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UFC 274 Odds, Model Projections & Betting Analysis: Zerillo’s Picks for Saturday’s Fights (May 7)

UFC 274 Odds, Model Projections & Betting Analysis: Zerillo’s Picks for Saturday’s Fights (May 7) article feature image
Credit:

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: A general view of the UFC championship belt.

  • Betting UFC 274 on Saturday night?
  • Sean Zerillo has you covered with model projections and analysis on all 15 fights on the card, including Oliveira vs. Gaethje and Namajunas vs. Esparza.
  • Find his full fight card preview below.

The UFC returns to Phoenix, Arizona, with a 15-fight card for UFC 274, highlighted by a pair of title fights in the men’s Lightweight and women’s Strawweight divisions.

The early prelims begin at 5:30 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+ before moving to ESPN at 8 p.m. ET. The five-fight PPV main card will commence at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

After examining all betting options, a typical UFC card can offer a substantial amount of actionable value.

So, in addition to moneylines and over/unders, I’ll break down how I plan to bet every fight card, including exact winning methods, winning round props, and whether or not the match will go to a decision or finish inside the distance.

Fight times are approximate and subject to change. All times ET.

Click on a fight to skip ahead
15. Fernie Garcia vs. Journey Newson
5:30 p.m. ET
14. Loopy Godinez vs. Ariane Carnelossi
5:45 p.m. ET
13. Kleydson Rodriguez vs. CJ Vergara
6 p.m. ET
12. Tracey Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
6:30 p.m. ET
11. Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp
7 p.m. ET
10. Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcus Rogerio de Lima
7:30 p.m. ET
9. Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell
8 p.m. ET
8. Norma Dumont vs. Macy Chiasson
8:30 p.m. ET
7. Danny Roberts vs. Francisco Trinaldo
9 p.m. ET
6. Khaos Williams vs. Randy Brown
9:30 p.m. ET
5. Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon
10 p.m. ET
4. Ovince Saint Preux vs. Mauricio Rua
10:30 p.m. ET
3. Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson
11 p.m. ET
2. Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
11:30 p.m. ET
1. Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje
12:15 p.m. ET

UFC 274 Projected Odds

Below, you can find my fair odds moneyline projection for Saturday’s 15 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.

Odds as of Saturday morning and via BetMGM.

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UFC 274 Odds

Early Preliminary Card

  • 5:30 p.m. ET
  • ESPN+

Fernie Garcia vs. Journey Newson

Bantamweight Bout Odds
Fernie Garcia Odds -150
Journey Newson Odds +125
Over/under rounds 2.5 (-165 / +120)

Crowdsourced Projections: Fernie Garcia (50.9%)

Garcia is making his UFC debut after scoring a knockout win on Contender Series last October. I typically point out that debutants only carry a 43% win rate in the UFC against octagon veterans, at average odds closer to +112, or 47% implied, so they win about four percent less than expectation, based upon betting odds.

And while I don’t have an exact figure on Contender Series veterans, it seems as though it’s profitable to blindly fade those fighters — particularly as favorites — after taking a step up in competition.

Garcia has several split decision wins on his record, and the margins in his fights tend to be very narrow. Even in a best-case scenario, it’s hard to imagine him looking like a substantial favorite in hindsight.

While Newson’s best skill is boxing, he should be able to kick Garcia’s lead leg at will in this matchup, and I also see him as the superior grappler.

Essentially, I projected this fight as a coin flip, and I would have taken either side at odds closer to +125 (44.4% implied). I feel it should be lined as a pick’em, instead, and with action coming in on Newson, it may eventually get there.

After facing a size discrepancy against Ricardo Ramos (72-inch reach), Randy Costa, and Domingo Pilarte (73-inch reach for either fighter) in his first three UFC bouts, Newson is back at size parity against Garcia (67-inch reach for either man) which should allow him to sit down on his punches.

You can bet Newson down to +112 (47.1% implied) at a two percent edge compared to my projection.

