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UFC 253 Odds, Model Projections & Betting Picks: Analysis For All 11 Fights (Saturday, Sept. 26)

UFC 253 Odds, Model Projections & Betting Picks: Analysis For All 11 Fights (Saturday, Sept. 26) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: A drone view of the Octagon at Yas Beach ahead of the UFC Fight Island series.

  • UFC 253 kicks off Saturday night and features 11 fights, including five on the main card, headlined by Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa in a middleweight title fight.
  • Sean Zerillo gives his full breakdown for every fight, plus his crowd-sourced model projections.
  • Get everything you need to bet UFC 253 below.

The UFC returns to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on Saturday with an 11-fight card, beginning at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. The main card starts at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and concludes with an interim Light Heavyweight title fight between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz, and the Middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa.

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.

UFC 253 Projections

UFC 253 Betting Odds

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Jump To: Main Card

Preliminary Card

  • 7 p.m. ET

Light Heavyweight fight: Khadis Ibragimov vs. Danilo Marques

Ibragimov odds -180
Marques odds +142
Over/Under 2.5 rounds +110/-141

Crowdsourced Projections: Ibragimov (76%)

There are several betting angles that I continually harp on with UFC fights and Marques fits a few negative trends for Saturday, making his octagon debut against a UFC veteran (43% win rate) while coming off of a 31-month layoff (less than 40% win rate after one year). Additionally, he is nine years older than his opponent (35% win rate).

It’s hard to bet Ibragimov at any number. The Russian has lost three consecutive fights since entering the UFC with an undefeated record, falling to Da Un Jung as a -298 favorite in his debut, Ed Herman (-267) in his second fight, and most recently to Roman Dolidze (+125) by knockout as an underdog, but only after his line came down from +150.

Clearly the UFC, and bettors, see something in this 25-year-old prospect, as most fighters would have gotten the slip after losing their first three bouts in the octagon.

At 6-foot-6, Marques has the frame for light heavyweight, but he has racked up a 9-2 record against very low-level regional competition (two bouts ago, defeated a fighter who is 0-16), and he ultimately doesn’t appear to be UFC caliber – unless he has made significant strides over the past two years.

This fight looks like a setup for Ibragimov, who shows a larger projected edge (14%) than any other fighter on this card – the question is how best to play him while minimizing your risk.

In addition to playing his moneyline, you could bet Ibragimov to win in Round 1 (+400), by KO/TKO (+210) or to win inside the distance (projected -107) at projected edges.

Alternatively, you can just bet the fight itself to finish inside the distance. Ultimately, I’m hesitant to back Ibragimov here, but I don’t think very highly of Marques at all.

If he does win the fight, I’m fairly confident that Ibragimov gets Marquez out of there quickly, but I don’t feel confident enough in Marques’ ability to finish a tiring Ibragimov to play the overall inside the distance wager.

I’ll play the Russian’s juicy Round 1 prop for a quarter unit and back his moneyline to win a half unit.

The Bet:

  • Khadis Ibragimov (-167, 0.5 units)
  • Ibragimov wins in Round 1 (+400, 0.25 units)

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Heavyweight fight: Juan Espino vs. Jeff Hughes

Espino odds -300
Hughes odds +210
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -170/+132

Crowdsourced Projections: Espino (76%)

The second fight and lone Heavyweight bout on Saturday’s card is the most likely fight to finish inside the distance, projected at 82% (implied -456).

The moneyline projection is accurate, although I did consider making a small play on Juan Espino to either win in Round 1 (+200) or win inside the distance (projected -194). However, Espino is returning from a two-year layoff following hand surgery, and he’s about to turn 40 years old.

Hughes should have a clear edge on the feet – he’s a solid boxer with much better technique than Espino – a renowned grappler. Hughes is extremely tough, but this fight boils down to his takedown defense (75%) and Espino’s gas tank.

If he gets the fight to the ground, Espino should be able to advance with relative ease and secure a tap. If he cannot get to a dominant position, however, Hughes should be the fresher man later in the fight and should start to pick apart Espino in the pocket quickly.

In either case, I see a clear path to a finish for both men – but I’m avoiding the total, given the fact that Hughes’ chances of recording a knockout improve later in the fight.

