The Bet: Kamaka to win by decision (+105)
UFC 252 Odds, Projections & Picks: Betting Analysis For Saturday’s 11 Fights (August 15)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC logo.
- A loaded UFC 252 card needs an equally loaded breakdown of every fight. We've got projected odds, fight breakdowns and so much more.
- See Sean Zerillo's preview for all 11 bouts and the 10 bets he plans to make for Saturday's undercard and main card action.
UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3 begins Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+ with six preliminary fights.
The main card starts at 10 p.m. ET featuring five bouts, including the heavyweight title fight and the third matchup between Stipe Miocic (c) and Daniel Cormier.
In addition to moneylines and Over/Unders, there are numerous ways to bet on an MMA fight — including exact winning methods, winning round props, and whether or not the match will go to a decision or finish inside the distance.
As a result, after examining all of the betting options, your typical UFC card can offer a substantial amount of actionable value.
Below, you can find my crowdsourced fair odds projections for each of Saturday’s 11 bouts, including forecasts for those fights to finish inside of the distance, moneylines, or for either fighter to win by decision, knockout, or Submission; with analysis and picks for my Saturday bets below.
As of writing, up to six moneylines (three favorites and three underdogs), seven inside the distance props, and ten winning method props offer projected betting value.
UFC 252 Projections
UFC 252 Betting Odds
Odds as of Friday evening
- 7 p.m. ET
Featherweight fight: Tony Kelley vs. Kai Kamaka III
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-200/+150|
Crowdsourced Projections: Kamaka (73%)
The first fight on Saturday’s preliminary card was a late addition to the show. UFC bouts have been canceled with regularity of late, and the promotion wanted to ensure at least nine fights for Saturday night, so they added two regional scene competitors to the roster for an early evening scrap.
Kamaka is eight years younger than Kelley and enters on a five-fight winning streak between KOTC, Bellator, and LFA where he recorded a decision victory just two weeks ago.
When there is at least an eight-year age difference between UFC competitors, the younger man has won 62% of the time at average odds of -137 (implied 57.8%).
His opponent also has not fought since May of 2019, and fighters who return off of a layoff of more than one year win less than 40% of the time. That win, by the way, came by first round guillotine over a 2-4 regional fighter, and it was Kelley’s first fight in three years.
I’m not going to pretend to know a ton about either fighter, but the projection and spot points to Kamaka as the clear side to back.
I would play Kamaka’s moneyline to win a half unit at -200 or better, but I actually prefer his decision prop, which the crowd projected at -163.
Heavyweight fight: Chris Daukaus vs. Parker Porter
|Over/Under 1.5 rounds||-121/-110|
Crowdsourced Projections: Porter (55%)
Per crowd projections, this heavyweight bout is the most likely fight on Saturday to finish inside of the distance, with both Porter (82%) and Daukaus (74%) viewed as highly likely to win by KO/TKO.
In fairness, but for the pandemic, neither man would grace the UFC’s roster; Daukaus is actually a full-time police officer in Philadelphia.
He has good cardio with big power and is seemingly the bigger man — three inches taller with the more athletic physique compared to Porter — who is the better grappler.
Bur Porter has some big time power of his own, and the crowd actually prefers his knockout odds at +160 (projected +122) of any winning method wager.
There is no value on either moneyline, however, and I personally prefer Daukaus in this fight.
Playing the fight to finish inside of the distance (-335, implied 77%) is a solid parlay piece at a 10% edge, compared to a projected line at -669.
Stoppages have occurred at an extremely high rate in the close quarters of the 25-foot APEX cage, and this fight seems destined to end early.
The Bet: Under 1.5 Rounds (-110, 0.5 units)
Women’s Strawweight fight: Ashley Yoder vs. Livinha Souza
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-360/+250|
Crowdsourced Projections: Souza (70%)
Souza, a former Invicta Strawweight champion, has had an underwhelming run in the UFC — she offers powerful striking and excellent submission skills, but she has been relatively conservative in her past two UFC bouts — and was thoroughly dominated by Brianna Van Buren in her second career loss.
Yoder has suffered consecutive defeats and could be on the chopping block with another loss here. She is the larger fighter with a 4-inch height and 6-inch reach and she also has the lefty advantage; in the UFC, southpaw fighters have a 53% win rate against orthodox fighters.
She can likely keep up on the feet, but Souza has a big grappling edge, and if she relies on her takedowns (3.35 per 15 minutes in the UFC, 50% accuracy) and top control, Yoder will either lose by decision or get submitted.