Bets

  • Journey Newson (+128, 0.5 units) at FanDuel

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Loopy Godinez vs. Ariane Carnelossi

Women’s Strawweight Bout Odds
Loopy Godinez Odds -190
Ariane Carnelossi Odds +155
Over/under rounds 2.5 (-275 / +200)

Crowdsourced Projections: Loopy Godinez (65.6%)

Godinez is the more skilled fighter everywhere in this matchup. Still, in the lower weight classes, where finishes are less common, strength and physicality can often swing fights, and that’s where Carnelossi may have the advantage.

On the feet, I prefer Loopy’s striking. She’s the superior technical boxer and far more efficient – but Carnelossi will just chuck volume and keep moving forward. Still, I expect Godinez to shoot takedowns at high volume (4.57 per 15 minutes, 35% accuracy), and I don’t think Carnloessi (25% takedown defense) will stop them.

Carnloessi struggled to defend takedowns against Na Liang last August, and I doubt that she has made substantial improvements to her defensive wrestling in the interim.

And while she may be able to scramble back to her feet or reverse positions against Godinez, Loopy has shown excellent cardio and the ability to push a pace for 15 minutes. So long as she keeps putting Carnelossi on her back, I expect her to win this fight.

My one concern is if Carnloessi decides to shoot a takedown of her own and ends up on top. We have limited tape of Loopy on her back, but I’m worried that she could get stuck there and lose a round and then lose another on the feet with inferior volume.

I have to bet Loopy here at -175 (63.6% implied) or better, at a two percent edge relative to my projection, as the more skilled fighter in all facets of MMA. I’m happy to accept defeat if Carnelossi swings the scorecards with pure physicality and aggression.

Bets

  • Loopy Godinez (-170, 0.5 units) at Caesars

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Kleydson Rodrigues vs. CJ Vergara

Flyweight Bout Odds
Kleydson Rodrigues Odds -300
CJ Vergara Odds +250
Over/under rounds 2.5 (-140 / +100)

Crowdsourced Projections: Kleydson Rodriguez (76.9%)

Rodrigues is in a similar spot to Fernie Garcia as a Contender Series alum making his UFC debut — though I don’t give a ton of credit to CJ Vergara, who fought on Contender Series just two weeks before Rodrigues and made his own UFC debut (a loss to Ode Osbourne) last November.

This could be an extremely high-paced affair, and Vergara may have superior cardio and volume, but I give most of the grappling upside to Rodrigues, and I expect him to land the more impactful strikes on the feet.

While I don’t know if he’ll necessarily cover his line (-300, or 75% implied) in this matchup, I do think he’s an interesting prospect. I don’t see Vergara controlling the proceedings unless Rodrigues wilts late. In that Contender Series fight, Rodrigues pushed a hard 15 minutes, and I suspect he might even have a superior gas tank.

Rodrigues seemingly has Vergara covered everywhere. And while I do show value on the Brazilian to win by decision (projected +160, listed +175), it’s an easy spot to take a pass — especially in what looks like a high-paced fight — to gather more information on both fighters.

Bets

  • Pass

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Tracey Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto

Women’s Flyweight Bout Odds
Tracey Cortez Odds -165
Melissa Gatto Odds +135
Over/under rounds 2.5 (-225 / +160)

Crowdsourced Projections: Melissa Gatto (50.4%)

I like this matchmaking from the UFC, pitting Cortez, a solid wrestler, with Gatto, a dangerous striker who offers an active guard game.

I give Gatto substantially more finishing upside in this fight (50% of her win condition, compared to 20% for Cortez) and feel that the power differential on the feet should be noticeable.

Moreover, Cortez isn’t a particularly active striker, so I expect Gatto to be landing both as many strikes and the more effective strikes.

The body shot that ended it all for Melissa Gatto 💥 #UFCVegas45 pic.twitter.com/evdwHpJiRd

— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) December 18, 2021

Cortez needs to win this fight by taking Gatto to the mat, finding her way to the back, and locking in a body triangle. She is very skilled from that position, but she’s going to need to do it at least twice to win minutes; if she expends too much energy trying to wrestle (three takedowns per 15 minutes, 46% accuracy), she may ultimately get finished anyway.

