Holloway Faces Big Challenge vs. Nurmagomedov in UFC 223

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Andreas Hale

Thursday, April 5, 2018 5:58 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 5, 2018 5:58 PM UTC

Featherweight champion Max Holloway is stepping into Saturday's bout on six days notice. All he has waiting for him is the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.

UFC 223Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Max HollowayFree UFC Pick: Under 3.5 Rounds, -112Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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The UFC was supposed to anoint a new lightweight champion at UFC 223 when interim title-holder Tony Ferguson was set to finally face Khabib Nurmagomedov.

And then it happened, again.

For the fourth time, Ferguson-Nurmagomedov was called off after an injury to Ferguson forced him out of the fight. But fear not, fight fans. Featherweight champion Max Holloway decided to step up on six days notice to dare to be great and be the second fighter in UFC history to hold two titles simultaneously. Such a shocking turn of events flipped the oddsmakers on their heads, but I’m here to sort through the madness and find some value in Saturday's UFC 223.

Let’s get this out of the way: Holloway facing unbeaten Nurmagomedov on six days notice after suffering an injury and pulling out of his last fight is absolutely ridiculous. Nurmagomedov is the rightful favorite on the UCF odds board at -470, but the line is so incredibly steep that it’s just not a bet anybody should be comfortable with. Although he’s the champion, Holloway is jumping up a weight class and facing an undefeated fighter who has made mincemeat of everyone he has faced. Even at +375, it’s a dart toss because there are too many variables involved. But the fact is that Holloway is more heart than brains in this fight. Taking on a grappler who pummels his opponents with a relentless ground and pound (and wrestles bears!) on short notice isn’t wise. But the real bet here is the over/under of 3.5 rounds.

If this was a full camp, I’d have no problem taking the "over" in this fight given Holloway’s durability and 12-fight winning streak. However, he’s in the precarious position of having to shave nearly 30 pounds in less than a week, which will almost certainly be a detriment to his cardio. This will likely lead to Holloway coming out of the gates fast and looking to land a big shot early. The longer the fight goes, the worse off he is. But this approach could play right into Nurmagomedov’s hands as he turns aggression against his foes.

In either scenario, it’s hard to see this fight going "over" 3.5 rounds (+100). The bottom line is that Holloway has about a minute into each round to get his shots off before Nurmagomedov inevitably drags the fight to the canvas. By the third round, Holloway should be completely spent. Unless he lands that one kill shot.

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Whose win streak ends in Brooklyn? @TeamKhabib vs @BlessedMMA. #UFC223 pic.twitter.com/8uP9bWrkNp

— UFC (@ufc) April 4, 2018
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Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose NamajunasFree UCF Pick: Over 3.5 Rounds, -122Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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The women’s strawweight title is up for grabs as Rose Namajunas looks to cement the fact that she’s the best strawweight in the world when she steps back into the cage with Joanna Jedrzejczyk after shocking the world with a first-round knockout last November.

Jedrzejczyk’s run through the division was frightening right up until she stepped into the Octagon with Namajunas, who humbled her with a exceptional performance. Could Jedrzejczyk be broken after that stunning loss? Does Namajunas simply have her number? Is there any credence to Jedrzejczyk's weight cut struggles? Did she just have an off night?

All are possible scenarios, which makes picking between the two not even worth your time. Namajunas is a slight underdog at +100 while Jedrzejczyk sits as a small favorite at -110. It’s a complete toss-up considering how quickly Namajunas dispatched of the former champion in their last encounter. But, for the record, it wasn’t a lucky punch. Namajunas was getting the better of Jedrzejczyk from the start.

Regardless, this is another fight where the over/under is a better bet than the fighters. Chances are that Jedrzejczyk will be more cautious with her approach after getting clipped in their last fight and will seek to drag this fight into the later rounds, where she has proven to get stronger. Meanwhile, Namajunas might try to establish her dominance early but will slip back into a nip-and-tuck scrap. It’ll be exactly what she expected the first time. Although Namajunas is surprisingly the more prolific finisher — six of her seven victories have been by knockout of submission — I’d expect this to get into the later rounds.

Currently the "under" of 3.5 rounds is at +112, while the "over" is -122. Side with the over in your UCF picks if you feel the need to bet on this fight.

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Who will become the best in the 🌎 on Saturday night? @RoseNamajunas vs @JoannaMMA 2 #UFC223 pic.twitter.com/p9fxmOM5OX

— UFC (@ufc) April 3, 2018
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Brandon Moreno vs. Ray BorgFree UCF Pick: Brandon Moreno +245Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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If you’re looking for the upset that could yield a significant reward, look no further than the flyweight scrap between Brandon Moreno and Ray Borg. Borg is coming off of a submission loss in a title fight against Demetrious Johnson, while Moreno was handled by Sergio Pettis in his last outing. Both are looking to get back on the winning track and paired against one another.

Oddsmakers find Borg as a significant favorite at -290. He’s a large flyweight who uses his size (when he makes weight) to pin down his opponents for the duration of the fight. While he could do the same with Moreno, the Mexican tends to send things into disarray with his scrambling. That chaos has often resulted in submission opportunities presenting themselves. Of his 14 wins, 11 have come by knockout or submission. Nevertheless, he still is a massive underdog at +245 and certainly worth your coins.

Borg is probably being given more credit than he deserves for hanging with Johnson five rounds before being submitted, but that shouldn’t carry over into his next fight. He’s 2-2 in his last four fights. Go with Moreno to pull off the upset.

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UPSET CITY❗️ Flash🔙 to 2016 when @TheAssassinBaby SHINED in his Octagon debut. #UFC223 pic.twitter.com/wJZ9b6w816

— UFC (@ufc) March 29, 2018
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