UFC 266 Odds, Picks, Predictions: How to Bet All 13 Fights on PPV Card

UFC 266 Odds, Picks, Predictions: How to Bet All 13 Fights on PPV Card article feature image
Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: A general view of the Octagon at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

  • There are 13 fights on the docket at UFC 266, which is headlined by Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega.
  • There are four early prelims, followed by four more before the five-fight main card.
  • Sean Zerillo breaks down each and every UFC 266 fight below, delivering his picks for the evening.

On Saturday, the UFC returns to Las Vegas with a 13-fight card for UFC 266, featuring a Featherweight Title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega and a women’s Flyweight Title fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Lauren Murphy.

The preliminary card will feature eight fights on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET. The five-fight PPV main card commences at 10 p.m. ET. on ESPN+.

If you are new to this piece, or this sport, note that 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.

Moneyline Projections and Picks

Below, you can find my fair odds moneyline projection for each of Saturday’s 13 bouts. In the next section, you’ll discover forecasts for those fights to finish inside the distance or for each fighter to win by decision, knockout, or submission.

Prop Projections and Picks

In addition to creating a crowdsourced projection for moneyline plays, I also collect data on each fighter to win by decision, knockout or submission, which enables us to determine fair odds for each fight to go the distance or for each fighter to win inside of the distance.


UFC 266 Picks and Analysis

Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings

[Click to Skip to Main Card]

Early Prelims

  • ESPN+
  • 6 p.m. ET

Featherweight fight: Jonathan Pierce vs. Omar Morales

Odds
Pierce odds +125
Morales odds -145
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -160 / +130

Crowdsourced Projections: (Morales 57.5%)

Even though this is the first fight on the card, I have seen a great deal of conviction on either side of the coin from one MMA analyst to the next.

I tend to lean towards Pearce in this spot based upon output — the American had landed 8.8 strikes per minute in the UFC with a +2.15 strike differential, while also mixing in takedowns at a high clip (5.91 per 16 minutes, 60% accuracy); albeit in a small sample.

“JSP” also trains with one of the top camps in the sport — Fight Ready MMA. He’s younger and presents different looks out of his switch stance. He should apply pressure and put Morales on his back foot while providing better optics for the judges.

Morales is the more technical fighter and seemingly has a higher finishing upside. Pearce was knocked silly by an aging Joe Lauzon in his UFC debut and Morales also offers an aggressive calf kick game that could slow Pearce down the longer that this fight goes.

Moreover, Morales is a far superior defensive striker (63% to 46% striking defense) as Pearce tends to leave his head on the center line and absorb many punches while initiating his offense. The Venezuelan has also faced a significantly higher level of competition in the UFC.

Even though Pearce may be the more active fighter in this contest, judges are supposed to score based upon damage. And while I’m more confident in Pearce leading the dance, I expect Morales to hit a bit harder.

Additionally, Morales has a two-inch reach advantage, so it will be left up to Pearce to close that distance while also checking those low kicks.

I don’t think that Pearce needs to secure takedowns to win this fight, necessarily, but if he can ground Morales, then this could be his fight to lose.

Since I show value on the fight to go the full 15 minutes (projected -170), I would look to play either the Over 2.5 rounds or the fight goes the distance prop, up to -150.

I also show value on both fighters to win by decision (Morales projected +168; Pearce projected +292). Still, those are relatively small edges, so I would play either one of those props small.

Bets: 

  • Pearce/Morales, Fight Goes the Distance (-135, 0.5 units)
  • Jonathan Peace wins by Decision (+300, 0.25u)

Welterweight fight: Matthew Semelsberger vs. Martin Sano

Odds
Semelsberger odds -550
Sano odds +400
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -105 / -125

Crowdsourced Projections: (Semelsberger 86.8%)

Martin Sano is only on this card at the request of his friend and training partner Nick Diaz. Otherwise, it’s difficult to assume that he’s a UFC caliber fighter.

Like Diaz, Sano hasn’t competed in a professional fight in quite some time, with his last appearance coming back in 2017. He hasn’t won a professional bout since 2014 and owns a 4-2-1 career record.

Perhaps the 30-year-old Sano has made some improvements to his game since he last competed in Bellator. From what we’ve seen, he is a decent grappler with good cardio and very green as a striker.