If Cortez tries to lay on top of Gatto, she’ll be susceptible to submission attempts, but Gatto can also lose minutes off her back since she’s content playing guard instead of scrambling back to her feet.

Essentially, Cortez needs to fight a nearly perfect bout for 15 minutes to see her hand raised; and her path to victory seems relatively limited, despite her favoritism relative to her opponent.

Gatto is the longer fighter (4-inch reach advantage), and her kicking game can cause Cortez some issues when this fight is standing.

I’ll be a bit frustrated if she accepts a position on her back for 15 minutes, but I see Gatto as the likelier minute winner on the feet and the more likely finisher in all phases by a substantial margin.

I projected Gatto as a slight favorite, and you can bet her moneyline down to +105. Moreover, I show value on her odds to win inside the distance at +300, and I bet that prop at +375 at BetMGM.

Bets

  • Melissa Gatto (+130, 0.5u) at FanDuel
  • Melissa Gatto wins Inside the Distance (+375, 0.1u) at MGM

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Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp

Welterweight Bout Odds
Andre Fialho Odds -400
Cameron VanCamp Odds +300
Over/under rounds TBA

Crowdsourced Projections: Andre Fialho (81.3%)

VanCamp is making a relatively short notice debut in this late addition to the card, while Fialho returns just a few weeks after defeating Miguel Baeza by first-round knockout.

While I’m uncertain that Fialho should be -400 (80% implied) against any UFC fighter, I’m also skeptical that VanCamp is a UFC-level talent. He appears extremely hittable, though potentially durable, and likely has to grapple to succeed.

Fialho trains with a top camp at American Kickboxing Academy (the home of Daniel Cormier, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Islam Makhachev) and has seemingly leveled up in terms of takedown defense while training with some high-end wrestlers.

Moreover, he’s a good boxer who carries significant power, and I expect him to land the far more effective and powerful strikes in this fight.

CLEAN striking coming from Andre Fialho ⚡️ #UFC270 pic.twitter.com/EIPOoud84J

— UFC (@ufc) January 23, 2022

If VanCamp can survive in the early going, he may have a path to victory late. Fialho’s cardio has been a concern in the past, and he should be easier to grapple with as he tires later in the fight.

Still, I project value on Fialho, even at a steep price, and expect him to dispatch VanCamp with relative ease in a matchup that represents a step down from his recent competition.

You can use Fialho as a parlay piece, up to -400. And given the short notice nature, I’ll check the prop markets again on Saturday once those lines are widely available.

Bets

  • Parlay (+205, 0.5u): Andre Fialho (-400) / Blagoy Ivanov (-140) / Norma Dumont (-225)

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Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcus Rogerio de Lima

Heavyweight Bout Odds
Blagoy Ivanov Odds -160
Marcus Rogerio de Lima Odds +130
Over/under rounds 1.5 (-225 / +160)

Crowdsourced Projections: Blagoy Ivanov (61%)

Ivanov returns from nearly a two-year layoff following split-decision losses to Derrick Lewis and Augusto Sakai. He has proven to be incredibly durable, surviving five rounds with Junior dos Santos and a pair of bouts with ultimate power threats like Lewis and Tai Tuivasa where he ate some huge shots.

That durability should serve him well against a fast-moving power-puncher like de Lima, who has finished six of his eight UFC wins. Still, de Lima is a bit of a frontrunner who tends to wilt the moment his opponents show any sign of resistance. And I doubt that he’ll be able to grapple the combat sambo specialist if he starts to tire.

de Lima is always dangerous in the first round. Still, he’s an explosive Heavyweight who fails to conserve energy, and in a matchup like this — one in which he doesn’t have a grappling advantage — he’s almost certainly early finish or bust.

Typically, once de Lima starts to tire, he can lay on top of his opponents to secure control time and run out the clock; but Ivanov seems unlikely to let that happen (75% takedown defense).

Ultimately, I expect Ivanov to win this fight — particularly the final two rounds — with durability, cardio, and superior wrestling. And de Lima may quit down the stretch if he’s unable to put Ivanov away.

