UFC on ESPN 40 Odds, Picks, Projections: Our Best Bets for Pauga vs. Usman, Alvey vs. Oleksiejczuk, McKinney vs. Gonzalez (Saturday, August 6)
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC middleweight Sam Alvey
(Editor’s note: Jason Witt vs. Josh Quinlan, which was originally slated for this card, reportedly has been moved to Aug. 13 for undisclosed reasons.)
Light heavyweight contenders take center stage on Saturday at UFC on ESPN 40, which also features the tournament finals of The Ultimate Fighter 30.
The 12-fight card airs entirely on ESPN beginning at 7 p.m. ET, with an interesting mix of matchups from top to the bottom.
So where should you be looking to place your bets? Our crew has pinpointed three fights and multiple picks on Saturday’s stacked card that present betting value.
You can find their analysis and picks on those matches plus Sean Zerillo’s projections below using odds from BetMGM.
Billy Ward: Terrance McKinney vs. Erick Gonzalez
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Terrance McKinney is the rare fighter who’s favored (at -170 or so no less) to finish his fight in the first round. That instantly got my attention since it’s rare for a reason.
I get it, though: He’s had all of his fights end in less than four minutes, and this is fairly clearly the easiest fight of his career.
However, McKinney faded fast against Drew Dober after dominating the first three or so minutes of the fight and then getting knocked out. He’s only accrued 5:18 of cage time across his first three UFC fights, and it showed in his collapse against Dober.
If I’m McKinney or his team, I want to build up some experience in the cage. Perhaps by carrying my opponent for a round or so, before aggressively hunting for the finish. I’ve seen fighters carry that game plan into fights before, and it makes sense. You don’t want your first time seeing a second round to come against a top opponent.
McKinney and his team using that game plan would also explain the matchmaking here to an extent. He’s fresh off a near-finish of ranked lightweight Drew Dober, and now he’s taking a massive step down in Gonzalez, who’s 0-1 in the UFC. Is it possible his team wanted an easier fight for McKinney to build up some cage time?
McKinney has solid wrestling, which he could use to control the fight early on, before pouring it on in the second round or later. I’m expecting him to make at least one trip to the stool in this one, which is why I’m betting the fight to start Round 2 at plus money.
If you’re following my theory, the biggest concern is McKinney taking his foot off the gas pedal and finding himself getting finished early. If that scares you off, throwing a few dollars at Gonzalez in Round 1 (+1800) or inside the distance (+900) is a very cheap hedge.
The Pick: Terrance McKinney vs. Erick Gonzalez to start Round 2 (+130 at DraftKings)
Sean Zerillo: Sam Alvey vs. Michał Oleksiejczuk
Staff Writer at The Action Network
Most fighters get cut after four, if not three, consecutive losses in the UFC. So it’s incredible that Sam Alvey continues to get opportunities after a 0-7-1 run in his past eight fights. He hasn’t won a bout since June 2018.
Alvey (33-17-1) is 38 and coming off a stoppage loss in February, when he was hurt standing multiple times by Brendan Allen. And he initially missed weight on Friday while cutting back to 185 after floating between middleweight and light heavyweight throughout his career.
While Michal Oleksiejczuk (16-5) is making his first move to middleweight, the Poland native is in the prime of his career and was always small for the light heavyweight division. This move seemed inevitable. However, Oleksiejczuk never had good cardio, even at 205, and I doubt he can sustain a substantial pace after cutting weight.
Still, Oleksiejczuk should be dangerous early. He’s a pressure fighter who works the head and body with incredibly accurate hands and ample power.
That sets up a violent stylistic clash with Alvey, who does his best work counterpunching with his back against the fence.
Oleksiejczuk offers good head movement and a tight guard to defend strikes (64% striking defense). And I’m confident he’ll find the target on Alvey (53% defense) and land hard early when he’s fresh.
He’s the much faster fighter and a superior athlete, and Alvey will oblige his pressure by backing up in a straight line, where he’ll likely get trapped in the smaller octagon at the UFC Apex facility.
And while I could certainly see Alvey landing a colossal counter and scoring the upset, his win condition does seem tied to a finish. In contrast, Oleiskiejczuk should win most minutes convincingly, particularly early.
Alvey has suffered knockdowns consistently in his recent fights, and I expect Oleksiejczuk to hurt him in the early stages of the fight, if not end this bout in the first round.
I projected value on Oleksiejczuk by KO/TKO (projected -127, listed -105 at FanDuel), to win inside the distance (projected -150, listed -135 at DraftKings) or the fight to end inside the distance (projected -204, listed -170 at Caesars).
You can mess around with the Unders (1.5 at +140 and 2.5 at -145 at Caesars) too. However, the more I thought about this fight and the potentially strenuous weight cut on both fighters – particularly Alvey – the more you have to factor in the potential that one completely collapses before the final bell.
The Pick: Michal Oleksiejczuk wins Inside the Distance (-135, 0.5u at DraftKings) | Fight ends Inside the Distance (-170, 0.5u at Caesars)
Dann Stupp: Zac Pauga vs. Mohammed Usman
Senior Editor at The Action Network
If you haven’t watched the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, you’re not alone. So you’re forgiven if you didn’t realize Saturday’s UFC event also serves as the TUF 30 tournament finals, including the heavyweight tourney final of Zac Pauga (5-0) vs. Mohammed Usman (7-2).
TUF was a groundbreaking series for both TV and MMA upon its debut way back in 2005. Now, though, the series is simply a cheap way to create UFC programming while also securing the rights to cheap entry-level UFC talent, often with limited potential.
Despite being the brother of UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, the ceiling for TUF 30 finalist Mohammed Usman is probably a lot shorter. With just nine pro fights at age 33, along with a ho-hum skill set, it’s hard to imagine the younger Usman reaching big bro Kamaru’s level of success.
What was clear about TUF 30 cast member Mohammed Usman is that he does a lot of things decently, but outside of his wrestling, nothing too impressively. Additionally, his cardio has already proven to be a bit of a liability. It’s produced a boom-or-bust aspect to his fights: He either wins (or loses) in the first round – or his fights go to decision.
He now faces Pauga, a former 205-pounder who has better cardio and should be a crisper striker. But Pauga, who’s gone to a decision in four of his five pro bouts, could find himself on his back if he gives Usman room to maneuver.
Low-level heavyweights often produce boring, sloppy bouts – especially when that initial rush of adrenaline wears off. Throw a decent wrestler into the equation, and you’ve got the potential for some uneventful, boring minutes with little to no action.
And that ultimately is a good recipe for time props. While I wouldn’t fault you for taking the over 2.5 rounds (-120 at Caesars), I do think there’s a decent enough chance that we see a third-round stoppage in this fight as both fighters tire down the stretch. But I do think both TUF finalists hang around for a couple of rounds, so I’ll pay for that extra half-round and take the “starts Round 3” time prop instead.
The Pick: Zac Pauga vs. Mohammed Usman starts Round 3 (-144 at FanDuel)