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UFC Fight Night Main Event Pick, Prediction & Odds: How to Bet Tyron Woodley’s Return

UFC Fight Night Main Event Pick, Prediction & Odds: How to Bet Tyron Woodley’s Return article feature image

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyron Woodley.

  • Former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley makes his return to the octagon after more than a year since his last fight.
  • Woodley enters the bout as a -195 favorite over Gilbert Burns (+155) who is riding a 5-fight win streak.
  • Sean Zerillo previews the betting odds and gives his analysis on the best bets to make in tonight's main event.

Woodley vs. Burns Pick, Prediction & Odds for UFC Fight Night 

  • Tyron Woodley odds: -182
  • Gilbert Burns odds: +150
  • Time: Approx. 11:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: UFC Apex (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Channel: ESPN

Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

Saturday’s UFC main event is listed at -200 (implied 66.6%) in the betting market to finish inside of the distance – with former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley making his return to the octagon after a 14-month hiatus, following his loss to Kamara Usman at UFC 235 which ended Woodley’s seven-fight unbeaten streak and near three-year run as champion.

No. 6 welterweight contender Gilbert Burns has won three consecutive fights since returning to the 170-pound division last August, and he’s on a five-fight win streak overall – dating back to December of 2018.

Woodley, the No. 1 contender in the division, was initially supposed to face No. 4, Leon Edwards, on March 21 in London – but the bout was canceled due to the global pandemic and Edwards, who is on an eight-fight win streak of his own, remains stuck abroad.

Instead, the Brazilian-American Burns officially signed on to face Woodley on May 19 – 11 days in advance of the fight – hoping to claim the most significant victory of his career and the chance the vault himself into welterweight title contention.

The main event at all three UFC cards this month has ended in an upset, with Justin Gaethje (+187), Glover Teixeira (+175), and Alistar Overeem (+120) each recording stoppages, while consequently destroying parlay tickets that included Tony Ferguson (-227), Anthony Smith, (-213), or Walt Harris (-170), respectively.

Is Woodley yet another vulnerable favorite in the big fight on Saturday night, or does the ex-champion have another chapter left to write in his already storied career?

Tyron Woodley Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
3/2/19, Kamaru Usman -145, -215 L
9/18/18, Darren Till -149, -115 W
7/29/17, Demian Maia -210, -245 W
3/4/17, Stephen Thompson +105, -115 W
11/12/16, Stephen Thompson +120, +140 Draw

Woodley opened as a -145 favorite (implied 59%) against Burns and has been bet up to as high as -196 (implied 66%), but the line has generally settled somewhere in the middle.

Note that Woodley opened at the same price against Burns as he did versus both Darren Till and Kamaru Usman. Although money came in on Till, Woodley closed as a substantial -215 favorite (implied 68%) before losing his title to Usman.

“The Nigerian Nightmare” subsequently closed as a -220 favorite in his December title defense against Colby Covington, and he’s listed at -260 or -225, respectively, in prospective future bouts against Jorge Masvidal or Conor McGregor.

Gilbert Burns Odds History

Date & Opponent Opening & Closing Odds Results
3/14/20, Demian Maia -150, -190 W
9/28/19, Gunnar Nelson -110, -125 W
8/10/19, Aleksei Kunchenko +140, +110 W
4/27/19, Mike Davis -270, -278 W
12/8/18, Oliver Aubin-Mercier -135, +105 W

Woodley both opened and closed as a significantly larger favorite against Demian Maia (-210, -245) in 2017 than Burns (-150, -190) did before his last bout in March.

Maia was in the midst of a seven fight-win streak before that 2017 title fight with Woodley, and coming in after a win against Jorge Masvidal, so the odds and spot were comparable to the path leading up to his March fight against Burns – on the heels of three consecutive victories, including a submission win over Ben Askren.

Tale of the Tape

Main Event Tyron Woodley Gilbert Burns
Record 19-4-1 18-3-0
Avg. Fight Time 12:00 10:19
Height 5’9″ 5’10”
Weight (pounds) 170 lbs. 250 lbs.
Reach (inches) 74″ 71″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 4/7/82 7/20/86
Sig Strikes Per Min 2.50 3.13
SS Accuracy 49% 44%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.58 3.02
SS Defense 57% 56%
Take Down Avg 1.21 2.39
TD Acc 41% 38%
TD Def 94% 44%
Submission Avg 0.5 0.7

Burns is the more active striker and he owns a slightly positive strike differential (+0.11), while Woodley’s defensive style has generated a somewhat negative differential (-0.08).

Woodley is both the larger man and superior athlete, with a three-inch reach advantage. He intends to finish his career at middleweight, whereas Burns spent the majority of his career at lightweight.

The standout metric between the pair is takedown defense (93.7%) for Woodley, which places him third all-time; behind only Jimmie Rivera and Jon Jones.

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Tyron Woodley’s Path to Victory

Aside from the fights, the main topic of conversation on Saturday will be the octagon itself.

