UFC 261 Betting Picks, Predictions: Our Best Bets for Shevchenko vs. Andrade, Batgerel vs. Natividad (Saturday, April 24)
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC fighter Jeff Molina.
- Two of our UFC 261 best bets have come home so far, with a play on the underdog in Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade left still.
- Our UFC analysts break down their favorite bets on tonight’s card below.
UFC pay-per-view is back in a big way — with fans in the stands and three title fights from Jacksonville, Fla.
So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed three fights and picks on Saturday’s massive card that present betting value.
You can find their analysis and picks on those matches below.
Billy Ward: Danaa Batgerel vs Kevin Natividad
Contributor at The Action Network
Danaa Batgerel takes on Kevin Natividad in preliminary bantamweight action on Saturday night. Batgerel is 1-1 in the UFC, and Natividad is looking to rebound from a KO loss to Kevin Johns in his promotional debut.
Both fighters are high-volume strikers — even by bantamweight standards — with limited interest in taking the fight to the ground. Both guys have also shown above-average power for the division, with Natividad finishing five of his nine pro wins by KO, with Batgerel going four of eight.
For what it’s worth, none of those wins from either fighter were listed as “ground and pound” so as far as I can tell they all came from strikes delivered on the feet. Natividad has also suffered both of his pro losses by knockout, so we know it’s possible.
The bantamweight finish rate overall is about 48%, with 27% KOs, and I think, all things considered, we can project both of those numbers to be higher for this fight. Fortunately for us, BetMGM is offering +170 (37% implied) for this fight to finish by KO, TKO, or DQ, and +120 (45.5% implied) for this fight to end before the final bell.
My favorite bet here is the KO prop, with a possible arbitrage opportunity betting on the fight to go the distance (-124 on FanDuel), since I don’t really see a sub happening here.
Neither guy has ever been submitted, they have only three submission wins between them, and I expect both guys (but especially Natividad) to be motivated to put on a show as much as they’re motivated to win.
The Pick: Fight to end by TKO or DQ (+170) | Arbitrage opportunity with fight to go the distance
Sean Zerillo: Aori Qileng vs. Jeff Molina
Betting Analyst, The Action Network
Molina is making his official debut after a win on contender series. Aori – who has an incredible nickname (“The Mongolian Murderer”) – is making his debut after racking up wins on the Chinese regional scene.
As the first fight on the card, there isn’t a lot of recent tape on Aori – but like Liang, he also appears to be one-dimensional, with a style befitting his nickname.
Unfortunately, while hunting for finishes with big power shots Aori leaves major openings on the defensive end, and Molina should be able to rack up the volume and counter his opponent into oblivion.
Molina likely also has a path to victory on the mat – even though keeping Flyweights on their back is a difficult task. He comes from Glory MMA and Fitness, which has been one of the hottest camps of 2021 – and coach James Krause will certainly have a well-rounded game plan ready to help lead his fighter to victory.
I projected Molina at 57% and I would bet his moneyline up to -120.
I also show some value on his decision prop (projected +150, listed +175) – but I’m cautious. We don’t know too much about Aori’s ground game, and Molina could be in dangerous positions to secure a submission.
The Pick: Jeff Molina ML (-110)
Erich Richter: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade
Contributor at The Action Network
When we talk about best bets we are always talking about value above everything else. So if you are looking for the best underdog bet with a very real shot at cashing at big odds — you have come to the right place.
I believe that Jessica Andrade has been badly underrated by sportsbooks. Andrade is a high pace fighter who lands plenty of takedowns and consistently imposes her will on opponents.
It is important to recognize that Valentina “The Bullet” Shevchenko has been one of the most dominant champions in the UFC over the past several years — she is justified being this big of a favorite. However, I was not impressed with her last title defense against Jennifer Maia.
Maia was able to take her down in the second round and won that round on every judge’s scorecard. It is clear that Maia is not even close to the grappler that Andrade is.
Andrade is a fierce grappler who averages 3.11 takedowns per 15 minutes — the most of any of Shevchenko’s opponents.
We have seen the road to beating Valentina Shevchenko in the past too. Looking back at Nunes vs. Shevchenko, Nunes was able to land takedowns and has two decision victories over Valentina.
After Shevchenko’s most recent fight against Maia, I think she could be slowing down. Jessica Andrade +340 (22.73% implied) is an excellent value. My models have Andrade around 27% implied (+270 odds).
My favorite Andrade bet is her to win by decision. I think her most likely method of victory is by winning a narrow decision with plenty of takedowns. Andrade to win by decision is +900 which I would bet down to +750.
The Pick: Andrade ML (+340) Andrade by decision (+900)