Get ready: the heavyweight division’s most explosive puncher meets its best technical boxer this Saturday in the main event of a Minneapolis fight night. We are, of course, referring to Francis Ngannou of Ford Focus power punching fame, and Junior Dos Santos, former champion.
It’s a worth headliner for an ESPN network card – a big fight with big highlight reel potential. The matchup is every bit as eye-pleasing as it is exciting: both guys are sleek, athletic big men with fan-friendly striking styles. We already know Ngannou’s ability to launch 260-pound men into the air with Uppercuts from Hell. Watching Dos Santos pick apart less skilled opponents is always a good time.
The cherry on top is that the winner here likely gets the next title shot. Champion Daniel Cormier rematches Stipe Miocic in the fall, and whatever the outcome they’ll need a challenger. Leave it to either the No. 2 Ngannou or the No. 3 Dos Santos to fill that void – a win on Saturday certainly qualifies the victor beyond a doubt.
Supporting the headliner are two fights of note: a welterweight matchup between Demian Maia and Anthony Martin, and a flyweight contest between No. 1 contender Jussier Formiga and No. 2 Joe Benavidez.
Maia might no longer be a title contender, but he’s still a well-respected player at 170 pounds. This is easily the biggest fight of Martin’s career and a chance to enter the top 10. Formiga and Benavidez is a title eliminator, and the winner gets the next shot at double champ Henry Cejudo – with the caveat that the flyweight division sticks around in the first place.
Let’s take a look at the UFC odds at BookMaker.eu and break down your best betting options. Live UFC betting is also available between rounds as well.
Main Event, Heavyweight
Francis Ngannou -280 vs. Junior Dos Santos +214
Fight odds: Francis Ngannou -280 vs. Junior Dos Santos +214
Fight goes/doesn’t go to decision: +330 / -490
Ngnannou’s fights aren’t hard to break down: if he connects, it’s over. And if he’s up, he’s a threat to connect. Stipe Miocic exposed his lack of wrestling and cardio, but he had to survive the nuclear first-round blitz to get it to a point where he could dominate an exhausted Ngannou.
Junior Dos Santos doesn’t have the wrestling the pull off the same gameplan, but he’s an even better pure boxer. Expect the Brazilian to utilize his crisp jab and agile footwork to stick and move – JDS is particularly good at nailing long jabs to the body to drain stamina bars. Ngannou is likely well aware of this, so don’t be surprised if he starts off quick again – his chances of winning diminish the longer the fight goes.
The big question here is whether Dos Santos can avoid getting tagged. A once granite chin is slowly starting to crack, and Cain Velasquez probably took years off his fighting career. His defense is solid, but fighters have been able to crack him flush in the – Overeem patiently waited for an opening to present itself and scored a knockout. JDS can’t afford a single mistake.
Our Pick: Dos Santos to win at +214
This is a very risky pick, but we like the odds on JDS. He’s got so much more MMA experience and has the skills to play the defensive game and pick apart Ngannou. Of course, that comes with the caveat that the Brazilian gets out of the first round.
Alternate Pick: Ngannou to win by knockout
This would be your hedge bet to our pick, or how you should bet if you’re picking Ngannou. You get a better price than him to win straight up and it represents his most likely way to win – there’s really just no way that Ngannou can outstrike JDS over the course of 25 minutes.
Joe Benavidez -195 to beat Jussier Formiga +154
Anthony Rocco Martin +150 to beat Demian Maia -195
Benavidez and Formiga first met in 2013, with Benavidez earning a quick first-round knockout with a knee to the body. It was probably too much, too soon for Formiga, who was thrown right in the fire after being signed to the UFC as a blue chip prospect. Though Formiga is a better fighter now, his inability to develop effective striking is still a huge hole in his game. The Brazilian submission specialist will need to get this to the mat in order to win, but how often do you see Team Alpha Male fighters get outwrestled? Benavidez keeps this on the feet and takes the decision win.
As much as we love Demian Maia’s beautiful submission game, the 41-year old might just be the most predictable fighter in the sport. Of course, it’s not easy to stop his grappling, but Martin is the type of young, athletic fighter that gives Maia a ton of problems. At this price, we’ll wager that he is able to stay on his feet and take control of the standup. This is definitely one of those fights where live UFC betting comes in handy – if Maia is able to control the first round, the rest of the fight should be cake.
Check out the latest UFC betting odds.