Matthew Semelsberger has had his entire 11 fight professional career since Sano last competed. He’s a far more durable man and a far better striker, with a significant power advantage.

The former college football player also typically maintains a high pace (6.11 strikes landed per minute), though he was sightly gun shy in his most recent loss against Khaos Williams.

Despite the obvious advantages on the feet, Semelsberger remains relatively untested on the mat. He’s shown some concerns on the regional scene when he gets put onto his back.

If Sano can get this fight to the ground, I doubt that Semelsberger will justify his steep pricetag. But if the favorite can keep this fight standing, he might finish the proceedings within one round.

I do show value on the Semelsberger side (projected -648), and I may consider using him as a small parlay piece.

Depending on the book (+380 at FanDuel), I slightly value Semelsberger to win by decision (projected +362).

However, it’s challenging to assess Sano’s current skill level. And outside of those options, I don’t see any betting value on this fight.

Bets: 

  • Matthew Semelsberger wins by Decision (+380, 0.25u)

Middleweight fight: Cody Brundage vs. Nick Maximov

Odds
Roberson odds +100
Maximov odds -120
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -110 / -120

Crowdsourced Projections: (Maximov 52.1%)

Cody Brundage is a late replacement for Karl Roberson, who pulled out of this fight due to medical complications from his weight cut.

Even though Roberson is the more experienced UFC fighter and Brundage was slated to make his second appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series after losing to William Knight last September, the short-notice replacement may be a more difficult stylistic matchup for Nick Maximov.

Maximov earned his UFC contract with a Contender Series win last November. He’s primarily a grappler who’s looked green in the standup, an area where Brundage — a collegiate wrestler — may have a clear advantage.

Suppose Brundage can counter-wrestle and keep this fight standing. In that case, he might look like the favorite, and the betting market agrees with that assessment. His line was quickly brought down closer to a pick’em after opening at +275 (26.7% implied), which is a dramatic adjustment.

Late-replacements win at a 37% clip in the UFC, at average odds of +181 (35.6%). Hence, the short-notice angle is overrated and Brundage was already in camp for an upcoming bout anyway.

The moneyline is no longer bettable and based upon the early prop odds, Brundage to win by decision (projected +280) is the only prop wager that offers value.

Bets: 

  • Cody Brundage wins by Decision (+330, 0.5u)

Lightweight fight: Uros Medic vs. Jalin Turner

Odds
Medic odds -120
Turner odds +100
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -145 / +115

Crowdsourced Projections: (Medic 50.8%)

This bout is one of my favorite fights on the card, as Uros Medic is one of the most intriguing prospects in the UFC and Jalin Turner is easily his most formidable opponent to date.

Medic made his way to the UFC through Alaska FC and I typically fade fighters from that promotion since they have not had a ton of success at the highest level of MMA.

That said, “The Doctor” is seemingly one of the better prospects to make his way through Alaska. He’s dispatched all of his opponents with relative ease with none of his fights going past the six-minute mark.

Uros Medic (-200) with an absolute beatdown in his UFC debut! 😳

pic.twitter.com/AuYpYgLBj2

— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) March 6, 2021

Medic is highly aggressive and tries to get his opponents out of there as quickly as possible. As a result, he has significant questions surrounding his cardio and grappling.

Turner has some physical advantages over Medic (two inches taller with six inches of reach). He should be the much better grappler and he’s more than capable of fighting for a full 15 minutes.

“The Tarantula” can also maintain excellent output (6.20 strikes landed per minute). However, he has a bad case of tall man defense (45% striking defense) and tends to leave his chin up in the air, which has led to three-career knockout losses.

I expect Medic’s to excel early in this fight before Turner eventually takes over late if he can weather the early storm.

As a result, this is a solid live betting opportunity against a fighter who both expends all of his energy early and is entirely unfamiliar with the third round.

Medic wins in Round 1 (+250) seems like the majority of the win condition for the favorite — whose line has crashed down closer to a pick’em after opening at -185 (65% implied)

I don’t show value on either side of the moneyline, but I project this bout to end inside the distance 73% of the time (-265 implied), so I see value on that prop relative to listed odds (-180 at FanDuel).

