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UFC 261 Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Masvidal vs. Usman Preview (Saturday, April 24)

UFC 261 Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Masvidal vs. Usman Preview (Saturday, April 24) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: Kamaru Usman.

  • Kamaru Usman is a huge favorite over Jorge Masvidal in UFC 261's main event on Saturday, April 24 from Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Usman won the first bout between these two and is the rightful favorite, but how do you play him in this fight?
  • Sean Zerillo explains where to find value in the matchup below and gives his Usman vs. Masvidal pick and projection below.

Usman vs. Masvidal Odds

Usman odds
Masvidal odds
4.5 (-190 / +140)
Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena, Fla.
Approx. 12:20 a.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via FanDuel.

I already previewed this same main event for UFC 251 back in July, and if anything, the first fight affirmed a lot of the presumptions we went in with.

Usman closed as a -325 favorite (implied 76.5%) and dominated the final 20 minutes of the fight, defending his welterweight title belt with ease despite a ton of public support for the challenger.

After opening as a -300 favorite for the rematch, Usman’s line has climbed to as high as -475 (implied 82.6%) at some books.

In essence, this is the rematch that nobody asked for, but we’re getting it anyway. Still, I’m happy to watch Usman work any time he goes to the office — his grinding style isn’t for everyone, but it does make it easier to bet on his fights.

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Usman is officially the No. 2 Pound for Pound male fighter in the UFC because he rarely loses minutes in the Octagon, and that first title defense against Masvidal was no different.

Will anything change for Jorge after a “full camp?” I’m skeptical and think the “late notice” angle for Masvidal was overblown for the first fight. I had noted that Masvidal had been in camp for a while, “consistently training for [that] specific opportunity for six months and had no difficulty making weight,” after Gilbert Burns (who lost to Usman in February) tested positive for COVID-19 one week out. 

Per oddsmakers, the more likely question to answer isn’t whether or not Masvidal will win the rematch (22.2% implied), but whether or not Usman will win by decision (54.5% implied) or finish (28.5% implied).

Below, I preview the matchup and odds for tonight’s fight. For more analysis on the rest of the card, you can check out my projections for the entire slate here.

Tale of the Tape

Usman Masvidal
Record 18-1 35-14
Avg. Fight Time 16:50 13:22
Height 6’0″ 5’11”
Weight (pounds) 170 lbs. 170 lbs.
Reach (inches) 76″ 74″
Stance Switch Orthodox
Date of birth 5/11/87 11/12/84
Sig Strikes Per Min 4.66 4.20
SS Accuracy 54% 47%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.33 3.00
SS Defense 58% 65%
Take Down Avg 3.22 1.57
TD Acc 47% 59%
TD Def 100% 77%
Submission Avg 0.1 0.4

You could make a convincing argument that Masvidal won the first round of the first fight.

He landed more strikes from range (16-9), more significant strikes (24-18), and more total strikes (34-25). Usman only completed one of his three takedown attempts but did spend half of the round (2:36) in control. Two of the three judges gave the round to Usman, but 78% of fan scorecards and 22 of the 24 media scorecards gave the round to Masvidal.

After that, it was all one-way traffic — like most of Usman’s fights. With clinching, cage pushing, wrestling, jabs, and body shots (52%), his grinding style wore down the challenger. Masvidal doesn’t have great cardio, to begin with, but Usman weaponizes his stamina and pressure against every opponent — and they all eventually break.

Usman spent an average of three and a half minutes in control in each round over the remainder of the fight — and it was, statistically speaking, one of his least effective grappling performances to date in the UFC.

Nevertheless, Usman outlanded Masvidal, 94-66, on significant strikes, 263-88, on total strikes, completed 5-of-16 takedown attempts, and spent two-thirds of the fight in control positions.

He has improved his striking under the guidance of Trevor Wittman, but it’s his fight IQ and ability to set up his clinch and single-leg entries behind his jab that makes Usman so difficult to defend.

He did get clipped hard by Burns in the first round of his last fight before eventually recovering and taking over, but there could be some durability concerns for Usman in a stand-up war. He knows better than to let that happen, however.

Masvidal is famously durable (only knockout loss in 2008) and will be a threat early — as he was in the first fight — but Usman has the tools to wear him down and eventually take over.

Masvidal is a threat to end any fight at any point and needs to do his best to stay upright in the center of the octagon or catch the champion big in a break from the clinch. But those chances diminish the later this fight goes — and Usman will do what he can to drag Masvidal to deeper waters for a second time.

Usman vs. Masvidal Pick

I projected Usman around 65% for the first fight and set his decision prop around 52%, or -108. I bet one unit on that decision prop at +150.

I projected Usman’s moneyline at 84% for the rematch and set his decision prop around 63%. I like Usman’s decision prop again for the rematch, but I wouldn’t play that line past -138 (implied 58%), at a 5% edge compared to my projection, and I would limit the stake to win half a unit.

There’s actionable value on Usman’s moneyline up to -420, straight up, and I like him as a parlay piece up to -450. There are a few other favorites in the -200 range on the card (Batgerel, Crute, Zhang) that form a solid pairing with the welterweight champion, and I’m likely keying him in multiple wagers.

The Pick:

  • Kamaru Usman wins by decision (-120 at FanDuel)
  • Kamaru Usman’s moneyline (up to -450) as a key parlay piece

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