It’s difficult to gauge where Souza’s motivation is at after such a one-sided loss to Van Buren, while Yoder is likely fighting for her UFC life.
Despite the size differential, Yoder doesn’t offer the type of physicality that has troubled Souza in recent fights, but her wrestling defense (66%) and improved grappling could help her to survive to the finish line.
Compared to the crowd projection at -233, Souza’s moneyline certainly offers betting value, but I prefer her odds to win by decision (+125, implied 44.4%) at a 12.3% edge compared to a projected -131 (implied 56.7%).
Souza’s motivation will determine the outcome but given her possibility to win by submission or to lose a split decision, we’ll keep the play small.
Due to her submission skills, I’ll avoid doubling down and will not be playing the fight to go the distance (-305), even though the crowd projection (-455) is bullish on that wager.
The Bet: Livinha Souza by Decision (+125, 0.5 units)
Featherweight fight: TJ Brown vs. Danny Chavez
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-115/-115|
Crowdsourced Projections: Brown (72%)
Brown is the value side in this fight, but he already had a questionable gas tank, and I’m significantly more concerned about his chances after he was unable to make weight on Friday.
Brown was actually given extra time to shed the extra half-pound and still was unable to do so. That’s extremely problematic, and all but confirmed that he likely had a very difficult weight cut.
Although Brown lost his UFC debut to Jordan Griffin, that technically makes him a UFC veteran (in addition to a Contender Series win) – and fighters making the UFC debut against a veteran – like Chavez – only have a 43% win rate in such spots.
There isn’t a ton of tape available on Chavez, but he has won his past three fights by knockout, while Brown has recorded all but one of his career wins by stoppage.
Taking those factors into consideration, I would want to play the under or bet the fight to finish inside of the distance, but the crowd sees those bets as 50/50 propositions.
Given the weight issue, I cannot recommend placing a pre-fight wager on this bout.
Instead, I’ll watch the first round and look to take Chavez as a live underdog after Round 1 — if he looks to be a competent fighter — expecting Brown to gas out in the later stages of the fight after a difficult weight cut.
The Bet: Live Bet Chavez after Round 1
Women’s Strawweight fight: Felice Herrig vs. Virna Jandiroba
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-250/+180|
Crowdsourced Projections: Jandibroba (65%)
Herrig is the value side in this fight with the crowd suggesting a 5% edge between her projected and listed odds, but it’s difficult to bet on a fighter who is making her return to the UFC after a two-year layoff due to ACL surgery.
UFC fighters who return after a one-year layoff win less than 40% of the time, and at 35-years-old, Felice is on the wrong side of the age curve in the women’s strawweight division.
In the past, Herrig has been a pressure fighter, who throws at high volume — landing 3.7 strikes per minute on 36% accuracy — and she’s able to go to her grappling to finish off rounds while proving difficult to get to the mat (76% takedown defense) herself.
That’s exactly what Jandiroba will want to do with this fight in order to add another submission victory to her record, and I do think that she will be able to execute her game plan. Once Herrig does go to the mat, she will get passed and put in a bad position relatively easily.
12 of Virna’s 15 professional wins have come by submission, and although she is the more one-dimensional fighter, her jiu-jitsu will prove too lethal for most fighters in her division.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) December 8, 2019
There is some value to bet this fight to go the distance, but I would rather play Herrig to win by decision (+350) if you are going that route, compared to her projected odds at +228.
Given Herrig’s knee surgery, and her lengthy layoff, I still don’t see how you can back her in this spot — even despite the line value.
Jandiroba could tap her way to a title shot in short order, and I’m not at all interested in fading her here.
The Bet: Pass
Lightweight fight: Jim Miller vs. Vinc Pichel
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-139/+105|
Crowdsourced Projections: Miler (55%)
The crowd likes the underdog Miller as a value play here, on the heels of a first-round submission victory over the favored Roosevelt Roberts on June 20.
Vinc Pichel also pulled an upset win over Roberts last June and while he has not fought since, he is also no stranger to layoffs. He won that Roberts fight after an 18-month layoff, and also won by knockout in 2017 after taking a three-year break from the fight game.
The first-round submission is Miller’s gameplan, recording each of his past four wins in that fashion. In addition to his submission skills, Miller is also the more technically sound striker, but his gas tank typically empties out after the first five minutes.
