agility and size of an inside linebacker, and 15 minutes is plenty of time to land something that Overeem can’t recover from.
Overeem’s definitely a live ‘dog – this is the heavyweight division after all. But the Dutchman is a guy that can’t take a punch anymore, and Ngannou just happens to be an expert at landing bombs. The price is a bit expensive, but it’s a decently safe bet.
If you’re looking for a better payout, take Ngannou inside the distance – he’s finished all five of his UFC fights before the start of the third round. That also puts the under in play, but Overeem’s conservative style under Jackson-Wink could extend this matchup. Wanna really gamble? Ngannou’s shown the ability to snatch submissions on dazed opponents, and the payout on that is a staggering +1800.
Cherry Pick: Ngannou to win at -240
Lottery Tickets: Ngannou wins by submission at +1800
Justin Gaethje -193 vs. Eddie Alvarez +149
Over/under 1.5 rounds, over -160, under +140
If Gaethje keeps fighting the way he does – which is basically treating hits to the dome like his own personal Popeye’s spinach – his undefeated record is going to get littered with losses. Ok, so his face-first style worked against Michael Johnson, but imagine taking clean shots from somebody like Edson Barboza or Conor McGregor. Everybody loves a zombie fighter, but being that reckless will lead to unconsciousness at some point.
Alvarez isn’t a one-hitter quitter, but can lay dudes out – just ask RDA. But let’s assume that he doesn’t land the million dollar punch. Can he hang with a guy that just keeps coming forward? It’s possible, especially if he goes back to wrestle-hump mode and stalls Gaethje like he did against Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis. That’s probably the smartest thing for him to do, considering the other alternative is brawling with a brawler.
Tough, tough call, but Eddie’s about as experienced a fighter there is on the lightweight roster. Plus, the UFC version of Eddie isn’t afraid to gut out boring wins either – the price is worth a small play.
Calculated Risk: Alvarez to win at +149
Michelle Waterson +175 vs. Tecia Torres -225
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -330, under +270
The unfortunate reality for Waterson is that she’ll almost always be fighting girls that are bigger and stronger than her – The Karate Hottie is a natural atomweight fighting 10 pounds above her normal weight class. Waterson might be taller than Torres, but the difference in buffness between the two is definitely noticeable.
Torres is a stout, compact fighter that fights exactly how you’d expect somebody with that frame to fight. Think pocket pressure, tight inside combinations, power takedowns and lots of fencework. That’s a problem for Waterson, who needs space to operate her high-powered kicking game and isn’t strong enough to defend the takedowns.
Expect Waterson to get muscled around, as Torres will close the distance ASAP and press her into the cage. From there, it’ll be dirty boxing, headfighting, level changes and trips. Torres to win is a safe play, as is the rounds over – “The Tiny Tornado” only has one finish in 10 career fights, and is too skilled and tough to get caught by Waterson. At this price, it’s a safe parlay booster.
Cherry Pick: Parlay the over 2.5 rounds at -330
Henry Cejudo -269 vs. Sergio Pettis +208
Over/under 2.5 rounds, over -280, under +240
Can Pettis stop Cejudo’s takedowns? That’s the main question, as he’s never faced a wrestler of “The Messenger’s” caliber. If he can’t, than Cejudo will have to deal with a quickly evolving striker who is starting to find his power. Cejudo has made improvements on the feet as well, but still uses his boxing mainly as a crutch to get his hands on a guy. Don’t be fooled by Cejudo’s paltry 35% takedown accuracy – the man knows how to grind opponents down with his attempts.
The rounds over seems like the safest play here as the majority of their combined fights have gone the distance.
Cherry Pick: Over 2.5 rounds at -280
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