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    Best bets for UFC 261 - Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal 2 👊

    Best bets for UFC 261 - Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal 2


    Three belts and six former or current UFC champions will enter the cage in front of a live audience in Jacksonville, Florida, at UFC 261. The stacked main card features well-known talent, while the undercard will focus mostly on newcomers.

    From a data perspective, we'll need to focus primarily on the main card for betting purposes, but there are still clearly some interesting angles there.

    Early prelims begin at 6 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2/ESPN+, prelims start at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+ and the main card is at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.

    Odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

    Welterweight title fight: Kamaru Usman (-420) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+330)

    Tale Of The Tape

    Last fight weight class Welterweight Welterweight
    Age 34 36
    Height 72 71
    Reach 76 74
    Stance Switch Orthodox
    Analyzed minutes 219 318
    Stand-up striking offense
    Total knockdown ratio (scored:received) 7:0 10:5
    Distance knockdown rate 3.2% 2.5%
    Head jab accuracy 36% 33%
    Head power accuracy 37% 36%
    Total stand-up strike ratio 1.1 0.9
    Striking defense
    Total head strike defense 72% 76%
    Distance knockdown defense ("Chin") 100% 98%
    Wrestling and grappling
    TD attempts per min standing/clinch 0.69 0.18
    Takedown accuracy 47% 58%
    Advances per takedown/top control 0.9 0.4
    Opponent takedown attempts 20 129
    Takedown defense 100% 78%
    Share of total ground time in control 100% 60%
    Submission attempts per trip to ground 0.04 0.14
    It's a rematch of last year's welterweight title fight. The outcome was a lopsided decision for Usman, but Masvidal claimed a short training camp adversely affected him and that he would win a rematch. Thanks to his clout and his mouth, he earned that rematch without even taking another fight. But that confidence is not reflected by the current market, which has pushed Usman to be a far bigger betting favorite than he closed for the first fight.

    All the same dynamics are in play. Usman is a strong technical striker and an absolutely dominant wrestler. He has manhandled the elite of the division both on the feet and on the ground. If there's any weakness in that armor, we may have seen a hint of it when he was weathering an early storm from Gilburt Burns in a recent fight in February. Burns landed a few big shots early that seemed to give Usman pause, but the rest of the fight was back in the wheelhouse of the champ, where he dominated for an eventual finish.

    If Masvidal has a path to victory, he has to keep it standing and hope to land some clever counters. In their first meeting, Masvidal had trouble staying off his back. Usman held positional control for extended periods in all rounds, stifling Masvidal's offense and sapping his energy. Masvidal's takedown defense is solid on paper, yet it was still not good enough to defend against a dual threat like Usman. Something has to change significantly in his game to justify backing Masvidal.

    The price for Usman has gone up since last time, despite the risk increasing slightly -- if Masvidal truly comes in with better preparation, or if the 70-day turnaround since Usman's fight against Burns somehow works against him. But the outcome is likely the same.

    E+ recommends: Usman for parlays, as well as over 2.5 rounds.

    Strawweight title fight: Zhang Weili (-210) vs. Rose Namajunas (+175)

    These are the tightest odds among the three title fights, and the data agrees with that. Zhang has looked unstoppable so far, but her brutal last title fight against Joanna Jedrzejczyk required a lengthy recovery period. Still, she outstruck an elite striker in a close back-and-forth battle that showed she can deliver power in the pocket through five rounds.

    Rose briefly held the title but lost it in a strange loss by slam KO to Jessica Andrade. Rose avenged that loss and earlier defeated former champion Jedrzejczyk, not once, but twice, and in much more convincing fashion than Zhang did. That gives Namajunas three wins over former champions. But the "MMA math" comparisons aren't sufficient to declare Namajunas a clear favorite just yet, because Zhang has yet to show any significant weakness while demonstrating a speed-power combination that might be the best ever in that division.

    Zhang has been strong on the mat when fights end up there, but it's her aggressive pace on the feet that stands out. She averages 16 strike attempts per minute while standing and has outworked her opponents by almost 40% on volume there. And while striking, she uses an unusually high mix of power strikes, rather than a normal and more even mix of jab and power strikes. Despite Jedrzejczyk scoring equal or more significant strikes in each and every round of her fight with Zhang, it was the power and damage of Zhang's strikes that must have swayed the judges.

    That said, Namajunas is the more technical striker, with better accuracy and far superior defense than Zhang. If she can stay out of harm's way, especially early when Zhang's strikes will carry the most pop, Rose could do well scoring her own points. It will be a tricky duel on the feet, but Namajunas has cracked the code of imposing strikers before. This looks like much closer to a coin flip than the current odds imply, so there's value on the underdog.

    E+ recommends: Money line play on Namajunas at clear plus money; Fight starts Round 2 for parlays.

    Women's flyweight title fight: Valentina Shevchenko (-410) vs. Jessica Andrade (+335)

    The defending champion Shevchenko has been dominant, and bettors have eagerly backed her so far at flyweight. This title defense is no different, with the incumbent champ as a steep favorite over former strawweight champion Andrade.

    Andrade is certainly a dangerous and well-rounded fighter, but she has not only moved up a division, she's also taking on a dominant champ who has also competed against the elite of the bantamweights. That's a range of two divisions between them. Whereas Andrade has sometimes outmuscled opponents, Shevchenko has done the same in a larger class. And when Andrade has faced a technical striker who can handle her power, she's had trouble. That troublesome fight profile fits the description of her matchup this week against Shevchenko.

    Shevchenko will be bigger and more evasive with a competent ground game to handle the grappling of Andrade. Shevchenko also has a good fight IQ, being the only challenger to take Amanda Nunes to a split decision since the lengthy title reign of the women's GOAT began.

    E+ recommends: Shevchenko is the pick, but she's not very profitable unless mixed into parlays.

    Best bets elsewhere on the card

    The last non-title fight of the night will still feature a former champion in Chris Weidman (-120) against a main event veteran, Uriah Hall (+100). Hall opened as the slight favorite, but steady support on Weidman has since flipped the odds. Regardless of where things land, it will be near a pick 'em.

    So, who gets the edge when the odds are so affordable? Hall is the superior power-striker and likely the greater knockout threat. But he has been outworked and outwrestled by competent talent, which is precisely what Weidman brings to the table. With a strong wrestling base, combined with standup boxing that has gone toe-to-toe with Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and others, Weidman can survive the standup and then win on the mat.

    E+ recommends: Money line play on Weidman, small play on the Weidman by submission prop. Also, fight does not go the distance to hedge against a Hall KO.

    Note: For parlays, there are two heavily favored champs to consider, plus the fact that all three title fights could take time to develop. Various combinations of these ingredients can make for parlays with more reasonable returns that taking steep odds straight up.

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    Usman by decision

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