I project value on Ivanov’s moneyline (listed -140 at Caesars), and I included him in a parlay to limit exposure.

Still, I prefer to live bet Ivanov after Round 1 – likely at a better price and when he’s out of the most immediate danger from his opponent.

Bets

  • Blagoy Ivanov, as a parlay piece
  • Blagoy Ivanov Live after Round 1

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Preliminary Card

  • 8 p.m. ET
  • ESPN

Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell

Flyweight Bout Odds
Brandon Royval Odds -250
Matt Schnell Odds +200
Over/under rounds 2.5 (+100 / -140)

Crowdsourced Projections: Brandon Royval (69.8%)

Royval is one of the more entertaining Flyweights on the roster, with a style I often describe as akin to a kid button-mashing in a video game. There is seemingly very little process behind the method of attack, but with that randomness comes a large dosage of unpredictability making game-planning for him difficult.

Royval’s 36% striking accuracy and 48% striking defense represent a fighter who chucks a ton of volume — and wastes a lot of energy — while remaining extremely hittable.

Similarly, Schnell throws a ton of volume (4.23 strikes landed per minute, 38% accuracy). but he’s much more responsible on the defensive end (59%). Unfortunately, he’s not the most durable 125-pounder with three knockout losses during his UFC run.

Royval doesn’t pack a ton of heat in his hands, but he could certainly connect with a spinning elbow — or another wild technique — to put Schnell down. Once Royval hurts his opponents, he’s an opportunistic submission grappler; and he’s certainly the type to hunt for a finish, almost at all costs, in any scramble.

Ladies and gentleman… Brandon Royval. WOW! #LFA79 pic.twitter.com/cXhc3bHYa3

— UFC FIGHT PASS (@UFCFightPass) November 23, 2019

Skill for skill, I don’t see a ton separating these two fighters over a 15-minute bout. And if this bout goes to a decision, I might give Schnell more minute-winning upside, particularly if Royval pushes a wild pace early in the fight.

Still, I view Royval as the far more potent finisher (70% of his win condition, compared to 35% for Schnell), and that element of danger potentially justifies his favoritism.

I don’t project value on either side of the moneyline, the total, or on any method of victory props for this fight. I’m happy to sit back and enjoy what could be a high-paced scrap.

Bets

  • Pass

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Norma Dumont vs. Macy Chiasson

Women’s Featherweight Bout Odds
Norma Dumont Odds -225
Macy Chiasson Odds +180
Over/under rounds 2.5 (-250 / +175)

Crowdsourced Projections: Norma Dumont (72.1%)

Dumont missed weight on Friday, coming in a half pound over the Featherweight limit. Considering she previously missed at Bantamweight in 2020, this is a concerning development for her future with the promotion.

UFC fighters who miss weight win 46% of the time at average odds closer to +100 (50% implied) – roughly four percent below expectation. Typically, the betting odds move about that much towards the fighter who made weight.

I’m less concerned when a fighter misses by several pounds, rather than a half pound, where they likely did everything in their power to make weight. Still, I had already included Dumont as a parlay piece before the weight miss; I’m stuck with my position regardless.

I value Dumont in this matchup (projected -258) and like this fight for her against Chiasson, who is getting another difficult test after her recent loss to Raquel Pennington.

Chiasson is both the taller (4 inches) and longer (5-inch reach advantage) fighter, but Dumont is the much better fighter — skill for skill — and Macy still hasn’t figured out how to maximize her reach.

Dumont can likely have a ton of success trying to grapple Chiasson (64% takedown defense), but I also prefer her range striking game. So long as Dumont stays out of the clinch — where Chiasson can leverage her height and length with big knees and elbows — I expect the Brazilian to dominate minutes and potentially find a finish.

Chiasson appears extremely green once her opponents put her back flat on the mat, and Dumont can apply a ton of pressure from the top position.  I’m not particularly fond of Chiasson’s cardio, while Dumont is coming off a 25-minute Main Event win. Still, a difficult weight cut for Dumont may help to even out that stamina edge.

