Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal Pick, Prediction & Odds: Back Kamaru Usman to Grind Out a Win On the Cards

Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Kamaru Usman of Nigeria.

  • The UFC 251 main event features welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (-286 betting favorite) against Jorge Masvidal in a title defense on Fight Island.
  • Can Masvidal pull off the upset win on short notice against one of the UFC's top fighters?
  • Sean Zerillo analyzes the matchup, including his betting prediction for this fight.

Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal Pick, Prediction & Odds 

Usman odds -286 (BET NOW)
Masvidal odds +230 (BET NOW)
Over/Under 4.5 Rounds (+104/-139)
(BET NOW)
Time 12:30 a.m. ET
Venue Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
Channel ESPN PPV

Odds as of Saturday at 11:30 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


Fight fans couldn’t have asked for a better replacement contender for the main event at UFC 251 than the increasingly popular Jorge Masvidal — who is technically stepping in on six days’ notice for his first-ever title shot — after Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19.

This fight has been on the radar for some time for both Masvidal and current champion Kamaru Usman, however.

According to his camp, Masvidal has been consistently training for this specific opportunity for six months and had no difficulty making weight within a week – despite some private jet pizza shenanigans.

Usman switched camps before his expected clash with Burns, seeking the guidance of Trevor Wittman – who has helped to turn Justin Gaethje into one of the most feared fighters on the planet.

Therefore, I’m going to discount any factors relative to Masvidal’s late notice, or Usman needing to adjust his gameplan at the last minute. Neither man should have any excuses, and both should be primed for an old fashioned striker vs. wrestler clash to decide the undisputed welterweight champion of the world.

Can “The Nigerian Nightmare” win his 12th consecutive UFC bout and continue his climb towards all-time great status, or will “Gamebred” get the best of a champion that he doesn’t respect, and finally strap a championship belt around his waist after his 49th professional fight?

Kamaru Usman Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
12/14/19, Colby Covington -300, -220 W
3/2/19, Tyron Woodley +105, +138 W
11/30/18, Rafael Dos Anjos -215, -350 W
5/19/18, Demian Maia -175, -588 W
1/14/18, Emil Meek -705, -850 W

Up until his past two fights, the betting market has generally sided with Usman; notice the dramatic line movement before his 2018 fight against Demian Maia.

Usman also moved from -440 to -1015 before a September 2017 fight with Sergio Moraes.

The line for the Masvidal fight has bounced around since it was officially announced, and per Sports Insights, the majority of the tickets and cash are on the underdog.

Jorge Masvidal Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
11/2/19, Nate Diaz -110, -170 W
7/6/19, Ben Askren +170, +130 W
3/16/19, Darren Till +175, +175 W
11/4/17, Stephen Thompson +120, +135 L
5/13/17, Demian Maia +135, -105 L

Masvidal also saw fairly significant line movement against Demian Maia in 2017, moving from an underdog to a favorite, and the market has generally sided with “Gamebred” throughout his career.

Dating back to his Strikeforce days, I can only count two fights – vs. Stephen Thompson (11/4/17) and vs. Benson Henderson (11/28/15), where Masvidal’s closing odds finished higher than his opening line.


Tale of the Tape

Main Event Usman Masvidal
Record 16-1 35-13
Avg. Fight Time 16:40 12:53
Height 6’0″ 5’11”
Weight (pounds) 170 170
Reach (inches) 76″ 74″
Stance Switch Orthodox
Date of birth 5/11/87 11/12/84
Sig Strikes Per Min 4.60 4.33
SS Accuracy 52% 47%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.17 2.94
SS Defense 60% 66%
Take Down Avg 3.44 1.70
TD Acc 50% 59%
TD Def 100% 78%
Submission Avg 0.2 0.4

With 48 professional fights, Masvidal is the most experienced fighter ever to receive his first title shot.

Usman has the advantage in strike differential (+2.43 vs. +1.39) and accuracy (+5%), but Masvidal has the faster and more powerful hands, with better combinations and technique.