Pichel is the better wrestler, and I would expect an outcome similar to Miller’s fight against Scott Holtzman — Miller won the first round on two of the three judges scorecards (and 76% of the public) before fading in the final two frames.
If he can avoid those early grappling mistakes, and keep Miller off of his back, the fight should be his to lose.
As a result, even though I see pre-fight value on Miller, I’m going to bypass that side, and I’ll look to live bet Pichel if he can survive the first round.
The Bet: Live Bet Pichel after Round 1
Don’t forget, you can now track your UFC bets in the Action Network App!
- ESPN PPV
- 10 p.m. ET
Bantamweight fight: John Dodson vs. Merab Dvalishvili
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-345/+240|
Crowdsourced Projection: Dvalishvili (75%)
Merab dominated in a decision victory over late-replacement Gustavo Lopez on a Fight Night card back in mid-June – winning two 10-8 rounds on one of the three scorecards.
The Georgian wrestler is a decision machine – with four consecutive UFC wins going the distance, and his split decision loss in his UFC debut against Cub Swanson was controversial; 10 of the 14 media members scored the fight for Merab, along with more than 66% of the fans.
He doesn’t have great top control, but Merab tends to rag doll his opponents the moment that they scramble back to their feet – averaging 8.7 takedowns per 15 minutes inside of the octagon (50% accuracy).
He’s also incredibly durable and has never been knocked out in his career.
That style could present some problems for former Lightweight title challenger John Dodson, whose takedown defense (80% career) has been less effective since moving up to the 135 pound division. Merab is also the bigger man – three inches taller and three inches longer.
Dodson packs serious power, and seemingly needs to end this fight with one big shot (10 of 21 wins by KO/TKO) which could be a tall task given Merab’s chin. The Georgian owns the higher strike output (4.01 to 3.3 per minute) with a superior differential (+1.89 to -0.29) to the American.
A younger Dodson, in a standard 30-foot cage, would likely be able to use his footwork and scrambling ability to keep Merab off of him, in order to set up some big counters to make his opponent pay for his reckless aggression.
The smaller cage at Apex plays to Merab’s strengths, however, and it’s difficult to envision Dodson winning on the scorecards – given Merab’s strike volume and wrestling output.
If Merab is slightly more measured with his approach, there is almost no path to victory for Dodson – but Merab has shown little respect for opposing offense, and he will likely eat a couple of big punches at some point. Those moments will likely determine the outcome of the fight.
The crowd projection lined Merab at -300, and it sees the fight going the distance 84% of the time, implied odds of -526. His moneyline was listed around -185 just one week ago.
As a result, Merab by decision (-159) offers a 6% edge relative to a crowd projection at -194 (implied 66%), and is the one bet that offers the most value for this fight.
I would also consider using Merab’s moneyline, or Over 2.5 rounds (-345) as parlay pieces.
The Bet: Merab Dvalishvili by Decision (-159, Risk 1 unit)
Featherweight fight: Herbert Burns vs. Daniel Pineda
|Over/Under 1.5 rounds||+110/-148|
Crowdsourced Projection: Burns 73%
The crowd projections show that there is no betting value on either side, or on the total for this fight.
Burns is currently riding the UFC hype train — aided in part by the success of his brother, Gilbert Burns — after scoring three first-round submission wins under the promotion’s banner. Dating back to his time on the regional scene, Burns has seven wins via first-round submission.
Once he faces a fighter who has high-level wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu defense, he could be in trouble, however.
Daniel Pineda went 3-4 on his previous run in the UFC, and I found it odd that the promotion recently signed him again, following a 2019 PED suspension. He is a potent finisher, however, recording all 26 of his career wins by stoppage (8 KO, 18 submission) and that doesn’t include his two October 2019 wins (TKO, Guillotine) that were overturned into no-contests following the suspension.
Pineda is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but he puts himself into vulnerable positions and I still give the grappling edge to Burns. Pineda’s best path to victory is to keep the fight standing.
Burns by submission (-150) is the most likely outcome, but I cannot recommend placing a -EV wager on that prop relative to the crowd projection (-132), and I struggled to find an actionable betting angle for this fight.
It’s also worth noting that Burns missed weight for the fight and fighters who failed to make weight are on a 3-9 run during the pandemic, including a 3-3 record for favorites.