Despite the weight miss, you can still use Dumont as a parlay piece up to -225, but I wouldn’t go past that price point.

Bets

  • Norma Dumont, as a parlay piece

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Danny Roberts vs. Francisco Trinaldo

Welterweight Bout Odds
Danny Roberts Odds -115
Francisco Trinaldo Odds -105
Over/under rounds 2.5 (-200 / +150)

Crowdsourced Projections: Danny Roberts (51.8%)

Francisco Trinaldo is one of the more well-rounded unranked fighters on the UFC roster, but father time is catching up with the now 43-year-old “Massaranduba.”

Trinaldo moved to Welterweight for his two most recent bouts. Still, his Lightweight speed hasn’t necessarily translated to the 170-pound division, and it’s difficult to find size parity while fighting above your natural weight class. Moreover, he tends to slow down in the third round of his fights in the latter part of his career.

Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts has four inches of both height and reach on the Brazilian veteran. Still, while waiting patiently for openings, Trinaldo hits very hard, and Roberts has shown durability concerns through his UFC run, with four losses inside the distance in 11 trips to the octagon.

Additionally, Trinaldo’s volume has fallen off to conserve energy, landing just 105 significant strikes in his previous 41 minutes of fight time (2.56 per minute), 20% below his career average.

Roberts is the more active striker and stands to edge minutes on volume, as the power seems relatively equal on both sides.

DANNY ROBERTS❗️ Send us your reaction to THIS monstrous @DanHotChocolate KO. ⤵️ #UFCHamburg pic.twitter.com/ROBbcmj8NF

— UFC (@ufc) July 18, 2018

And while Trinaldo may offer grappling upside, wrestling early will only harm his chances of winning the third round and ultimately securing a decision.

This fight could be a relatively low volume banger between two southpaws, where one fighter steals the scorecards with a big moment, and the pick’em price reflects that possibility.

While I considered betting Roberts at plus money, I missed out on his opening price (+120), which was certainly actionable value. I would wait to see if Roberts’ price floats back to +105 before jumping in on the moneyline.

Otherwise, I don’t see an actionable angle to bet this fight.

Bets

  • TBD (Wait for +105 on Roberts)

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Khaos Williams vs. Randy Brown

Welterweight Bout Odds
Khaos Williams Odds -120
Randy Brown Odds +100
Over/under rounds 2.5 (+100 / -140)

Crowdsourced Projections: Randy Brown (52.4%)

The UFC made an excellent choice with their featured prelim, as Khaos Williams vs. Randy “Rudeboy” Brown offers fight of the night potential.

Williams has proven himself one of the biggest hitters in the 170-pound division, with three knockout wins in five trips to the Octagon, including two inside the first 57 seconds of his UFC career.

Unlike most knockout artists, Williams has shown an ability to sustain for 15 minutes — landing 91 significant strikes in a decision over Matthew Semelsberger last June.

And he’s in every fight until the final bell, as proven in a recent win over Miguel Baeza where his lead leg was seemingly in danger of giving out, before landing a highlight-reel finish:

Khaos Williams with a massive right hand that flattens Baeza #UFCVegas42 pic.twitter.com/zzq7y0pB6I

— MMA mania (@mmamania) November 13, 2021

Still, Brown is the more well-rounded martial artist, and Khaos has shown a concerning deficiency when his opponents attempt to grapple.

I view Brown as the superior minute-winner in the fight – with all of the grappling upside. And I suspect that Khaos needs a knockout – or multiple knockdowns – to see his hand raised.

Brown is both the taller (+3 inches) and longer fighter (1″ of reach), but he makes the most out of his length, fighting behind his jab and hammering the lead leg of his opponents. He can keep the striking exchanges even, at a minimum, with the potential to pull away on volume, and if he’s able to mix in the grappling, he could look like a dominant favorite in hindsight.

Still, even if Khaos is trailing on the scorecards, he only needs one moment to turn the tide in his favor. And for that reason, it makes it difficult to stomach a bet against him.

