UFC 251 Picks & Predictions: Our Favorite Bets for Usman vs. Masvidal, Oezdemir vs. Prochazka and Rosa vs. Melo

Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: An overhead view of Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman of Nigeria in the octagon.

  • Looking for UFC 251 picks? You've come to the right place.
  • With 13 bouts on Saturday's UFC 251 slate, there are plenty of options to find some betting value.
  • Our experts are looking to bet three specific matchups: Kamaru Usman (odds: -265 favorite) vs. Jorge Masvidal (odds: +205 underdog), Volkan Oezdemir (-175) vs. Jiri Prochazka (+138) Karol Rosa (-278) vs. Vanessa Melo (+215).

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Fight Island!

UFC 251 is moving full steam ahead with eight bouts on Saturday’s undercard (6 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+) and five fights on the main card (10 p.m. ET on ESPN PPV) including three title fights.

The card is headlined by welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and ceritfield BMF Jorge Masvidal who is stepped in to replace Gilbert Burns after his positive COVID-19 test.

As good as the main card is, the undercard is not to be ignored. The final fight on tonight’s undercard features lightweights Volkan Oezdemir and Jiri Prochazka in a bout with the best odds to end in a finish among all 13 fights.

Our UFC experts poured over the entire card to find the best betting value for tonight’s action. Check out their analysis and picks below.

UFC Best Bets, Picks & Predictions

Dann Stupp: Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jiri Prochazka

UFC Contributor at The Action Network

What do we know about UFC newcomer Jiri Prochazka? Well, if you take a few minutes to check out his lengthy highlight reel, there’s a whole lot to like about the 27-year-old Czech fighter, who arrives in the UFC octagon fresh off a string of destruction against familiar names as the light heavyweight champion of Japan’s Rizin Fighting Federation.

In tonight’s UFC 251 featured preliminary-card bout, Prochazka (26-3-1) brings his vast experience into a potential slugfest with fellow striker Volkan Oezdemir (17-4). UFC officials clearly knew this was going to be a juicy appetizer to UFC 251’s pay-per-view main card, and there’s little reason to think the ESPN-televised bout won’t deliver some fireworks.

Combined, these two 205-pounders have registered 35 knockouts in 43 career wins. And while it might be easy to dismiss that stat as being a byproduct of fighting subpar competition earlier in their careers, even Prochazka and Oezdemir’s recent victories over legit names have come primarily via strikes.

Prochazka, whose unorthodox striking includes punches and kicks from all kinds of angles, is riding a 10-fight winning streak – and nine of the wins were knockouts, including recent ones over big-show vets C.B. Dollaway, Fabio Maldonado, “King Mo” Lawal, Brandon Halsey and Jake Heun. The dreaded first-time “octagon jitters” are unlikely to be a concern for this experienced eight-year pro, who uses his 80-inch reach well (and also has some decent grappling, despite iffy takedown defense).

Still, unlike those past opponents, whose best days were arguably behind them, Prochazka gets a stiff test in his UFC baptism when he meets “No Time” Oezdemir. The 2017 Breakout Fighter of the Year and 2018 UFC title challenger is currently ranked No. 7 in the UFC’s light heavyweight division after he rebounded from a trio of loses to the division’s elite with recent victories over Ilir Latifi (knockout) and Aleksandar Rakic (split decision).

Although he doesn’t necessarily have true one-punch stopping power, Prochazka’s volume, movement and feints can leave opponents reeling and frustrated. And though Oezdemir has proven capable of hanging with the best, I’m not sure he’s experienced a creative striker quite like Prochazka. Additionally, I just don’t think Oezdemir can effectively counter enough, especially considering he tends to slow in the latter half of fights, is this fight gets out of the first round.

In what I see as a relatively close fight, I’ll happily take some plus money on Prochazka.

Pick: Jiri Prochazka (+135)
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Sean Zerillo: Karol Rosa vs. Vanessa Melo

Betting Analyst, The Action Network

Karol Rosa is my single-favorite parlay piece on Saturday’s card. I think that she’s hugely undervalued against her Brazilian compatriot Vanessa Melo — who missed weight by five pounds on Friday, after also missing by five pounds and losing as a +450 underdog in September against Irene Aldana.

Fighters who miss weight are just 41-42 (49%) since 2013, and underdogs listed between +100 and +300 have fared exceptionally well (19-15), but five pounds is a substantial miss.

Melo’s lack of fitness will sure lead to another fight where, if she makes it to the later rounds, her output will diminish. Melo landed half as many significant strikes as Aldana (125-68) and managed just 19 total significant strikes in the second and third rounds combined against Tracy Cortez — compared to 21 in the first round.

Meanwhile, Rosa landed 11.4 significant strikes per minute (171 total) in a split-decision win in her record-setting UFC debut against Lara Procopio. If Rosa is either behind or around even in live betting after the first round, I would likely bet her again live.

Rosa has stopping power, but Melo is tough with all seven of her career losses coming by decision.

She is neither accurate (28% significant strike accuracy) nor particularly powerful, and there is no way that she can keep up with Rosa in terms of volume for 15 minutes.

The crowd projects the fight to go the distance 83% of the time – implied odds of -488, so there is some value on both the fight to go the distance (-300) or over 2.5 rounds (-335).

However, that also makes Rosa’s fair odds to win by decision -295 (implied 74.7%), so Rosa’s listed odds to win by decision at -120 (implied 54.6%) is arguably the steal of the night.

Pick: Karol Rosa by decision -120
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Zerillo: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal

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.

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 of which I feel are correlated; which is why I wouldn’t double down and place multiple bets on this fight.

Pick: Fight Goes the Distance (+125)
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