I also show value on Turner to win inside of the distance (projected +212), particularly by submission (projected +578), and I would consider a small stab on that play too.

Still, I would prefer to jump in on his live moneyline.

Bets: 

  • Medic/Turner, Fight Ends Inside the Distance (-200, 0.5u)
  • Live bet Jalin Turner after Round 1

Preliminary Card

  • ESPN+ / ESPNNews
  • 8 p.m. ET

Women’s Flyweight fight: Roxanne Modafferi vs. Taila Santos

Odds
Modafferi odds +340
Santos odds -450
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -280 / +210

Crowdsourced Projections: (Santos 77.3%)

People love to bet on Roxanne Modafferi as a big underdog because “The Happy Warrior” is always game and will fight for your money.

Modafferi is typically at a significant disadvantage on the feet, even though she is happy to trade at high volume. She’s exceptionally hittable (5.03 strikes absorbed per minute, -1.90 strike differential) and her limited athleticism doesn’t allow her to track down opponents (30% striking accuracy).

Modafferi needs to secure takedowns (1.42 landed per 15 minutes, 23% accuracy) to win her fights.

Still, Taila Santos is an adept grappler (85% takedown defense) with some solid offensive wrestling of her own (2.0 takedowns per 15 minutes, 80% accuracy).

Santos doesn’t have great cardio and she may start to fade in the third round as Modafferi continues to grind along, but the Brazilian should be able to win the first 10 minutes of this fight with relative ease.

If Modafferi can force her way into the clinch in the early going and manage to put Santos on her back, she’s fully capable of winning this fight. I think she wins the third round at a decent clip and if she can secure any takedowns, it could be a round in her favor. Santos is much better in top position than she is at getting back to her feet.

However, Santos is the much more physical fighter and the far superior striker, and it’s hard to envision Modafferi having significant upside on her path to victory. An upset here would likely come as a result of a close or split decision.

I project that this fight goes the full 15 minutes more frequently than the odds suggest (projected 75%, or -300) but the books appear wise to the Santos decision prop (projected -138) and I’m not going to take a lousy number.

Modafferi by decision (projected +486, listed +550) may offer value, and though it’s not a bet that I am particularly interested in making the price would force my hand at +500 or better.

I would also consider the Over 2.5 rounds as a small parlay piece.

Bets: 

  • Roxanne Modafferi wins by Decision (+550, 0.1u)

Heavyweight fight: Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Chris Daukaus

Odds
Abdurakhimov odds +175
Daukaus odds -210
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -145 / +115

Crowdsourced Projections: (Daukaus 69.9%)

The UFC is doing its best to hype up Chris Daukaus — who has slick boxing and owns a BJJ black belt — by feeding him name-brand opponents to pad his highlight reel.

Shamil Abdurakhimov is in a relatively similar spot to his last opponent — Aleksei Oleinik — as a slow, 40-year-old heavyweight at an extreme athletic disadvantage.

The Dagestani hasn’t competed since September 2019 — a knockout loss against Curtis Blaydes — and he’s pulled out of five fights in the interim, which isn’t a great look coming into this fight.

All three of his losses in the UFC have come by knockout, while Daukaus has registered a trio of first-round finishes.

Chris Daukaus (-195) letting the punches RAIN! ⚡️

He wins via 1st round TKO.

pic.twitter.com/Sm1Z7OXyQH

— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) February 21, 2021

Abdurakhimov potentially offers some wrestling upside (1.23 takedowns per 15 minutes, 24% accuracy), but Daukaus is an underrated grappler in his own right. And outside of Shamil landing a giant bomb — and he does carry power in his hands — I don’t see his return to the Octagon going particularly well against a much younger and faster opponent.

The critical questions on the Daukaus side are durability and cardio. He’s been knocked out twice before on the regional scene and hasn’t been to a third-round in five years. However, Daukaus has seemingly put in a lot of work to slim his physique, which should pay dividends if this fight gets extended.

I have seen some love for Daukaus to win in Round 1 (+320 at FanDuel), but I think he can carry his power into Round 2, at least.

While I show value on the Daukaus’ moneyline (projected -232), I don’t love laying that much juice in a standup-based heavyweight fight.

