UFC 228 has the unfortunate timing of being the pay-per-view card before the Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov superfight that’s set to break viewership records. Not only that, there are a lot of fans on forums that are just hating on the lineup. Take a look at the main card and it’s not hard to see why – even if it’s not really justified.
There definitely is cause for concern for the main event. Welterweight champ Tyron Woodley is coming off of two of the most boring title defenses in UFC history, and challenger Darren Till put on a yawner against Wonderboy in his last outing. Plus, the undefeated Brit made a mockery of the weigh-ins by coming in nearly five pounds over.
But with the exception of the Wonderboy scrap, Till is generally an exciting fighter to watch. Who doesn’t like watching massive fighters take it to the house with a punishing Thai boxing game? And for all Woodley’s passiveness, he’s usually good for a few mind-bending blitzes per fight.
The other big complaint is that there are three women’s fights on the pay-per-view portion. That’s a ridiculous thing to be whining about, especially if you look at the lineup. Valentina Shevchenko is considered the best 125-pounder in the world, and now she’s got a chance to take the belt. Women’s strawweight Jessica Andrade is a non-stop whirlwind of lethal hooks and suplexes. Tatiana Suarez is undefeated and is already the best wrestler in the division.
There’s also Zabit Magomedsharipov, who might be the most exciting featherweight prospect in years. We were robbed of a high-flying scrap with Yair Rodriguez, but Brandon Davis is an aggressive scrapper who won’t back down from the moment.
So while there aren’t super fights, this is still a solid card. Plus, there are some intriguing bets here, as every main card matchup save for the main event features huge underdogs. Let’s jump right into it, using the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu.
Darren Till -115 vs Tyron Woodley -105
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +110 / -140
Seeing Till tower over Woodley is definitely an eye-opener. The Brit’s size and athleticism is gonna make it real tough for the champ to use his wrestling, even if he does have a decorated NCAA background. T-Wood’s explosive overhand right is the great equalizer as a killshot weapon, but does it translate against a guy that probably should be a middleweight to begin with?
Woodley specializes in shutting down his opponents and has the elite tools to do so, but his defensive nature can be hard to watch – and it will come back to haunt him at some point. How many fights can you win by throwing a minimal amount of punches? How can the judges score rounds in your favor when you are backing yourself up into the cage? Can a guy like Woodley really rely on a few short bursts of damaging offense to consistently take home victories?
Cherry Pick: Till to win at -115
We see this going the same way as Woodley’s two Wonderboy fights. Against a noted striker, Woodley tends to press his back to the chain link and lull opponents into his killer overhand right. The difference here is that Till is much, much bigger than Wonderboy and loves to dish out damage in the clinch. The challenger will be the more active fighter here, and for that reason we love his slight underdog odds.
Nicco Montano +750 vs Valentina Shevchenko -1400
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -140 / +100
Montano is the biggest underdog champion in UFC history for a lot of reasons. She won the inaugural flyweight title by winning The Ultimate Fighter, but that was kind of a gimmick for ratings. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who feel that Valentina should be the bantamweight champion after a razor-thin split decision loss to Amanda Nunes.
Now Shevchenko is in her natural weight class, and she’s the No. 1 contender from a heavier division. Montano has six pro fights on her resume, and just one inside the octagon. The champ definitely has promise, but she’s still basically a rookie stepping into a matchup with a monster that’s beaten the likes of Holly Holm and Julianna Pena. Go watch Shevchenko’s flyweight debut against the previously undefeated Priscila Cachoeira to see what “Bullet” can do to inexperienced fighters.
Cherry: Shevchenko inside the distance -150
Even as a parlay anchor, Shevchenko to win is far too expensive to make any real impact on your earnings. This prop bet at least gives you a positive net return. Shevchenko might not be a highlight reel finisher, but she does have 11 stoppages in 15 career wins – and the talent gap is ginormous here.
Jessica Andrade -425 vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz +315
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -230 / +170
They may both be top 5 contenders, but oddsmakers sure aren’t seeing this as an even matchup. When it comes to the eye test, we have to agree. Kowalkiewicz isn’t a fighter that really wows you in any particular way: she’s got a solid Muay Thai base without much snap to her strikes, and she isn’t particularly athletic or fast. What she does have is a steel chin and an unshakeable resolve to keep coming at her foes until they start to wilt.
That’s a big contrast to Andrade, who is built like a fire hydrant and fights like a savage. The Brazilian marches girls down, traps them against the cage, then either bombs away with hooks or locks up some crazy suplex. Her fightmetric stats show that she lands over 6.42 significant strikes a minute and completes 3.24 takedowns per 15. That should give you an idea of how she never shifts out of beast mode.
Cherry Pick: Fight goes to decision at -235
We’ve seen both women take crazy punishment and keep going strong for five rounds. Despite Andrade’s obvious power, Kowalkiewicz has never even been close to knocked out. This bet is much more manageable than Andrade straight up, though at this price you might want to use it as a parlay booster.
Savvy Risk: Andrade inside the distance at +220
I know I just said that this likely goes to decision, but hear me out for this lottery ticket. Claudia Gadelha physically overwhelmed and submitted Kowalkiewicz, and Andrade overpowered Gadelha. There’s a decent chance that she finishes the physically weaker KK.
Savvy Risk: Tatiana Suarez inside the distance over Carla Esparza at +173
Normally, we like taking underdogs who are established vets against hotshot prospects. Not in this case: Suarez is for real. A former Olympic wrestling hopeful, the 27-year old’s ridiculous strength is on a different level, and she’s rapidly rounding out the other parts of her game. Esparza has a wrestling background herself, but expecting her to compete with Suarez in that area is like thinking a playground baller can hang one-on-one with an NBA hoopster. Suarez overpowers Esparza and gets the finish.
Cherry Pick: Magomedsharipov vs Davis fight doesn’t go to decision -195
We’re pretty sure the UFC called a bunch of people to face Magomedsharipov on a week’s notice, only to get turned down. Davis was probably one of the last people they called, and the only one courageous enough to actually sign the sheet. While he’s a good striker, he’s not very experienced and can’t consistently beat mid-tier fighters. Props to him for stepping up, but he gets mauled and finished by a guy that’s better than him in every skillset.
Check out the latest UFC 228 betting odds.