I bet Brown here at plus money after projecting him as a slight favorite, and I also played his decision prop (projected +282, listed +360 at FanDuel) at nearly a five percent edge compared to my number. You can bet those lines to +100 and +315, respectively.

Bets

  • Randy Brown (+105, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • Randy Browns wins by Decision (+360, 0.25u) at FanDuel

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Main Card

  • 10 p.m. ET
  • ESPN PPV

Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon

Lightweight Bout Odds
Donald Cerrone Odds -165
Joe Lauzon Odds +140
Over/under rounds 2.5 (+110 / -155)

Crowdsourced Projections: Donald Cerrone (53.3%)

Lauzon is fighting for the first time since October 2019 (a 2.5-year layoff) against a potentially shot Donald Cerrone, who is 0-5-1 in his past six bouts and coming off of a bad knockout loss to a point fighter in Alex Morono.

While it’s difficult to know what to expect from Lauzon off of a long layoff in his late thirties, it’s been a while since Cowboy looked like the best version of himself, and if anything, the layoff might have provided Lauzon both with time to heal and improve his cardio.

The latter seems unlikely: Lauzon is a fast starter who only has five to seven minutes of gas in his tank, and I suspect that “Cowboy” can take over in the second half of this fight, even at this advanced stage of his career.

Still, Cerrone typically takes a minute to get going, and Lauzon should be able to back him up early and capitalize on a chance to finish.

Ultimately, I’m expecting to see a finish on either side of this scrap, and it may come down to which fighter is more shot at this point in their respective careers. (That is to be expected for a bout between combatants with 98 career MMA fights between them.)

I projected this fight closer to a pick’em and had to place a bet on Lauzon’s moneyline relative to my projection.

Still, given Lauzon’s penchant for starting fast, I also bet his props to win in Round 1 (+720) or win inside the distance (projected +230, listed +300).

You could look to roll those bets into a Live bet on Cowboy after Round 1, but I’m unconvinced that he has anything left at this stage of his career.

Editor’s Note: Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is out for UFC 274

Bets

  • Joe Lauzon (+160, 0.25u) at DraftKings
  • Joe Lauzon wins in Round 1 (+720, 0.1u) at WynnBet
  • Joe Lauzon wins Inside the DIstance (+300, 0.25u) at MGM

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Ovince Saint Preux vs. Mauricio Rua

Light Heavyweight Bout Odds
Ovince Saint Preux Odds -250
Mauricio Rua Odds +190
Over/under rounds 2.5 (+120 / -165)

Crowdsourced Projections: Ovince Saint Preux (69.8%)

Like the Main Card opener, this is a matchup between aging UFC veterans. Still, I’m not particularly keen to see either get their lights put out when neither fighter has looked particularly competitive of late.

This fight is a rematch from 2014, when St. Preux put away Rua — the former Light Heavyweight champion — in just 34 seconds in a Main Event in Brazil.

The two fighters are only a year apart in age, and both have more than 40 career bouts on their record, but Saint Preux has faced a higher calibre of competition lately, including a pair of losses to larger men at Heavyweight.

Despite sustaining consecutive knockout losses, “OSP” visually has more left in the tank at this stage of his career. Still, it’s difficult to evaluate a proper line for this matchup, even though I think he should be favored.

Unlike the Lauzon vs. Cerrone matchup, where I expect both fighters to go for broke at various points, I’m not sure why this fight is on the main card. This matchup could devolve into a clinch battle or a hugging contest on the mat, where neither fighter is particularly active in pursuit of a finish.

I suspect that we see a lot of grappling if this fight extends, which should give Saint Preux — the bigger man (2 inches taller, 4 inches of reach) — the upper hand (1.21 takedowns per 15 minutes, 38% accuracy).

No matter the outcome, I have little interest in betting on this fight, and I don’t project any value from a moneyline, total, or prop perspective.