Furthermore, I projected his odds to win inside the distance at -127 and I would prefer to take the reduced juice on Daukaus to secure another finish. You can play that prop up to -110.

Bets: 

  • Chris Daukaus wins Inside the Distance (+100, 0.5u)

Lightweight fight: Dan Hooker vs. Nasrat Haqparast

Odds
Hooker odds -150
Haqparast odds +130
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -120 / -110

Crowdsourced Projections: (Hooker 60.7%)

Aside from the main event, this might be the best fight on Saturday’s card. Unfortunately, both fighters dealt with visa issues and arrived in Las Vegas late in the week. Fortunately, neither had difficulty making weight on Friday.

The metrics favor Nasrat Haqparast, who offers elite striking defense (74%), and far superior efficiency (+2.58 to +0.03 strike differential).

Dan Hooker is tough as they come, but he’s been through several wars, tends to block punches with his face (51% defense) and recently got his chin cracked by Michael Chandler in under one round.

The level of competition leans to the Hooker side. He’s faced the best in the world at 155 and held a 2-0 lead over Dustin Poirier in a main event last June before dropping the final three rounds.

Hooker is the taller man (two inches) and possesses a three-inch reach advantage in this matchup. Haqparast has also been finished in the UFC. I would give Hooker a slight edge in terms of finishing upside.

Moreover, Haqparast tends to be a slow starter while feeling out his opponents, and I would expect Hooker to get out to an early lead in this fight.

It’s challenging to balance the data favoring Haqparast against the strength of the schedule — which favors Hooker — but the former’s wins haven’t aged particularly well at all.

And with both fighters dealing with travel issues in the lead up to this fight, it only further complicates matters.

I would lean to Hooker — I picked him against Chandler — but he’s absorbed a ton of damage in his career and once a fighter’s chin goes away, they don’t get it back.

I don’t see value on either the moneyline or total for this fight and in terms of props, I only show slight value on Hooker to win inside the distance (projected +198, listed +210 at FanDuel).

I’m inclined to take a small stab on Hooker to finish at +200 or better, but given the oddities in the lead-up to this fight, I cannot justify anything more than a small wager.

Bets: 

  • Dan Hooker wins Inside the Distance (+210, 0.25u)

Bantamweight fight: Marlon Moraes vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Odds
Moraes odds +205
Dvalishvili odds -255
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -200 / +160

Crowdsourced Projections: (Dvalishvili 72.2%)

This fight has an almost hilarious cardio discrepancy since Merab Dvalishvili may be the best-conditioned athlete in the UFC and Marlon Moraes is virtually guaranteed to fade by the end of the first round.

As a result, a live bet on Merab is a clear entry point after Round 1 since almost all of Moraes’ win condition is tied to his Round 1 prop (+1000 at DraftKings), which is an enticing line.

Merab exhausts his opponents with a seemingly unbelievable pace, completing 7.4 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 43% clip. While Moraes has decent takedown defense (66%) and a deadly jiu-jitsu game, I doubt that he’s going to avoid going to his back in the opening frame.

And while the Brazilian should be able to scramble back to his feet, all of that activity should serve to exhaust him and reduce his chances of finishing with each scramble.

The constant threat of the takedown forces Merab’s opponents to limit their output — out of fear of creating openings. And he tends to out-strike his opponents as a result.

All of that said, this is still a big jump up in competition for Merab, relative to his previous opponents. If Moraes can stuff some of those early takedowns, he could put Merab in serious trouble on the feet.

At his best, Moraes is the far better and more technical striker, but he’s better at applying pressure than fighting off of his back foot. I don’t think that he’ll be able to handle the pace of pressure of the Georgian.

The moneyline on this fight looks about right to me, but I think this fight goes the distance 60% of the time (-152 implied), a bit more frequent than the listed odds (-148 at FanDuel).

As a result, I value Merab to win by decision (projected -102), and I would play that prop at any plus money price.

While you could hedge that position with a stab on the Moraes Round 1 prop, if Merab finishes a tiring Moraes, then you would lose both wagers.