The Bet: Fight does not go the Distance (-160, Risk 1 unit)

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Light Heavyweight fight: William Knight vs. Aleksa Camur 

Knight odds +135
Camur odds -170
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -124/-104

Crowdsourced Projections: Camur (55%)

A contender series signee, Knight is in the spot of UFC debutant against Camur – who won his own UFC debut over Justin Ledet in January, and trains directly with Stipe Miocic at Strong Style Fight Team.

Camur is more than seven years younger than Knight, who is the only professional fighter in his camp.

Both men are extremely raw, but Knight – who has five first-round victories, is much more physically imposing in the 205-pound division, while Camur is both faster and more technical on the feet, and if he shows sturdy wrestling defense this should be his fight to lose.

At a crowd projection of 79%, this is the second most likely fight on Saturday to finish inside the distance, as both men have holes to shore up in their striking defense.

I do show slight value on Knight’s moneyline (2.3%), Knight to win inside the distance (projected +138), or the straight inside the distance prop (projected -376, implied 79%).

In a firefight against another green competitor, Knight looks like one of the better underdog bets for Saturday – but I’ll stick to the inside the distance wager at an 8.4% edge (implied 70.6% at -20) and look for either man to fall.

The Bet: Fight does not go the Distance (-240, 0.5 units)

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Middleweight fight: Shane Young vs. Ludovit Klein

Young odds +105
Klein odds -130
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -108/-118

Crowdsourced Projections: Klein (65%)

Klein offers projected betting value in this fight, but there are three negative angles pointing against him, which is why I will ultimately pass on betting him in this spot.

In addition to making his debut against a UFC veteran (43% win rate), Klein is replacing Nate Landwehr on less than one week’s notice (38% win rate for late notice fighters), and he came in five pounds overweight on Friday.

The shame in stopping myself from betting on Klein here is that he is immensely fun:

But his opponent Shane Young, who is part of the City Kickboxing contingent on Saturday’s card, has only been defeated by current champion and now teammate Alexander Volkanovski in the UFC, and he appears to be the theoretical value side given the angles against Klein, and the fact that he flipped from a-200 favorite against Landwehr to an underdog against the replacement.

Young hasn’t fought since early 2019, so perhaps there is some rust to shake off early, and I expect Klein to be the more technical striker, but Young throws at high volume (more than six significant strikes per minute) he has a grappling game to fall back on, and Klein’s wrestling defense is a bit of a mystery.

Klein’s moneyline, knockout prop, and inside the distance prop (projected +111) each offer betting value, but there are too many red flags to place a bet on either side of this fight, in my opinion.

The Bet: Pass

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Welterweight fight: Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Matthews

Sanchez odds +500
Matthews odds -800
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -170/+132

Crowdsourced Projections: Matthews (89%)

It’s pretty amazing that Sanchez – the winner of The Ultimate Fighter I Middleweight finale back in 2005 – is still fighting at age 38 – but he has been on the wrong end of a pair of one-sided bouts against Michael Chiesa and Michel Pereira (despite a win via disqualification) in his past two outings, and he should struggle with the boxing and overall physicality of Jake Matthews, who is also 12 years his junior.

There is ever so slight projection value on Matthews, but he’s not the type of fighter that you even include in a parlay at this steep of a price.

Sanchez has 10 knockout losses, but he has never been submitted in 42 pro fights, and Matthews has been on a run of decision victories (4 of his past 5), so I could see this bout playing out in a variety of ways.

He also tends to gas himself out, and while that could eventually improve over time, it likely leaves Sanchez with an opportunity to snatch a victory in the third round of this fight.

Sanchez to win in Round 3 (+3300) isn’t the worst lottery ticket for such a situation, but this is the one fight on Saturday that I want no part of.

The Bet: Pass

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Lightweight fight: Brad Riddell vs. Alex Da Silva

Riddell odds -325
Da Silva odds +240
Over/Under 2.5 rounds +106/-136

Crowdsourced Projections: Riddell (89%)

Amongst the City Kickboxing contingent on Saturday, Riddell’s stock could rise the fastest. He is a former professional kickboxer and slick striker who has netted a +2.17 strike differential in two UFC fights and could absolutely pick apart Alex Da Silva (-0.35) on the feet.

Da Silva (2.59 takedowns per 15 minutes, 57% accuracy) is meant to test Riddell’s takedown defense and grappling acumen, but I think he passed a similar test in his last bout against Magomed Mustafaev — where Riddell proved difficult to keep down and took a split decision.