That being said, Usman continues to improve his striking, and he is arguably the best wrestler in UFC history other than Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Usman has never been taken down, and he averages more than 5.5 takedowns per 25 minutes, with excellent top control and improving ground and pound. Therefore, Masvidal’s takedown defense (78%) is the critical metric for the fight.


Don’t forget, you can now track your UFC 251 bets in the Action Network App!


Usman’s Path to Victory

Kamaru Usman has recorded 11 consecutive victories in the UFC – eight by decision, two by KO/TKO, and one by submission.

He is a dominant wrestler, whose striking has improved by leaps and bounds – landing more than 130 significant strikes in each of his past three fights – and if he can even be 45% as effective as Masvidal on the feet and take him down at will, he should be able to coast to a decision victory while thriving in the later rounds.

Usman has a high fight IQ, and I don’t expect him to remain standing and striking for the entirety of a 25-minute bout with the very dangerous Masvidal – who has recorded stoppages when trailing in fights.

But I do expect him to start behind his jab, land blows to the body, and look for openings for his powerful single and double leg takedowns in the middle of the cage.

He didn’t attempt those takedowns against Covington, because he didn’t want to play into his opponent’s strengths – and Usman slowly picked him apart with his striking:

Usman is excellent in the clinch but less adept with his trip takedowns compared to when he shoots, and Masvidal’s combinations could do some damage if Kamaru isn’t careful in close quarters.

Masvidal is exceptionally durable, and I don’t expect Usman to knock him out with one clean shot, so the champion will need to fight his preferred grinding – and sometimes dull – style, and wear on Masvidal with his wrestling and elbows from the top until he saps all of his energy.


Masvidal’s Path to Victory

You have to respect the late-career transformation for Masvidal. The highlight-reel win against Ben Askren tells the whole story – the guy just goes for broke now.

He has turned into an extraordinarily adept and aggressive finisher, recording each of his past five, and six of his previous seven wins by KO/TKO:

Masvidal is a threat to end any fight at any point, exploding forward with powerful combinations – while seemingly getting stronger when his back is up against the cage.

He needs to make Usman pay if the champion wants to get into the clinch, fire off power shots with his hands and knees, and look to get back to the center of the octagon where he can stand and kick from range.

The extra space in the 30-foot octagon, as opposed to the 25-foot cage at APEX, likely helps Masvidal to avoid getting taken down as frequently.

It’s not a matter of if, but when and how often Usman will be able to take him to the mat, however, and once the fight gets there, whether Masvidal will be able to scramble back to his feet.

He certainly doesn’t respect Usman’s power or Usman as a fighter in general, and I do expect Jorge to maintain a hypersonic, reckless pace when he has the opportunity to do so.

If he cannot score the big knockdowns – which he has generated at a high volume in his recent fights, this bout will revolve around how much time Masvidal ultimately spends on his back, eating one small elbow after another from the champion.


Usman vs. Masvidal Betting Pick

My crowdsourced projection has Usman winning the fight 65% of the time – implied odds of -186, so he is likely a bit overvalued on the moneyline, while Masvidal’s offers slight value.

In terms of winning method, the crowd expects a fairly binary outcome, predicting Usman by decision 80% of the time, and Masvidal by KO/TKO nearly 90% of the time, depending upon who wins – making those fair odds -108 for Usman by Decision, and +225 for Masvidal by KO/TKO.

Usman is +150 (implied 40%) to win by decision in the betting market, an 11.9% edge compared to the projection at -108 (implied 51.9%), while Masvidal is only +250 to win by KO/TKO, a 2.2% edge. Usman offers significantly better value.

Additionally, the crowd projects the fight to go the distance 55.5% of the time, implied odds of -125, but you can bet an 11.1% edge in the market at +120 (implied 44.4%)

Over 4.5 Rounds (+110) is equally appealing, given the chance that these two extremely tough fighters last the full 25 minutes.

I would recommend betting Over 4.5 rounds, betting the fight to go the distance, or betting Usman to win by decision – all at plus-money – I merely chose the juiciest option, and most substantial edge amongst the three potential wagers – all of which I feel are correlated; which is why I wouldn’t double down and place multiple bets on this fight.

Pick: Usman by Decision +150 (1 unit)
Get +500 odds on either side of the main event

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