Bets

  • Pass

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Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson

Lightweight Bout Odds
Michael Chandler Odds -400
Tony Ferguson Odds +310
Over/under rounds 2.5 (+125 / -175)

Crowdsourced Projections: Michael Chandler (73.7%)

It’s quite an adjustment to see Tony Ferguson lined at +310 (24.4% implied), after closing around -250 against Justin Gaethje, -160 against Charles Oliveira, and +125 against Beneil Dariush in the past two years.

Still, Tony was largely uncompetitive in those fights while failing to win more than a single round on a single scorecard and appears worse for wear after sustaining a life-changing beating from Gaethje and failing to tap from deep submission attempts from both Dariush and Oliveira (where he likely sustained injuries).

The Dariush and Oliveira losses were eye-opening and Tony looked completely outmatched as both a wrestler and a grappler. He spent nearly 24 out of those 30 minutes in control positions while permitting six takedowns on nine attempts, leaving almost no question that Khabib Nurmagomedov would have dominated their matchup had they ever fought.

And while Tony seemingly remains durable in striking exchanges — with good cardio — few Lightweights hit as hard as Michael Chandler, a powerful wrestler who loads up on all of his punches:

Five years ago today, Michael Chandler flatlined Patricky Pitbull to win the vacant Bellator Lightweight title. pic.twitter.com/3u3qxSGt72

— Alex Behunin (@AlexBehunin) June 24, 2021

Chandler is a bit of a brawler, and he expends most of his energy in the early stages of his fights by loading every bit of power into his techniques.

He might be the man to finally crack Tony’s chin — it has taken a lot of damage of late — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Round 1 stoppage. Still, it’s not something I can bank upon or bet on.

Additionally, Chandler can probably use his wrestling to take Tony down and wear on him, but he’s not nearly as dominant at maintaining control positions as Dariush or Oliveira, so I could see Ferguson scrambling back to his feet. Chandler doesn’t want to expend more energy than he already will while constantly hunting a knockout shot.

If Tony survives the first five minutes — that’s a big IF — I could see him working his way back into this fight. Chandler tends to slow down after five to seven minutes. If he blows his energy trying to finish in Round 1, Chandler could lose the second and third rounds on volume and inactivity against a fighter built on cardio.

I don’t see any sense in betting Tony’s moneyline pre-fight when he’s highly unlikely to win Round 1. After that frame — potentially a dominant round for Chandler — you’re likely to see Tony’s odds double or triple (+600 or higher) to stage a late comeback.

While I don’t think it’s entirely likely — and I wouldn’t place a particularly large live wager on Tony — that’s the best opportunity to bet the underdog side of this fight and the only bet that I’m interested in placing.

I have seen some takes on both the over 1.5 rounds (-175) or the Fight to End Inside the Distance (-200), but I think those are both potential trap lines. If Chandler finds a finish, it’s likely to come in the first 7.5 minutes; and if he doesn’t, I’d expect this fight to go the full 15 minutes.

If anything, I feel the plus money sides of the under 1.5 (+145) and the fight to go the distance (+150) are the correct sides of those markets.

I don’t project any pre-fight value on either side of the moneyline, total, or winning method props. Instead, I’ll look to grab a live number closer to +1000 on Ferguson after a potentially dominant Round 1 for Chandler.

Bets

  • Tony Ferguson Live after Round 1

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Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza

Women’s Strawweight Bout Odds
Rose Namajunas Odds -225
Carla Esparza Odds +185
Over/under rounds 4.5 (-175 / +125)

Crowdsourced Projections: Rose Namajunas (60.4%)

As a very popular fighter, Rose Namajunas attracts public betting attention, and I often find value in betting against “Thug Rose.”

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.

Regardless of the result, the margins were narrow. 51% of fans scored the bout for Zhang, while 13-of-20 media members scored the fight for Rose.

And Zhang is not primarily a grappler. Her ability to wrestle Namajunas, and gain dominant positions on the mat, spells trouble against Esparza — arguably the best wrestler in the Strawweight division.

Esparza is reliable in shooting takedowns at high volume (3.53 takedowns per 15 minutes, 37% accuracy) to drag her opponents to the mat, where she has shown excellent top pressure, a slick submission game and improved ground-and-pound skills.

