Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev UFC Odds, Pick, Prediction: 3 Ways to Bet the Favorite (Saturday, March 12)

Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev UFC Odds, Pick, Prediction: 3 Ways to Bet the Favorite (Saturday, March 12) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC fighter Magomed Ankalaev.

  • Two top-tier UFC Light Heavyweights will face off when Thiago Santos meets Magomed Ankalaev in Saturday's Fight Night main event.
  • Ankalaev is a massive favorite (-600 odds) against Santos, but Sean Zerillo is looking at alternative ways to bet this fights.
  • Check out his in-depth analysis and picks below.

Thiago Santos vs. Magomed Ankalaev Odds

Santos Odds
Ankalaev Odds
3.5 (-118 / -108)
9:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via PointsBet.

Saturday's UFC Fight Night features a Light Heavyweight matchup between former title challenger, No. 5 ranked contender Thiago Santos, and the No. 6 ranked Magomed Ankalaev. The latter many consider the uncrowned king of the 205-pound division.

Ankalaev is listed 85% or higher (depending on the book) in implied win probability against a fighter who went five hard rounds with Jon Jones in July 2019 and nearly pulled out a split decision.

Santos closed in roughly the same price range (+433) for the title fight with Jones as he will on Saturday. However, the champion never tried to grapple in their matchup.

Even if Ankalaev possesses significant grappling upside in this fight, is his steep price tag justified against an underdog who has scored 13 of his 16 UFC victories (81%) by knockout — and would seemingly have a puncher's chance?

Tale of the Tape

Avg. Fight Time8:559:49
Weight (pounds)205 lbs.205 lbs.
Reach (inches)76"75"
Date of birth1/7/846/2/92
Sig Strikes Per Min3.953.60
SS Accuracy48%55%
SS Absorbed Per Min2.282.05
SS Defense56%62%
Take Down Avg0.611.15
TD Acc36%31%
TD Def66%85%
Submission Avg0.10.0

Santos sustained multiple knee injuries in his title challenge against Jones – tearing every ligament in his left knee in the first round, in addition to aggravating old injuries in his right knee despite staying competitive for 25 minutes.

"Marreta" is 38-years-old and has looked like a shell of his former self in his past three fights since returning. His explosiveness is gone, his power isn't translating as well against upper echelon Light Heavyweights as it did against Middleweights, and he has lacked urgency in his fights.

Santos has also shown significant grappling downside in too. Glover Teixeira landed four of seven takedowns and controlled Santos for 9:03 before submitting him.

And while Santos officially denied both takedown attempts from Aleksandar Rakic and only spent 2:32 in control positions, Rakic had clear advantages up against the cage, and his athleticism, physicality, and strength helped to win minutes.

Most recently, Santos's low-volume kickboxing affair with Johnny Walker (fight listed as high as -850 to end inside the distance) was a massive disappointment.

Walker out-struck Santos at range (46-42), which was unexpected. However, Santos simply isn't moving as well as he used to – and taking a step back up in competition while showing signs of regression isn't the best recipe for success.

Ankalaev is eight years younger than Santos, with evident athleticism, durability, and mobility advantages. Saturday marks his first foray into a UFC Main Event, but Ankalaev has seen the fourth round in the past, and he fights at a very measured pace, to begin with; five rounds may help his case, if anything.

He should be able to wear on Santos against the cage and take him down a few times throughout the fight (1.15 takedowns per 15 minutes, 31% accuracy, vs. 66% takedown defense for Santos). And when Ankalaev does get his fights to the mat, he offers strong top pressure and vicious ground and pound.

This matchup could be closer on the feet than on the mat. Ankalaev doesn't push a swift pace (+0.35 strikes landed per minute, for Santos). He may lose a close decision at some point in his career, purely based upon a lack of activity.

Ankalaev prefers to fight off the back foot – and when his opponents refuse to engage, his fights can turn staring contests for long stretches.

However, Ankalaev is very dynamic and technical. He can fight out of both stances, carries power in both hands, throws short quick hooks which can catch opponents in the pocket (and often lead to a knockdown per fight), and offers dangerous high kicks.

The Dagestani is a very efficient striker (55% accuracy, 62% defense; vs. 48% and 56% for Santos), and I would still favor him to win a kickboxing match even if he doesn't grapple. However, the significant grappling advantage – and Santos's apparent regression – justifies the substantial favoritism.

Santos needs to channel his younger self and lean into the variance to pull the upset. Otherwise, he will get soundly outpointed or drown under Ankalaev's pressure in the championship rounds.

As a result, Santos to win by KO/TKO (+650 at BetMGM) or Inside the Distance (+650) are likely superior plays to his moneyline. Still, I don't show any betting value on the underdog in this matchup.

Santos vs. Ankalaev Pick

I projected Ankalaev as an 86.4% favorite (-636 implied odds) in this matchup, and I would consider using him as a parlay piece at -600 or better.

I spread him around in various parlays with Mads Burnell (Bellator) and Kevin Lee (Eagle FC) this weekend, and I will likely find a way to parlay him on Saturday's UFC card too.

You can get a fair price on the fight to end inside the distance (projected -137, listed -135). However, I prefer the odds on Ankalaev to win inside the distance (+120 at BetMGM) if I'm making an individual play on this fight.

Depending upon the book, you can find that prop as low as  -105 to -130, so this slight outlier price is valuable from that perspective alone. I projected the odds closer to +110, personally.

That said, BetMGM is offering Ankalaev by KO/TKO at +125 (44.4% implied) and by submission at +800 (11.1% implied) – so the book is telling you that Ankalaev wins inside the distance or by finish 55.5% of the time (-125 implied odds).

As a result, that swing from -125 (55.5%) to +120 (45.5%) is a potential ten percent edge, without accounting for vig. And while I project a smaller gap, it's still a certain value spot at this price.

Moreover, I projected Ankalaev's submission prop at +671 and took a stab at a +1000 number at FanDuel.

The Pick: Magomed Ankalaev wins Inside the Distance (+120, 0.5u at BetMGM) / Ankalaev wins by Submission (+1000, 0.1u at FanDuel) / Use Ankalaev as a parlay piece (up to -600)

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