Bets: 

  • Merab Dvalishvili wins by Decision (+125, 0.5u)
  • Live bet Merab Dvalishvili after Round 1

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Main Card

  • ESPN PPV
  • 10 p.m. ET

Women’s Flyweight fight: Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo

Odds
Andrade odds -225
Calvillo odds +185
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -175 / +145

Crowdsourced Projections: (Andrade 67.5%)

I fully expected to back Jessica Andrade before diving into this fight, but I came out on the other side of it supporting Cynthia Calvillo, as her decision prop offers substantial value.

While Andrade has significant advantages in aggression and power, in addition to excellent wrestling (2.97 takedowns per 15 minutes, 55% accuracy) and superior striking metrics (+0.95 to +0.66 strike differential), Calvillo has the height (+3 inches), reach (+2 inches) and offensive grappling of her own (1.85 takedowns per 15 minutes, 44% accuracy) to trouble Andrade.

The Brazilian typically doesn’t spend much time being controlled (Valentina Shevchenko had to take her down seven times before finishing her), but Calvillo has the skillset to do just that, and she should be able to use her length to work off of her jab from the outside.

While Andrade is the far better and more powerful striker in the pocket, she’s the one who needs to close that distance, at which point Calvillo may immediately look to shoot for a takedown.

Andrade offers significantly higher finishing upside on the feet, and is much more likely to win this fight violently. If Calvillo cannot secure takedowns, she’s very likely to lose this fight by knockout. That factor alone makes betting on the underdog side uncomfortable.

Still, Calvillo has an opportunity to outpoint her opponent with volume and control time, and I cannot pass up the opportunity to play her juicy decision prop since the minute-winning could be relatively even here.

I don’t project value on either side of the moneyline or the total, but I did project Calvillo’s odds to win by decision at +340, and I would play that prop at +350 or better.

Bets: 

  • Cynthia Calvillo wins by Decision (+425, 0.5u)

Heavyweight fight: Curtis Blaydes vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Odds
Blaydes odds -335
Rozenstruik odds +260
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -175 / +145

Crowdsourced Projections: (Blaydes 76.7%)

Curtis Blaydes suffered a brutal knockout loss in his most recent bout against Derrick Lewis. Now, his upcoming fight with Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik represents a similar test.

Blaydes only loses when he’s unable to ground his opponents, and all three of his career losses have come by way out of knockout.

Blaydes offers some of the most effective wrestling in any UFC weight class (6.64 takedowns per 15 minutes, 54% accuracy) and his style is particularly effective at heavyweight.

However, he fought a subpar game plan against Lewis by choosing to strike for the opening frame and neglecting to tire out the power puncher by putting Lewis on his back.

Though he out-strike Lewis with ease (26-5 in round one), once Blaydes finally did attempt a takedown in round two, he ate a brutal uppercut and keeled over.

I expect him to go to wrestling much earlier in this three-round fight with Rozenstruik, whose win condition is almost entirely tied to a knockout.

While we don’t know how Rozenstruik’s takedown defense (80%) has developed — and Blaydes represents the most difficult grappling test of his career — the former kickboxer has shown little ability to get off of his back once opponents put him there. One takedown could be the end of the fight, and each takedown could be a full round in Blaydes’ favor.

Furthermore, Rozenstruik is a low-volume counter-puncher (-0.12 strike differential) and I suspect that Blaydes could win minutes at distance with his athleticism, speed, and reach (+2 inches).

Essentially, this is the same matchup as the Lewis fight for Blaydes, but while Rozenstruik may be more difficult to ground than Lewis, he’ll show less resistance once you put him there.

That said, I don’t show value on either side of the moneyline or the totals.

I do show slight value on Blaydes to win by decision in the prop market, where I project Blaydes as equally likely to win by decision or knockout (projected +190). I would set his odds to win inside the distance at +137 and I don’t see value compared to listed odds (+110) there either.

I doubt that Rozenstruik survives to the final bell if Blaydes has 10-plus minutes of control, but given the way that the Lewis fight ended, I suspect that Blaydes may also prioritize controlling position when he’s on top. The fewer opportunities that he gives Rozenstruik on the feet, the better his chances.

Bets: 

  • Curtis Blaydes wins by Decision (+220, 0.25u)

Welterweight fight: Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler

Odds
Diaz odds +140
Lawler odds -160
Over/Under 3.5 rounds -160 / +130

Crowdsourced Projections: (Lawler 61%)

More than 17 years in the making, this rematch is one of the most bizarre fights in UFC history.

