This Saturday’s UFC 231 main event in Toronto could shape the loaded featherweight division for years to come. In one corner, defending champion Max Holloway looks to extend a 12-fight win streak where he absolutely annihilated every challenger placed in front of him. In the other, the undefeated Brian Ortega will try and snatch the belt after thrashing an elite trio of 145-pounders.
Holloway is 26. Ortega is 27. They’re the two best fighters in the division and both are exciting, charismatic fighters. Each has separated themselves from a giant pack of snarling wolves at featherweight. For a minute, it seemed as we were in for a long, fruitful “Blessed” era. But with T-City’s ascendance, now we’re not so sure. Ortega is the real deal.
In the co-main, Valentina Shevchenko finally gets the chance to lay claim to the flyweight strap – something that seemed like an inevitability as soon as the division was created. She just has to get through a familiar face first: former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. By now, we all know that Shevchenko has beaten the Polish powerhouse in pro Muay Thai bouts three times. J-Check not only has the opportunity for revenge, but she could become the first two-weight women’s champ in UFC history.
As usual, we’ve got some awesome bets to make at the online sportsbooks. Let’s check in with the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu and highlight some of the best picks for the the night.
Brian Ortega -105 vs Max Holloway -125
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +180 / -195
Is Holloway All the Way Back?
That’s the big question here. Doctors still don’t know what happened with Holloway the first time they were scheduled to meet. We do know that he had several interviews where he was suspiciously lethargic and slowing his words. It was assumed that he had a mini-stroke. At 26 years old.
He’s a young dude, so there’s a good chance that he makes a full recovery. But still, cutting weight has always been an issue for the guy, and now he’s got to do it against the most dangerous opponent of his career. Bottom line here is that “Blessed” has got to be 100% back to beat Ortega. Even losing half a step would be lethal to somebody as explosive as T-City.
When healthy, Holloway is a cardio beast that lands over 6 strikes a minute, cutting angles and pressuring opponents until they wilt. Ask Jose Aldo what it’s like to try and keep up with him. Or Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, or one of the huge list of elite fighters that Holloway overwhelmed with his weaponized cardio.
Let’s just take a step back and remember how Ortega got here. He forced Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson – two legit BJJ black belts – to frantically tap to lightning quick submissions. His sub attempts are every bit as violent and sudden as flying knee knockouts. But then he went and launched Frankie Edgar into orbit with a second rendition of the Uppercut from Hell – becoming the first guy to stop the former lightweight champion with strikes.
Smart Risk: Ortega to win at -105
We just don’t know if Holloway’s fully recovered, and 25 minutes is a loooong time against a guy you can’t make mistakes against.
Cherry Pick: Fight doesn’t go to decision -195
One way or another, this fight should end early. Neither fighter has ever faced anyone like the other, and we’re thinking that either Holloway’s relentless pace or Ortega’s explosive finishes ends this fight before the final bell.
Joanna Jędrzejczyk +230 vs Valentina Shevchenko -300
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: -245 / +175
How Does Joanna Win?
That’s the question you should be asking, as we agree with oddsmakers that Shevchenko needs to be a huge favorite here. The only chance we see for J-Check is that this tilt becomes a full-fledged sparring session where she outpoints Shevchenko. An aggressive striker, Joanna lands twice the number of significant strikes per minute at 6.
Joanna’s best weapons are her volume and cardio, but when’s the last time you’ve seen Valentina get tired? Plus, she’s gotten outstruck twice by Rose Namajunas, getting slept in their first go-round. Now she’s going up against a girl that competed in two weight classes above her and has beaten her three times in pure kickboxing matchups. Even for Joanna, this is a major uphill climb.
Cherry Pick: Shevchenko to win at -300
Even if Shevchenko starts getting tooled by the quicker Jedrzejczyk, it’s hard not to see her simply locking up with the smaller fighter and going to town in the clinch. Even as a big 115-pounder, Joanna has never been the most physical of fighters. Since this pick is pricey, we suggest you parlay this one and boost another bet.
Lottery Ticket: Shevchenko by submission
Because Shevchenko is a former pro kickboxer, the fact that she’s got more wins by submission than knockout tends to get overlooked. Jedrzejczyk’s chin has shown some cracks, as she’s gotten floored by Gadelha, Kowalkiewicz and Namajunas, and it’s safe to say that the bigger Shevchenko has a real chance at knocking her down and score an opportunistic sub.
Check out the latest UFC 231 betting odds.