The UFC has opted to go with a smaller, 25-foot-cage, rather than the standard 30-foot-cage, for their fights at APEX.

They can fit the standard sized cage without issue and prefer the way it looks on TV, while the fighters prefer the additional space — but bringing the walls in just a bit should create more action and earlier stoppages.

On a card filled with martial artists who prefer to fight off of the back foot, and with the attention of a global, sports-deprived audience, it’s not the worst idea.

With regards to the main event, those tighter conditions could bring the best out of Tyron Woodley.

The former welterweight champion was admittedly distracted before his May 2019 title loss — he had an album release party scheduled for the week after the fight, for example — and he looked flat in that bout as Usman suffocated him for five rounds.

Woodley said that he “had an off night,” “felt like he wasn’t in his body,” and “couldn’t make adjustments.”

But he knows that a dominant win over Burns would put him back into a title fight rematch with Usman, and at the age of 38, this could be his last shot at redemption.

“The Chosen One” has responded to each of his three prior career losses with a knockout victory, and he seems as confident and motivated as ever, calling this a mismatch and promising to trash-talk Burns during the fight.

I expect Woodley to come out with a fire and uncharacteristically look for an early knockout — which could leave both men swinging in the middle of the cage to start the main event.

But he is also as conscious of his gas tank as any fighter in the sport, and his most likely path to victory lies through his preferred style — forcing Burns to come forward while tiring him out with his incredible defensive wrestling and powerful striking from distance — which has claimed five UFC TKO’s:

If a focused, near-peak version of Woodley shows up on Saturday night, he will win this fight.

Before the Usman fight, Woodley hadn’t been taken down since 2014 — and I don’t anticipate that Burns will be able to get him to the ground or pressure him for 25 consecutive minutes, as Usman did.

I do expect Woodley to dominate with his defensive wrestling, as usual, and to display the more significant power in the exchanges.

Woodley could end the fight with a big shot at any point, but if it doesn’t come early like his last knockout — July 2016, first-round vs. Robbie Lawler — he could look to stay the course against a likely tiring Burns in the middle to late rounds and seek his eighth career victory by decision.

Gilbert Burns’s Path to Victory

Burns needs to beat a former dominant champion in his first attempt at a five-round fight, and it seems unlikely that this former lightweight could knockout Woodley — who has been stopped just one time in his career back in 2012.

However, Burns recently flattened 43-year-old Demian Maia, who hadn’t been stopped since 2009:

Heavy knockout Gilbert burns vs Damian Maia ufc

— Fightgame (@futurefights360) May 26, 2020

“Durinho” does have reliable power and a versatile style — the close quarters in the 25-foot-cafe could help him to get Woodley up against the cage and into the clinch, where he can begin to employ his jiu-jitsu — which has led to four submission wins in the UFC.

Woodley, a jiu-jitsu black belt in his own right, is a tough customer in any grappling contest, but Burns’ best chance will come if he can get Woodley onto his back — something few fighters have ever done.

He’s going to need to conserve his energy, while also emptying his tank at opportune moments to steal rounds if this ultimately goes to the scorecards.

While the fight is a pretty solid favorite to end inside of the distance, I do think that Burns is more likely to win by decision (+500) than submission (+400) or TKO (+800).

He’s going to need to out-strike Woodley with volume — which is something that he is undoubtedly capable of over 15-minutes based upon prior metrics, but Burns’ durability and cardio issues are sure to crop up — and his relentlessness will give way at some point.

Burns watches a ton of tape, says that he has seen flaws in Woodley’s game, and noted that Woodley has only had success against one-dimensional fighters.

If he can see past the moment — in his first UFC main event — adapt, and bring a mix of disciplines in order to keep Woodley off balance, he could pull the upset.

Pick for Woodley vs. Burns

After scraping data and crowdsourcing more than 1,500 predictions for this fight, the consensus opinion is that Woodley wins 67% of the time, implied odds of -203.

As a result, consider betting Woodley at -170 (implied 63%) or better. That number represents a 4% edge compared to the consensus projection. Use our betting calculator to find your edge if you have different odds.

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Woodley recently said, “When I’m focused, I’m scary. And I’m as focused as I’ve ever been in my entire professional career.”

He is the better athlete and the more talented fighter with both a championship pedigree and significantly more experience, particularly in five-round fights.

I have seen many analysts this week say, “dog or pass,” regarding the main event — discounting Woodley’s ability, focus, and motivation after one bad loss to a phenomenal, 16-1 Kamaru Usman.

To me, this fight is actually Woodley or pass after considering the matchup, measurables, metrics and odds history.

Woodley should be at least as substantial of a favorite against Burns as he was against Usman.

I would consider betting Woodley’s moneyline at around -170 and plan to key him in a parlay.

Woodley by KO/TKO (+138) is drawing interest, but Woodley by decision (+275) is where I would land for an exact result — which is why I will stick to the moneyline.

The Picks:

  • Tyron Woodley -182

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