Frankie Saenz vs. Jonathan Martinez Odds & Pick: A UFC Underdog At a Far-Too-Tempting Price

Credit:

Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Frankie Saenz gets his hands wrapped backstage.

  • Jonathan Martinez is a big favorite over Frankie Saenz on Saturday's UFC Fight Night card.
  • Sean Zerillo is backing the dog, banking on Saenz's length to play a big factor than the market believes at the moment.
  • Get his full breakdown for this UFC undercard bout below.

Frankie Saenz vs. Jonathan Martinez Odds

Saenz odds +200 (BET NOW)
Martinez odds -260 (BET NOW)
Over/Under 2.5 Rounds (-209/+160)
(BET NOW)
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue UFC Apex, Las Vegas
Channel ESPN

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In the world of pandemic MMA, a few of the sport’s old-timers have found some recent success in the cage. Don’t be surprised if Frankie Saenz, who hits the big 4-0 in just a few weeks, joins the winners’ circle.

At Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 31 event in Las Vegas, Saenz (13-6) meets Jonathan Martinez (11-3) in a matchup that offers some tempting plus-money odds.

This fight was originally scheduled for the bantamweight division, but Martinez — a former 125-pound flyweight — forced it to become a 140.5-pound catchweight affair after missing the mark by a hefty 4.5 pounds at Friday’s weigh-ins.

Of course, Martinez’s troubles on the scale are hardly unique these days. The UFC has hosted 12 events (all without spectators) since its return to live shows in early May, and 75% of those events featured at least one fighter who missed weight.

In this new world — with Zoom training sessions, gym disruptions, travel restrictions and last-minute fight-card remodeling — MMA fans have learned not to read too much into weight misses because of the countless hindrances and distractions. Recent history also suggests fighters who come in overweight still win just about 50% of the time.

Still, it’s yet another reason to like the odds that underdog Saenz (+200) totes into this matchup with 26-year-old Martinez (-260), whose line should arguably be closer to the -140 to -160 range.

Sure, Saenz probably loses this fight more often than he wins it. He’s stuck in a 2-4 skid, and he’s fought just three times in the past 32 months while dealing with injuries and fight cancellations. And as we saw in his most recent fight, a March 2019 TKO loss to Marlon Vera, his chin has also become a bit suspect, as it often does for fighters in the twilight of their career.

However, Saenz’s strengths should play well in this matchup, and the current odds don’t seem to reflect that fact.

Before the Vera loss, Saenz notched a dominant and gritty win over Henry Briones. The former Arizona State wrestler, who has fought professionally for 12 years (twice as long as Martinez), used that same type of clinch, scramble and control work to notch a signature career triumph over Iuri Alcantara in 2015.

Against southpaw Martinez, who should have a decided edge in the striking department, Saenz needs to make this an ugly fight and exploit his opponent’s sometimes-shoddy takedown defense.

Heading into his latest clash, Martinez is also coming off a loss, though it should’ve been a unanimous-decision victory over Andre Ewell. It would have been his third-straight UFC win and would’ve followed a $50,000 Performance of the Night victory over Liu Pingyuan in July 2019.

In that bout, Martinez showed — quite forcefully — why Saenz probably shouldn’t take too many risks standing and trading blows if Saturday’s fight drags out.

Additionally, Martinez has shown steady improvements from fight to fight. He’s started to patch up the holes in his takedown defense, and he’s always had good scrambling ability. But if he can’t fight his type of fight and get the room he needs to work, it could be a long and ugly 15 minutes for him.

Simply put: Saenz needs to get close the distance, push his opponent into the fence, get this fight horizontal and exploit his clear advantages on the mat. The current odds suggest he will do it only 33.3% of the time, but it feels closer to a 50-50 proposition.

The Pick: Saenz ML (+200)

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