UFC 286 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena: Target the ‘Gunni’ vs. ‘Bam Bam’ Total (Saturday, March 18)

UFC 286 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena: Target the ‘Gunni’ vs. ‘Bam Bam’ Total (Saturday, March 18) article feature image

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: UFC welterweight Bryan Barberena

Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena Odds

Nelson Odds
Barberena Odds
2.5 (+115 / -145)
The O2 Arena in London
6 p.m. ET
UFC odds as of Saturday and via Caesars

Aside from the two top-billed attractions at UFC 286 on Saturday, Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena may quietly be the bout that I'm looking forward to most.

Nelson, who has long been a staple of both the grappling and MMA spaces, has fought only once in the past three-and-a-half years.

"Gunni" was originally scheduled to face Daniel Rodriguez on this date, but an injury withdrawal allows Barberena to step into the picture.

A perennial underdog and undeniable action fighter, Barberena is no stranger when it comes to stepping up on short notice against heavy odds or hyped talents alike.

That said, Nelson will arguably be the most dangerous grappler whom Barberena has ever faced.

Tale of the Tape

Avg. Fight Time10:2412:05
Weight (pounds)170 lbs.170 lbs.
Reach (inches)72"72"
Date of birth7/28/19885/3/1989
Sig Strikes Per Min1.835.92
SS Accuracy60%48%
SS Absorbed Per Min3.054.90
SS Defense50%44%
Take Down Avg1.860.16
TD Acc60%25%
TD Def66%54%
Submission Avg0.90.3

As alluded to in the previous section, Barberena will be stepping in on just under a month's notice for "D-Rod" Rodriguez.

Luckily for Nelson, Barberena is also a southpaw whose style encourages the Icelandic fighter to stick to his strengths.

As we saw in Barberena's last outing, his propensity to create small windows of back exposure when getting back to his feet could be enough of an opening for Nelson to get to his game.

Although Barberena is well-trained in regard to using the cage in conjunction with wrist controls to stand, he'll undoubtedly be playing with fire whenever trying to recover his position off takedowns.

And that's the potential problem whether or not you're picking Barberena: The man can't help but fan the flames because it's in the fire where he thrives most.

SALVAJE! @bryan_barberena 🇨🇴🇺🇸 #UFC286

Sáb. 18 de marzo!
ESTELARES 5pm ET 🇺🇸 / 3pm 🇲🇽 / 6pm 🇦🇷 / 10pm 🇪🇸
PRELIMINARES 3pm ET 🇺🇸 / 1pm 🇲🇽 / 4pm 🇦🇷 / 8pm 🇪🇸
PRIMERAS PRELIMS 1pm ET 🇺🇸 / 11am 🇲🇽 / 2pm 🇦🇷 / 6pm 🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/bCZVeBbez7

— UFC Español (@UFCEspanol) March 16, 2023

Barberena has reportedly been working on his wrestling and focusing on his deficiencies, which may make things interesting if the American is able to survive the initial storms and/or show any potential improvements along the way.

Not only will Barberena have a considerable striking edge over Nelson (who officially stands 3-3 opposite UFC-level lefties), but "Bam Bam" should also be incredibly potent inside of the clinch when it comes to his patent elbow work.

As seen in Nelson's fights opposite Alex Oliveira and Leon Edwards, elbows in tight have proven to be very problematic whenever anyone elects to throw them.

Nelson vs. Barberena Pick

The oddsmakers and the public are clearly favoring the more popular party, listing Nelson -370 and Barberena +290 at Caesars as of this writing.

Although I initially came into this fight expecting to make the safe pick of siding with Nelson to find a submission early, I ended up somewhat surprisingly going the other way.

Don't get me wrong: Nelson absolutely deserves the distinction as the favorite, and I believe that the 34-year-old wins this fight more often than not should he be in fine fettle (as the English say).

Gunnar Nelson makes Alan Jouban do the chicken dance with a heavy straight and finishes him off with a tight guillotine pic.twitter.com/zM3N51vK4H

— Birks (@BirksMMA) September 10, 2020

In fact, this is one of those fights where, if Nelson wins in the fashion that many are laying out, he could look like a justified 4-1 favorite – making people on the other side like myself look particularly silly.

For that reason, I suggest incorporating the under into your betting angles regardless of which side you fall on.

I was able to place a unit on the "under 1.5 rounds" at plus money before most books adjusted to 2.5 rounds – which got immediately bet to a playable chalk price in the neighborhood of -135.

If you like Nelson, then he should finish either "under" option, which gives you a much better price on a big favorite (with some coverage for a Baberena upset in tow).

Because ultimately, if Nelson hasn't finished his foe by the third round, then that probably means that something went wrong for the 15-year pro, who probably won't be in the best state considering the pace and violence that comes with a Barberena fight.

With that in mind, I also sprinkled small on Barberena in Round 2 (+1200) and Round 3 (+1800) in hopes of catching whatever my "under" bet misses. And whether or not I end up making a calculated play on Barberena's moneyline, I'll be keeping my eye on the live lines after Round 1.

You don't have to jump off of any of these cliffs with me, but I am undefeated when it comes to betting on Barberena as an underdog dating back to both of his big hits opposite Sage Northcutt and Warlley Alves, for what that's worth.

The Pick: Nelson-Barberena under 2.5 rounds (-138 at BetWay) | Bet to -155

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