UFC 274 Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets for Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje and Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza

UFC 274 Odds, Picks, Predictions: Best Bets for Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje and Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza article feature image

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC fighter Justin Gaethje.

  • UFC 274 has 15 action-packed fights on the slate, including two title fights in the main and co-main event.
  • Our MMA experts are going straight to the top of the card for their picks with bets on Oliveira vs. Gaethje and Namajunas vs. Esparza.
  • Check out their analysis and best bets below.

On the busiest sports weekend of the year, the UFC is bringing its A-game with one of its most exciting Pay-Per-View cards on the schedule. UFC 274 will feature 15 fights, including two title fights on the main card. The action begins at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN+ before switching to the PPV at 10 p.m. ET.

There's been a bit of a shake-up in the main event, though, after Charles Oliveira lost his lightweight belt after weighing in over the limit. Only Justin Gaethje is eligible to win the belt as a result.

So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew is going straight to the top of Saturday’s stacked card with bets in the co-main and main event.

You can find their analysis and picks on those matches below.

Sean Zerillo: Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza

Staff Writer at The Action Network

This fight is a rematch from 2014 — the TUF Finale and the first Strawweight title fight in UFC history — which Esparza won by third-round submission. Both fighters have changed since that first matchup, and Namajunas has likely made more significant improvements since that was only her fourth professional MMA bout.

Still, Esparza's wrestling first style presents Namajunas with some unique challenges that she hasn't faced consistently during her current run.

In her recent title defense over Zhang Weili, Rose continued to show deficiencies in her takedown defense (career 51%, permitted five takedowns on 11 attempts). Zhang ended up in mount and took Rose's back in the middle of the fight before Namajunas secured a split decision victory with a fifth-round takedown of her own.

If Carla can't land takedowns, she's probably screwed from the jump. Rose is the much cleaner, more diverse, and more technical striker, and she could control the vast majority of minutes if this fight stands at range — if not find a finish.

Still, I see a potential advantage in the wrestling/grappling that is near if not just as substantial as Rose's clear advantage in the striking, and I would move Carla's chances closer to a coin flip price based upon that information alone.

There's no guessing game with Carla as an underdog. I know exactly what she's going to do — and either it will work, or it won't — but I don't have to consider Fight IQ like I normally would with a more well-rounded fighter who potentially has a grappling advantage and never actually attempts to exploit it.

If she can take Rose down early with moderate ease, I expect "Cookie Monster" to win the first two or three rounds of this bout; and if her cardio holds up for 20 or 25 minutes on top of that, I expect to hear "And New" at the end of the fight.

I projected Esparza around 40% (+152 implied) in this rematch, and I would bet her moneyline down to +163 at a two percentage point edge, but I can argue that you can push that price target even lower.

The Pick: Carla Esparza (+185, 0.75u)

Billy Ward: Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje

Contributor at The Action Network

While I had a few other bets in consideration for my best bet on the card, everything changed Friday afternoon. Former champion Charles Oliveira weighed in at 155.5 pounds on his first attempt, and was unable to shed the extra half-pound in the ensuing hour.

While fighters missing weight is generally baked into their price, this is an unprecedented situation. Never before has a current champion missed weight. Oliveira is now officially stripped of the belt, which will remain vacant if he were to win. Gaethje is still fighting for a title though, after making weight easily on his first attempt.

Some fighters — knowing they won’t be able to make weight — simply accept the financial penalties rather than attempt to push their bodies past the limits. Given the enormous stakes involved here — both financial and in regards to the title — I highly doubt that was the case with Oliveira.

It’s more likely that Oliveira truly couldn’t squeeze any more water out of his body, and he was totally depleted in the final hour of trying. Being dehydrated to that point has a number of deleterious effects on performance. After shedding that much water, the fluid layer around a fighter’s brain is actually thinner than it is normally, which takes a few days of hydration to fully fix.

That makes a fighter far more likely to get knocked out, which is bad news against a dangerous striker like Gaethje. Being that depleted also impacts muscle function, since Oliveira’s glycogen stores are certainly fully drained.

That too can take time to rebuild — time that Oliveira doesn’t have after taking so long attempting to make weight. That latter factor impacts endurance, which is bad news in a five round fight.

Sean Zerillo mentioned last week that missing weight is normally a roughly 3% penalty in terms of a fighter’s chances compared to the odds. Lines have already moved about that much, with Gaethje going from +145 (40.82% implied) right before weigh ins to +130 (40.38%) at the time of writing.

This weigh in is likely to have a far bigger impact than that though, given the stakes involved, the five round nature of the fight, and the opponent across from Oliveira.

It’s highly likely that this line has moved further by the time you read this, but I’d be willing to bet Gaethje down to +120, which assumes a roughly 5% penalty to Oliveira.

The Pick: Justin Gaethje Moneyline +122

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