The Bet: Pass
Heavyweight fight: Junior Dos Santos vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
|Dos Santos odds||+108|
|Over/Under 1.5 rounds||+100/-134|
Crowdsourced Projection: dos Santos (52%)
For additional analysis on this fight, check out the early betting preview from my colleague, Reed Wallach.
I fully agree with Reed’s analysis, as well as the crowd projection for this fight – making Junior dos Santos (“JDS”) a small favorite compared to his underdog line.
He is the more skilled fighter and if he so chooses, “Cigano” should be able to dominate with his wrestling against Rozenstruik, a former professional kickboxer whose overall MMA skillset is lacking.
But I expect JDS to largely engage in a standup battle, in a matchup which presents some durability concerns for both fighters.
Rozenstruik makes his return to the octagon after suffering his first career loss to Francis Ngannou on May 9, by way of vicious knockout.
JDS is coming off of back-to-back knockouts at the hands of Ngannou, and Curtis Blaydes. He is 5-5 over his past 10 bouts, with five knockout losses, but all to top-flight competition (Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez, and Alistair Oveeem included).
I expect JDS to fight from the outside, and use his superior strike defense (58% to 34%) to attempt to pick Rozenstruik apart with his boxing, but I will grow more concerned about JDS the longer the fight goes, as he tires and his hands begin to drop.
JDS looks to be in excellent shape coming into this fight, and might use his improved physique to eventually drop down to the light heavyweight division – where his power should pose major problems.
At Heavyweight, the smaller physique will help to enhance his speed – and I do expect him to get the best of the exchanges here. Rozenstruik was down 39-37, 39-37, and 40-36 on the scorecards against Alistar Overeerm prior to his 5th round stoppage – his output is simply too low.
However, the chin is obviously a major concern for JDS, and while I think he is more likely to win the fight – especially if it goes to a decision – the chance of one of these two men going to sleep seems pretty high.
JDS by KO/TKO (+333) offers value compared to the crowd projection at +263 – and betting the fight to finish inside the distance (-305), is a viable parlay piece relative to the projection (-355).
But it’s hard to pass up on this underdog moneyline, which dropped down from +125 over the past week, and I’m going to back the physically fit former champion against what I perceive as an overrated fighter; and would play him down to even money.
The Bet: Junior dos Santos (+108)
Bantamweight fight: Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-141/+105|
Crowdsourced Projection: O’Malley (64%)
Since this fight was first announced for UFC 252, I thought that it presented a tough challenge for the undefeated Sean O’Malley, who is one of the bright young stars of this sport both inside and outside of the octagon (seriously, who else could pull off this hair).
Marlon “Chito” Vera is an extremely underrated fighter whose most recent loss to Song Yadong was controversial — nine of the 17 media members watching scored the fight for Vera, along with 66% of fans.
He is a notoriously slow starter, however, so Vera is almost always crawling back from a one round deficit – and a close second or third round will harm his chances of winning on the scorecards, where he is 3-6 for his career.
But Vera is also extremely tough – never finished in his career – and he seems likely to test O’Malley’s gas tank – as “Suga” has won both of his fights in 2020 by first round knockout since returning from his 2019 suspension.
— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) August 13, 2020
Chito is a master of creating and adapting to chaos – and his striking has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of 14 UFC bouts. He doesn’t have the wrestling to truly test O’Malley’s grappling, but his submission skills are top notch, and he is extremely opportunistic.
O’Malley has shown questionable fight IQ moments in past fights, where he has left the pocket in order to initiate a grappling exchange – leaving his neck and limbs exposed in the process. Unlike lesser opponents, Vera will aggressively seize upon such an opportunity, and grab hold of O’Malley’s giraffe neck or long limbs.
Vera is also adept at catching kicks, which could stifle one of O’Malley’s best weapons, but “Suga” is excellent at feinting strikes and moving around the octagon in order to maintain control of the distance.
Vera will continually look to close that distance and stay in O’Malley’s face – inside of his opponent’s reach advantage where he can actively pursue knees to the body from the clinch.
We have yet to see O’Malley truly overcome adversity against an extremely durable opponent, and although he appears to be the more skilled fighter, Chito is easily the toughest and most relentless fighter that he has ever faced.
The crowd projection sees value on Vera’s moneyline – which it projected at +178, in addition to Vera by submission at +700 (projected +578) or the fight to finish inside of the distance.
Given Vera’s durability and penchant for being a slow starter, I’m less interested in betting the fight to finish inside the distance (-120, projected -186) as O’Malley by decision seems like a very clear path to victory.