This is an exciting stylistic and developmental matchup between two intriguing prospects, but Riddell could absolutely brutalize Da Silva if he keeps this bout standing.

I’ll be including Riddell’s moneyline in a parlay with one of his teammates, but his prop to win by decision at +150 (implied 40%) offers as much value as any bet on the card relative to the projection at -153 (implied 60.5%).

Silva has never been finished in his professional career – though he does have 20 stoppages in 21 wins, and after recently winning by a decision I’m comfortable with his stamina to last three rounds.

The Bet:

  • Riddell to win by Decision (+150, 0.5 units)
  • Parlay: Brad Riddell / Kai Kara France (-106, 0.5 units)

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Main Card 

  • 10 p.m. ET

Featherweight fight: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Zubaira Tukhugov

Dawodu odds +112
Tukhugov odds -140
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -209/+160

Crowdsourced Projections: Tukhugov (51%)

My colleague Reed Wallach has both a pick, and a full breakdown on this fight, which kicks off Saturday’s main card.

This should be an exciting bout, but unfortunately, it is the one fight where I could not make any argument from an analysis or projection perspective in terms of placing a potential wager for Saturday.

You should note that Tukhugov weighed in 90 minutes early, and four pounds overweight for this bout. He didn’t look sucked out whatsoever – it almost appeared to be intentional.

Perhaps the Russian thinks it will give him a strength advantage in the grappling game (2.88 takedowns per 15 minutes, 56% accuracy) against Dawodu (85% takedown defense), who is the much more active (5.28 to 2.58 significant strikes landed per minute) and accurate striker, with a five-inch reach advantage.

Dawodu’s takedown defense has been sturdy, and he should win this fight on volume if he can stay on his feet, but he has yet to face a wrestler of the Tukhugov’s caliber – and this fight should be as close as the odds suggest.

The Bet: Pass

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Women’s Bantamweight fight: Ketlen Vieira vs. Sijara Eubanks

Vieira odds -190
Eubanks odds +150
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -358/+260

Crowdsourced Projections: Vieira (65%)

Eubanks defeated Julia Avila in impressive fashion just two ago, and will now turn around to face Vieira on short notice – after an injury to Marion Reneau.

Vieira (four inches taller) should have the size advantage in this fight, but Eubanks (+1.57 to -1.08 strike differential, +7% accuracy, +3% defense) should have the advantage on the feet, and she has the grappling chops to neutralize Vieira on the mat.

This is a relatively difficult comeback fight for Vieira, who was knocked out by Irene Aldana in December. Eubanks is much better than her record indicates – but I’m also not going to completely flip to backing her after being on the Avila side against her very recently.

ICYMI: The big KO by Irene Aldana over Ketlen Vieira at #UFC245.

(via @ufc)

— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) December 15, 2019

Eubanks has never been finished in her career – and has shown both durability on the feet and the jiu-jitsu defense technique to avoid getting caught in bad positions. Eubanks busted up Avila pretty well, but she has also never recorded a finish of her own in the UFC.

I projected this bout to go the distance 78% of the time, implied odds of -355, and you can make the wager at a 5.8% edge at odds of -260 (implied 72.2%) to win a half unit – but I wouldn’t play it past -275.

The Bet: Fight to Go the Distance (-260, 0.5 units)

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Flyweight fight: Kai Kara-France vs. Brandon Royval

Kara-France odds -240
Royval odds +185
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -186/+144

Crowdsourced Projections: Kara-France (76%)

Kara-France (“KKF”) is another member of the City Kickboxing team on Saturday’s card. He is a high volume striker (5.27 landed per minute, 38% accuracy) with excellent takedown defense (90%) who should have more than enough skill to take care of Brandon Royval in this spot.

KKF is simply too explosive of a striker for Royval, who does stand five inches taller but is extremely hittable.

Royval is an opportunistic grappler who tends to span submission attempts rather than working for position, and KKF’s weakness is his grappling. But you have to both get him down and keep him down first – and Royval isn’t a very adept wrestler.

Royval needs to get a knockdown with his big looping punches or get KKF to initiate a grappling exchange in order to navigate his most likely path to victory.

If this bout goes to the scorecards, it’s hard to imagine KKF not coming out on top, and there is value on both his moneyline and decision prop.