Rose has slick submission skills of her own, but I prefer Carla’s top game to Rose’s work on the bottom and I’m relatively confident that Carla can take her down — and keep her there — for at least the first two or three rounds.

How often can Rose scramble back to her feet to force Esparza to keep shooting? If she forces Esparza to shoot 15-20 times in the first 15 minutes, it’s hard to imagine Carla having much energy left for the championship rounds; there Rose could eventually take over or stage a comeback and record a late finish.

Esparza hasn’t seen a fourth or the fifth round since 2013 when she won the Invicta Strawweight title, before later fighting for the UFC title. Conversely, Rose has gone 25 minutes twice since 2018, including her defense over Zhang in November. And training for her third consecutive five-round fight may be to her benefit.

Conversely, suppose Carla can land takedowns early with relative ease and keep Rose on her back. In that case, she might be able to land significant damage or potentially finish the fight without exhausting too much of her energy.

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 of her own.

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.

Bets

  • Carla Esparza (+185, 0.75u) at Caesars

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Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje

Lightweight Bout Odds
Charles Oliveira Odds -175
Justin Gaethje Odds +145
Over/under rounds 2.5 (+125 / -175)

Crowdsourced Projections: Charles Oliveira (60.8%)

Check out my full fight preview for additional information, including a full statistical breakdown of Saturday’s Main Event.

And note that after failing to make the lightweight limit, Charles Oliveira vacated his title on the scales. Only Justin Gaethje is eligible to win the belt on Saturday.

In short, I projected Oliveira as a 61% favorite in this fight (-155 implied) before the weight miss, and I don’t see value on either side of the moneyline.

Moreover, missing weight costs a fighter roughly four percent in implied win probability, as I mentioned above. I expect his line to settle closer to -143 (or 59% implied) than -175 before weigh-ins.

Furthermore, I projected this fight to end inside the distance 83% of the time (-490 implied), and I don’t show value on the fight to end inside the distance at very juice odds.

Still, before breaking anything down or digging into the odds, I suspected that the total would be set at 1.5 rounds (-110) and was surprised to find a plus sign next to that line instead.

I bet the Under 1.5 rounds (+160 at Caesars) smaller but prefer the Under 2.5 (-135 at DraftKings) or the Under 3.5 (-209, at PointsBet).

Given the anticipated pace – and the relative strength and weaknesses of both fighters — I would be relatively shocked if this bout went the full 25 minutes.

I played all three of those unders but staked the Under 1.5 smaller.

Bets

  • Under 1.5 Rounds (+155, 0.25u)
  • Under 2.5 Rounds (-135, 1u)
  • Under 3.5 Rounds (-209, 0.5u)

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Zerillo’s UFC 274 Bets

Distance or Decision Props and Overs

  • Randy Brown wins by Decision (+360, 0.25 units) at FanDuel

Inside the Distance Props and Unders

  • Melissa Gatto wins Inside the Distance (+375, 0.1u) at BetMGM
  • Joe Lauzon wins in Round 1 (+720, 0.1u) at WynnBet
  • Joe Lauzon wins Inside the DIstance (+300, 0.25u) at BetMGM
  • Gaethje/Oliveira, Under 1.5 Rounds (+155, 0.25u)
  • Gaethje/Oliveira, Under 2.5 Rounds (-135, 1u)
  • Gaethje/Oliveira, Under 3.5 Rounds (-209, 0.5u)

Moneylines

  • Journey Newson (+128, 0.5u) at FanDuel
  • Loopy Godinez (-170, 0.5u) at Caesars
  • Melissa Gatto (+130, 0.5u) at FanDuel
  • Parlay (+205, 0.5u): Andre Fialho (-400) / Blagoy Ivanov (-140) / Norma Dumont (-225)
  • Randy Brown (+105, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • Joe Lauzon (+160, 0.25u) at DraftKings
  • Carla Esparza (+185, 0.75u) at Caesars

Live Betting Notes

  • Blagoy Ivanov Live after Round 1
  • Tony Ferguson Live after Round 1

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