I do think that “Chito” can pull the upset and derail the O’Malley hype train, however – despite my fandom for “Suga” – and I’ll be making small plays both on Vera’s moneyline and the submission prop; betting that the undervalued fighter finds his winning moment amidst some chaos.
The Bet: Marlon Vera (+225, 0.5 units) | Marlon Vera to win by Submission (+700, 0.25 units)
Heavyweight fight: Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier
|Over/Under 2.5 rounds||-148/+110|
Crowdsourced Projection: Cormier (52%)
After splitting their first two meetings, this trilogy fight will determine the Greatest of All-Time in the UFC Heavyweight Division – and the crowd appears to have the fight correct right around a pick’em, with a small lean towards Cormier just like in the betting markets.
History is not kind to the favorite in this matchup – Cormier won the first bout as a +140 underdog, before Stipe won the rematch at +130.
After surveying the odds board, there was only one bet that offered value – Stipe by KO/TKO (+185) compared to a crowd projection at +164, but the edge is slight.
Stipe made a crucial adjustment in the fourth round of the second encounter – doling out punishment to Cormier’s body (14 of 16 strikes landed) which eventually put the gassed out champion down for good.
It’s easy to remember because it’s the last thing we saw – but let’s not forget that Cormier had essentially dominated the head to head matchup until that point. In the first fight, he flattened Miocic in the first round, catching him with a perfect overhand right hand inside of the clinch.
The dominance continued into the second fight, with Cormier carrying a wicked pace while out-landing Stipe 37-7 in round one, and nearly gaining a late Round 1 stoppage after deploying his wrestling.
He out-landed Stipe 56-46 in round 2, and 57-34 in Round 3 – and was significantly more efficient (68% to 53% accuracy) before eventually tiring and succumbing to the body blows.
Cormier has mostly worked on his conditioning for the trilogy fight – he is the more skilled and well-rounded fighter, and if he’s willing and able to go back to his wrestling, it could present major problems for Miocic. However, that game plan certainly factored into his tiring out in their last bout – but if the fight goes the distance it’s hard to imagine Cormier not winning more rounds.
“I love fighting at the APEX,” Cormier said on his ESPN show. “That old leg is gonna be right in front of me to grab… If you want to see a 25-minute stand-up fight, that’s not what you’re getting.”
He led on all three scorecards prior to the 4th round knockout last August, but if Stipe comes out with a different game plan and focuses on those body shots, Cormier’s only option might be to grapple.
Miocic is certainly the bigger man (five inches taller, eight inches longer) as ”DC” is a natural Light-Heavyweight, but Cormier has looked like the more physical fighter.
He has continually pressured Stipe and forced his way to the clinch, leading to both men maintaining a ridiculously high pace. I’m curious to see whether Stipe goes back to that adjustment immediately, or whether he saves it for the middle and later rounds against a tiring opponent.
Given his comments, I certainly expect Cormier to go back to his wrestling early, as he did in the second fight. If he cannot use it to gain an early stoppage, and looks to be fading again by the fourth round, Stipe could be well worth a wager as a live underdog.
There is a reason that these two are competing for the title of Heavyweight GOAT – and it’s difficult to find betting value no matter where you land on the fight.
Although retirement fights typically do not go well for the man with one foot out the door, DC – like Georges St. Pierre – is a special case. And it’s hard not to see him making further adjustments for his final trip to the octagon.
The longer the fight goes, the more that Stipe’s chances improve of winning inside of the distance. DC got out of shape during quarantine, but he is clearly the more skilled fighter and has proven that for the majority of the time that these two have squared off.
I have to back the better fighter here in a pick’em, but I will keep the play small given the low degree of confidence, and lack of projected value. You can play Cormier to -115.
The Bet: Daniel Cormier (-115, 0.5 units)
Zerillo’s UFC 252 Bets
- Kai Kamaka by Decision (+105, 0.5 units)
- Dauskas/Porter, Under 1.5 Rounds (-105, 0.5 units)
- Livinha Souza by Decision (+125, 0.5 units)
- Merab Dvalishvili by decision (-150, 1 unit)
- Junior dos Santos +110 (1 unit)
- Marlon Vera +225 (0.5 units)
- Marlon Vera by Submission +700 (0.25 units)
- Daniel Cormier -110 (0.5 units)
Betting Additions / Notes
- Look to live bet Danny Chavez after Round 1
- Look to live bet Vinc Pichel after Round 1