Ferguson Is Smart Bet Over Lee in Main Event of UFC 216

Andreas Hale

Thursday, October 5, 2017 2:18 PM UTC

Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 2:18 PM UTC

After a brief hiatus, the UFC has another big event Saturday in Las Vegas as UFC 216 features a pair of title fights and a bit of betting intrigue for the gamblers out there looking to make a few extra coins.

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The main event of UFC 216 Saturday in Las Vegas finds Tony Ferguson taking on Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title. With champion Conor McGregor coming off of his TKO loss in his boxing debut to Floyd Mayweather in August, the Ferguson-Lee winner could set the stage for McGregor’s next opponent. Also, Demetrious Johnson will look to break Anderson Silva’s record for most title defenses when he faces Ray Borg in a flyweight title fight rescheduled from UFC 215 after Borg missed weight.

Let’s start with the interim title fight.

Let’s be honest: although it is clear that Lee is skilled, the only reason he’s in this fight is because every other ranked opponent above him was either booked (Alvarez & Gaethje), injured (Nurmagomedov) or had already faced Ferguson (Barboza). Simply put, Lee was in the right place at the right time.

That doesn’t mean Lee doesn’t have a chance, but it is a little surprising that he’s only a +190 underdog against an opponent who has won nine fights in a row. MMA math is usually a terrible way to measure a fight, but the reality is that Lee has lost twice during Ferguson’s winning streak to Al Iaquinta by decision and by TKO to Leonardo Santos. Both fighters aren’t as skilled as Ferguson. And it can be argued that Lee’s most significant opponent (Michael Chiesa) doesn’t match up with Ferguson’s toughest challenges (Rafael dos Anjos and Edson Barboza).

But when you get to the nitty gritty of the fight, Ferguson has a fascinating skill set that Lee has yet to see in an MMA fight. Ferguson is a unorthodox striker who sets up his punches and kicks from unique angles, while his ground game has improved immensely over the past five years. While Lee is an excellent wrestler and is also a fully capable striker, there are too many dimensions in Ferguson’s game for Lee to account for.

Ferguson isn’t necessarily a quick finisher, thus the +110 line for this to end in under 2.5 rounds. However, that line could favor Lee as six of his last seven fights have ended inside of the distance. The problem is that Ferguson has only been finished once in his professional career. Steer clear of this. Ultimately, Ferguson at -210 is the way to go. He’s more experienced, incredibly durable and has all the tools to become the new interim champion.

The co-main event that finds Johnson looking to break Silva’s record for most title defenses against Ray Borg is simply not bettable. Johnson is a significant favorite (-1250) and has been wiping out his opponents. That dominance will likely continue with Borg, who just lost three fights ago to Justin Scoggins. It also didn’t help much that Borg needed to pull out of their originally scheduled fight on Sept. 9. While he wouldn’t admit to it having anything to do with the weight cut, history tells us that Borg has always struggled with his weight in the flyweight division, and that could certainly lead to cardio issues in a five-round fight. The line on the fight ending under 4.5 rounds currently sits at -140 and appears to be an easy wager. If you’re going to touch the fight, that’s the way to go.

There are two other fights that may be worth your time and money.

The Bobby Green vs. Lando Vannata fight is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Vannata comes in as a -220 favorite, which might be overvaluing him a bit. Since nearly shocking the world in his short-notice UFC debut against Ferguson, he’s gone 1-1 with a highlight reel knockout of John Makdessi and a pretty one-sided loss to David Seymour. Green is on a three-fight losing streak, but to top tier competition (Edson Barboza, Dustin Poirier and Rashid Magomedov). The line should be a lot closer than it is considering their experience but Green at a +180 appears to have some value.

Also, Fabricio Werdum (-255) is the rightful favorite against the hard hitting Derrick Lewis (+215) in a heavyweight bout. Werdum is a competent enough striker to keep Lewis from landing a life-changing punch and his ground game is unparalleled in the division. There’s a way to split the baby in this fight by taking Werdum (-255) and the fight going over 2.5 rounds at +120 while also selecting Lewis (+215) and the under at -140. Even though Lewis lost to Mark Hunt by TKO, it was a five-round fight where conditioning had more to do with the loss than anything else. He’s not built to win a decision, but Werdum will likely be cautious enough to win on points.  

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