For starters, Nick Diaz hasn’t competed since UFC 183 — in January 2015 — and he hasn’t won a bout in nearly 10 years since UFC 137 — in October 2011. This fight was initially scheduled for 170 pounds, but Diaz asked the promotion — and Lawler — to move the fight to middleweight just days before the bout.

Moreover, Diaz had some bizarre answers in his pre-fight interviews, and the promotional video of his shadowboxing raised some major red flags. Diaz appears to be slow and out of shape after a decade of partying and there’s a rumor (and apparent video) circulating that Zab Judah knocked him out in sparring.

In other words, it’s a typical Nick Diaz fight week.

Still, that confluence of factors caused the betting line to steam from a pick’em to nearer to 60% implied for Lawler over the past few days.

This is a rare fight scheduled for five rounds, even though it isn’t a title fight or a main event. And 25 minutes — as opposed to 15 — figures to play to Diaz’s advantage.

Historically, he offers significantly better cardio than Lawler and would have a stamina advantage in the championship rounds. However, I’m no longer convinced that’s the case.

Moreover, while Lawler is nearing the end of his career, he has no plans to retire and has fought eight times in the Octagon since Diaz last competed. He’s fought against the highest level of competition and still trains at one of the top camps in the sport (Sanford MMA).

It’s difficult to break down this fight without discussing all of the external factors — since Diaz hasn’t competed in so long — and the first matchup (from 2004) is almost irrelevant at this point.

While Diaz offers the superior metrics (+1.87 to -0.66 strike differential) and potentially offers grappling upside, he may also be a complete shell of his former self. Either man could wind up on their back, given the respective takedown defense of their opponent (60% for Diaz, 64% for Lawler).

As a result, it’s challenging to have much confidence with any take on this fight, but I still projected this bout as I would any other fight. I show value both on the fight to go the distance (projected -132) and on Lawler to win by decision (projected +198).

Given the circumstances, I’m not interested in laying any juice here or making a large wager, so we’ll take a small stab at the plus-money prop that offers the most value: Lawler by points.

Bets: 

  • Robbie Lawler wins by Decision (+275, 0.25u)

Women’s Flyweight fight: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Lauren Murphy

Odds
Shevchenko odds -1600
Murphy odds +900
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -125 / -105

Crowdsourced Projections: (Shevchenko 94.3%)

For years, Valentina Shevchenko has terrorized the UFC’s Flyweight division, and she’s never lost at 125 pounds in her career.

All three defeats for “The Bullet” have come when fighting at Bantamweight — twice by decision against the GOAT,  Amanda Nunes — and a stoppage loss against Liz Carmouche in her regional scene 135-pound debut.

Shevchenko is more technical than every fighter she faces, but the size discrepancy (three inches of height and reach) against Nunes proved to be her downfall.

She holds significant statistical advantages against Lauren Murphy: +1.02 to -0.3 strike differential, +12% strike efficiency and 77% takedown defense to combat Murphy’s 34% takedown accuracy (1.16 per 15 minutes for the challenger. Her southpaw attack presents some unique challenges.

Murphy will look to apply pressure and dirty this fight up. She will bully her way into the clinch or potentially find a way to get Shevchenko to her back, but a few minutes of control time seems like Murphy’s limited upside in this fight.

Shevchenko dropped a round to Jennifer Maia (spent 4:33 of control in Round 2) once she was taken to the mat, and still has some concerns in terms of defensive wrestling.

However, her judo black belt was on full display in her recent domination of Jessica Andrade, securing all seven takedown attempts (5:11 of control time) en route to a ground-and-pound finish from the crucifix position.

The pace and outcome of this fight is seemingly more dependent upon the challenger than the champion, however. Shevchenko is a patient counter-striker who will punish opponents for rushing in, but she has coasted to relatively low-volume decision victories in the past when her opponents commit to staying on the outside.

If Murphy wants to win this fight — and the betting market implies that she has less than a 10% chance of doing so — she needs to rush forward and hope to catch Shevchenko with a big overhand.

That said, an aggressive strategy would leave her open to some big counter hooks or spinning kicks from the champion, which could end this fight in a hurry.