The Bet:

  • Kai Kara-France to win by Decision (-110, 0.5 units)
  • Parlay: Brad Riddell / Kai Kara France (-106, 0.5 units)

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Light heavyweight fight: Dominick Reyes vs. Jan Blachowicz 

Reyes odds -280
Blachowicz odds +215
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -136/+106

Crowdsourced Projections: Reyes (72%)

Many people feel that Dominic Reyes should already be the UFC’s Light heavyweight champion.

He lost by unanimous decision against Jon Jones in February, but 70% of fans and 14-of-21 media members watching scored the bout for Reyes. He garnered 98% of votes for Round 1, 88% of votes for Round 2, and 85% of votes for Round 3 before Jones started to take over the fight.

Jan Blachowicz has won seven of his past eight bouts while making dramatic improvements to both his stamina and defensive grappling in recent years, but Reyes is the much faster man and his kicks will help to control the fight at distance.

Both men are extremely durable, and I could see this being a 25 minute battle, despite the projection suggesting that this fight will end inside the distance 2/3 of the time.

Ultimately, I don’t see any actual projection value on this fight, but I am absolutely interested in playing the over in this spot.

Reyes will look to pace himself more after gassing out in the championship rounds against Jones – but the familiarity of going that distance should serve him well in his second opportunity.

Reyes has recorded nine of his 12 wins by first-round finish, but only the knockout against Jared Cannonier – who had previously lost to Blachowicz via decision – truly stands out as a surprise.

Reyes has landed 1.4 extra significant strikes per minute relative to Blachowicz, with an equally superior differential (+1.88 to +0.68), but Jan showed the ability to sustain over five rounds against Jacare Souza – and there’s a chance that he is the fresher man late in this fight.

I do expect this bout to largely stay at range and get to those championship rounds, which is why I backed the Over as a small play.

Jan’s moneyline continues to get wider after opening at +170 – and I’m curious to see where the resistance comes in from sharp money.

The Bet: Over 2.5 Rounds (-128, 0.5 units)

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Middleweight fight: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa

Adesanya odds -185
Costa odds +145
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -152/+118

Crowdsourced Projections: Adesanya (64%)

If you want a more in-depth analysis of the main event, check out my full fight preview.

In short, in a 25-foot-cage at UFC Apex, I would give more credence to Costa’s pressure gameplan, but Adesanya should have plenty of room to dance around a 30-foot octagon on Fight Island, while evading, exhausting, and frustrating Costa with sidestep counters until he sees his raised.

I do expect Costa to win at least one of the first two rounds, however, and I would suspect that you might find a better live price on Adesanya than you see pre-fight, particularly after the first round.

As of now, I don’t see any value on either side of the moneyline for this bout, and the odds for the fight to finish inside the distance are also accurate.

I bet Over 2.5 rounds, which I would play up to -160. Costa is incredibly durable, and Adesanya has only been knocked out once in more than 100 professional fights (including boxing and kickboxing).

Furthermore, Adesanya’s odds to win by decision (+300) offers a small edge (implied 25%) relative to the crowd projection at +247 (implied 28.8%), so I allocated a small bet on that winning method.

Lastly, I’ll be looking to make a live play on “The Last Stylebender”, if he is plus-money or better after Round 1.

The Bet:

  • Over 2.5 Rounds (-142, 0.5 units)
  • Adesanya to win by Decision (+300, 0.5 units)


Zerillo’s UFC 253 Bets

  • Khadis Ibragimov (-167, 0.5 units)
  • Ibragimov wins in Round 1 (+400, 0.25 units)
  • Espino/Hughes, Fight does not go the Distance (-160, Risk 1 unit)
  • Camur/Knight, Fight does not go the Distance (-240, 0.5 units)
  • Brad Riddell to win by Decision (+150, 0.5 units)
  • Parlay: Brad Riddell / Kai Kara France (-106, 0.5 units)
  • Eubanks/Vieira, Fight to Go the Distance (-260, 0.5 units)
  • Kai Kara France to win by Decision (-110, 0.5 units)
  • Reyes/Blachowicz, Over 2.5 Rounds (-128, 0.5 units)
  • Israel Adesanya to win by Decision (+300, 0.5 units)
  • Adesanya/Costa, Over 2.5 Rounds (-142, 0.5 units)

Live Betting Notes

  • Adesanya live after Round 1 at plus-money

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