In the words of the immortal Mike Goldberg: Here. We. GO! From top to bottom, this Saturday’s UFC 225 is one of the best damn cards we’ve seen in years.
It’s so stacked we’ve got former champions and No. 1 contenders on the Fight Pass portion starting at 3:15 pm. The FS1 prelims could easily stand alone as FOX network card. And holy hell, this main card in Chicago has two amazing title fights, a title eliminator and a former WWE superstar.
If you’re a sports bettor and a fight fan, it really doesn’t get much better than this. Not only are there great values throughout the night, we get to watch some of the best peeps in the business square off in compelling matchups with ultra-high stakes.
Since we’ve got so many fights to get to, we’ll skip the typical intro hype and get right into your best bets. We’re using the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu, and assigning Cherry Picks (safe bets), Savvy Risks (good ‘dogs), and Lottery Tickets (hail mary bets).
Robert Whittaker -245 vs. Yoel Romero +195
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -119 / -111
Yoel Romero as a ‘dog is always tempting. The guy is so athletic and explosive that he can instantly Hulk smash an opponent and send him to the shadow realm. But Whittaker has the perfect style to beat him – an elite combination of pressure, quickness, accurate punching, takedown defense and elevated cardio.
If Whittaker can make it to the third round, it becomes a downhill fight. At 41, Romero’s violent bursts drain his stamina meter quickly, and he visibly tires as the fight goes on. A wounded animal is still lethal, but Whittaker is in his athletic prime and was able to avoid getting flatlined in their first encounter. Obviously he can do it again, but lasting 25 minutes against Romero is always a dicey proposition.
Cherry Pick: Fight goes to decision at -111
We’ll say this for Romero: even when he’s exhausted he’s still seems impossible to knock out. Whittaker hasn’t been stopped since 2014, and his speed and reaction time gives him a slight cushion against the Cuban’s violent outbursts. This one should again go to the cards.
Savvy Risk: Romero wins by KO/TKO
This is more of a hedge play. The upset potential is always high with Romero, and it’s highly unlikely he outpoints a high-volume fighter like Whittaker.
Colby Covington -110 vs. Rafael dos Anjos -120
Over/under 4.5 rounds, over -150, under +130
Despite being a former lightweight champion, a current welterweight title contender and a generally exciting fighter, Rafael dos Anjos has never really been a popular guy. Maybe it’s because he’s a bit goofy looking or talks about Jesus too much at press conferences. But he’ll get a hero’s welcome this Saturday when he gets the opportunity to do something the entire MMA world is hoping for: shut Colby Covington the hell up.
But don’t let your emotions get in the way of your bets. Covington is an elite wrestler who can grind for days. Dos Anjos has never responded well to constant pressure, but the only guys who were really able to put the squeeze on him for five rounds were Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. Obviously, Colby’s not the striker that El Cucuy is, and nobody wrestles like Khabib. But in a five-rounder, there’s a solid chance that he can wear down the Brazilian.
Cherry Pick: Rafael dos Anjos to win at -120
Dos Anjos is an underrated wrestler in his own right. Plus, he’s got a huge striking advantage and a BJJ black belt to work with. Simply put, he’s the most dangerous, well-rounded opponent that Colby’s faced and his price is excellent as a straight bet.
Cherry Pick: Over 4.5 rounds at -150
As good a Thai fighter RDA is, he’s not a guy that consistently turns the lights out. And if Colby somehow getting the better of him, we’ve seen Dos Anjos sustain heavy fire for five rounds in the past.
Holly Holm -230 vs. Megan Anderson +180
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -285 / +225
Megan Anderson makes her debut as the former Invicta FC champ and a possible future challenger to human wood chipper Cris Cyborg. But first, she’s gotta get through former boxing world champion Holly Holm. It’s a bit surprising how big a favorite Holm is here, but that’s probably due to the fact that she’s a much bigger name.
So who exactly is Megan Anderson? She’s a big 6-footer with a strong Muay Thai game. She’s also got real KO power – something of a rarity in the women’s game – with four straight knockouts coming into the matchup. A solid athlete with good foot and hand speed, she’s a welcome addition to a featherweight division that has less than five fighters.
Savvy Risk: Anderson to win at +190
In three of Holm’s four losses, she was outstruck but good kickboxers in Cris Cyborg, Germaine de Randamie and Valentina Shevchenko. Anderson might not be on the level of those girls, but she’s bigger, hits harder and is comfortable on the feet. We’ll take the underdog at a 2-1 payout.
Savvy Risk: Andrei Arlovski +215 to beat Tai Tuivasa
Tuivasa is 7-0 with 7 first-round knockouts, so on paper he seems like a nightmare matchup for a glass-chinned Arlovski. The only problem is that he’s only really faced scrubs, and he’s a shorter, let’s say paunchier, fighter whose gas tank needs to be questioned. Maybe he’s the second coming of Mark Hunt, or maybe he’s another Junior Albini. Regardless, Arlovski is the more skilled guy here, so we’ll take his underdog price.
Savvy Risk: CM Punk +180 to beat Mike Jackson
Ok, so Punk might have looked like hot garbage in his UFC (and pro MMA) debut, but that came against a legit prospect in Mickey Gall. You know who also looked like garbage in his UFC (and pro MMA) debut? Punk’s opponent, Mike Jackson. This is a matchup of 0-1 fighters, and while Jackson has some kickboxing and Golden Gloves experience, he’s also focusing on becoming a journalist. Meanwhile, Punk has the means to train full-time at a top MMA gym for the past couple years, so he’s got a decent shot and a great payout.
Lottery Ticket: CM Punk win by submission +550
Punk’s only hope at beating Jackson is on the ground. Supposedly, that’s where he’s been at his best in training camp. Jackson’s background is in striking, so he could be weak when it comes to grappling. A small bet could pay out big.
Savvy Risk: Curtis Blaydes by TKO/KO against Alistair Overeem +155
The Reem’s up against a big young fighter with knockout power and good wrestling. That’s not a good sign for a guy with a cracked chin and a tiny gas tank. If Blaydes doesn’t murk him with punches, he’ll likely exhaust him with takedown attempts…then pound him out on the ground. If you’re looking for a safer play, Blaydes to win at -135 is playable as a straight bet.
Cherry Pick: Parlay Claudia Gadelha -515 to beat Carla Esparza
Gadelha’s gas tank is a slight risk, especially against a fellow wrestler like Esparza. But the difference in athletic ability is huge between the two, and Gadelha’s sheer physicality should overwhelm the former champ. Plus, the improvements we’ve seen in the Brazilian’s striking puts her in a class above Gadelha. Use this pick to boost another bet.
Savvy Risk: Lamas to win at +185
Bektic is the boogeyman that’s supposed to take over the featherweight division at some point. To his credit, he’s been an absolute monster against mid-level dudes. But Lamas was a top-3 fighter for years, only recently slipping to No. 7 after a flash knockout at the hands of Josh Emmett. He’s good everywhere, and his well-rounded game could flummox Bektic.
Check out the very latest UFC 225 betting odds.