Murphy is durable — and has never been finished in her career — but a five-round bout with one of the most brilliant technicians on the planet is a serious step up in competition relative to her previous slate of opponents.

I projected Shevchenko as a -1665 favorite in this fight, and I have the bout ending inside of the distance 79% of the time (-367 implied).

While I show slight value on Shevchenko’s KO/TKO prop (projected -157), I would prefer to lay the juice on her odds to win inside the distance (projected -307) at a much steeper price. She could easily catch Murphy in a submission while defending a takedown attempt or after a takedown of her own from the clinch.

That said, given Shevchenko’s patient style and her tendency to win by decision when her opponents fail to press the action, will keep my wager relatively small on this fight.

You can bet this prop small up to -250.

Bets: 

  • Valentina Shevchenko wins Inside the Distance (-225, 0.25u)

Featherweight fight: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega

Odds
Volkanovski odds -180
Ortega odds +155
Over/Under 4.5 rounds -130 / +100

Crowdsourced Projections: (Volkanovski 66.2%)

For additional analysis and a full statistical comparison on Saturday’s Main Event, you should check out my full fight preview.

In short, I see this as a relatively binary fight: Volkanovski wins by decision or Ortega wins by finish.

The champion opened as a -185 favorite (roughly 65% implied) for his second title defense. His line dipped as low as -165 (62.3% implied) last Sunday, but has climbed back towards those opening odds at writing.

projected Volkanovski as a 66.2% favorite in this fight (-196 implied). I see value on his moneyline up to roughly -175 (63.7% implied) at a 2.5% betting edge. However, that’s not my favorite way to play this fight.

I projected this bout to go the distance 58% of the time (implied odds of -139), so I also see slight value on the Fight to Go the Distance prop (“Yes” is listed -120).

However, I would prefer to play Volkanovski to win by decision (listed +150) since I projected that prop closer to even money (+102), and I see significantly more value in that number. Typically, when I project value both on a fighter’s moneyline and the fight to go the distance, I end up betting their decision prop.

That said, I also show value on Ortega to win by submission (projected +393, listed +450), so if you’re looking to play the other side of this fight, that’s the way that I would bet the underdog.

Alternatively, you can bet Ortega to win inside the distance or by KO, TKO, DQ/Submission (titled differently depending on the book) at odds of +300, compared to my projection of +295.

offered five ways for you to attack this fight from a betting perspective. I’m picking the champion and my preferred bet is Volkanovski to win by decision.

The cardio, pace, pressure, and volume of the champion should largely dictate the outcome.

Bets:

  • Alexander Volkanovski (-171, 0.5u)
  • Alexander Volkanovski wins by Decision (+150, 0.5u)

Zerillo’s UFC 266 Betting Card

Distance or Decision Props and Totals

  • Pearce/Morales, Fight Goes the Distance (-135, 0.5 units)
  • Jonathan Pearce wins by Decision (+300, 0.25u)
  • Matthew Semelsberger wins by Decision (+380, 0.25u)
  • Cody Brundage wins by Decision (+330, 0.5u)
  • Roxanne Modafferi wins by Decision (+550, 0.1u)
  • Merab Dvalishvili wins by Decision (+125, 0.5u)
  • Cynthia Calvillo wins by Decision (+425, 0.5u)
  • Curtis Blaydes wins by Decision (+220, 0.25u)
  • Robbie Lawler wins by Decision (+275, 0.25u)
  • Alexander Volkanovski wins by Decision (+150, 0.5u)

Inside the Distance Props

  • Medic/Turner, Fight Ends Inside the Distance (-200, 0.5u)
  • Chris Daukaus wins Inside the Distance (+100, 0.5u)
  • Dan Hooker wins Inside the Distance (+210, 0.25u)
  • Valentina Shevchenko wins Inside the Distance (-225, 0.25u)

Moneylines

  • Alexander Volkanovski (-171, 0.5u)

Parlays

  • Parlay (-132, 0.25u): Matthew Semelsberger (-500) / Valentina Shevchenko (-1500) / Santos vs. Modafferi, Over 2.5 Rounds (-270)

Live Betting Notes

  • Live bet Jalin Turner after Round 1
  • Live bet Merab Dvalishvili after Round 1

Don’t forget to follow my picks in the Action Network App.

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