UFC 251: Odds, Best Picks and Preview for Usman vs. Masvidal Fight Card

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 14:  Colby Covington (L) takes a punch from UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in their welterweight title fight during UFC 245 at T-Mobile Arena on December 14, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Usman retained his title with a fifth-round TKO.  (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
Steve Marcus/Getty Images

UFC 251 brings a loaded card to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Saturday and with it a 13-fight slate for bettors to make a little more interesting.

The crown jewel of the card is the welterweight title fight in which Jorge Masvidal will play underdog to champion Kamaru Usman. Coming in on six days' notice and facing a stylistic mismatch against the formidable Nigerian Nightmare gives Gamebred long odds to pull off the upset. 

If neither of those are of interest, there are plenty of other opportunities to back fighters and be profitable. Here's a look at what the whole card looks like along with some of the better options from a betting perspective. 


Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)

  • Kamaru Usman (-300; bet $300 to win $100) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+250; $100 bet wins $250) (welterweight title)
  • Alexander Volkanovski (-220) vs. Max Holloway (+185) (featherweight title)
  • Petr Yan (-240) vs. Jose Aldo (+200) (vacant bantamweight title)
  • Jessica Andrade (+175) vs. Rose Namajunas (-200)
  • Amanda Ribas (-1000) vs. Paige VanZant (+650)

Prelims (ESPN at 8 p.m. ET)

  • Volkan Oezdemir (-150) vs. Jiri Prochazka (+130)
  • Muslim Salikhov (-125) vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (+105)
  • Makwan Amirkhani (-190) vs. Danny Henry (+170)
  • Roman Bogatov (+160) vs. Leonardo Santos (-180)

Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6 p.m. ET)

  • Maxim Grishin (-105) vs. Marcin Tybura (-115)
  • Raulian Paiva (-185) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (+165)
  • Vanessa Melo (+200) vs. Karol Rosa (-240)
  • Martin Day (-165) vs. Davey Grant (+145)

Odds via Caesars Palace

Championship Parlay: Usman and Yan

Neither Usman nor Petr Yan have profitable odds on their respective title fights. Both are sizable favorites and it's easy to see why. However, pairing the two together would get your odds closer to even (a $100 bet on a parlay would return $88.89). 

While Masvidal is a bigger draw than Usman's original UFC 251 opponent, Gilbert Burns, this matchup got easier for him when it was announced six days before the fight. The Miami native has more name recognition but the five-second knockout that catapulted him into stardom didn't answer the questions about how he can negate wrestlers. 

The 35-year-old has struggled throughout his career against wrestlers. His flash knockout of Ben Askren covered for the fact that he has been taken down by any of the other elite grapplers he has fought. Demian Maia took him to the mat four times, while Benson Henderson scored three takedowns in his loss to him. 

Masvidal has a puncher's chance and nothing more against Usman. The Nigerian Nightmare, 33, has disarmed everyone he has fought thus far with his relentless wrestling and smothering top game. Outside of one big shot a la his win over Askren, it's hard to see the challenger figuring out a way to end the champion's streak. 

Yan also sees a favorable matchup in his title fight. Jose Aldo is not getting this opportunity based on what he has actually done in the bantamweight division but rather for what he has done in his whole career. The 33-year-old Brazilian is 2-4 in his last six fights going back to 2017 and 0-1 as a bantamweight. 

Yan on the other hand has yet to taste defeat in his career. He appears to be hitting his prime and has looked better each time out.

The 27-year-old has fought a variety of fighters at 135 pounds and doesn't appear to have an exploitable weakness for the current version of Aldo. 

Both are relatively safe picks at a good combined price. 


Over-Under Pick: Salikhov vs. Dos Santos, Under 2.5 Rounds (+110)

Sometimes, the best pick for a given fight isn't backing either of the fighters. While both Muslim Salikhov and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos are priced near even odds, the best bet for the fight might be taking the under. 

This should be one of the most exciting bouts of the evening as both fighters are about action. Dos Santos, 33, can set a frenetic pace and is ultra-aggressive in his striking combinations. He will come forward and look for the knockout. Of his 22 career victories, 17 have come by knockout or submission. 

Salikhov is a proven finisher as well. He has picked up the finish in 14 of his 16 career victories and was a knockout artist in Wushu before he came to MMA.

While the 36-year-old isn't as aggressive as Dos Santos, he is the more accurate and technical counter-striker, which sets up for a perfect high-paced chess match between the two. 

Even if it doesn't turn out to be a standup affair, there is potential for an early submission. Dos Santos defeated Curtis Millender via first-round rear-naked choke while Salikhov lost his UFC debut by first-round rear-naked choke. 

The odds have this fight getting finished outside of the distance as a slight underdog but that isn't in line with how these two project to fight. Neither will be looking to win on points, and it would be surprising if it ended up going to the judges' scorecards. 

Someone is going to make a mistake, and this one should be over before the third round gets started. 


Underdog Worth Backing: Paige VanZant

Amanda Ribas is a good fighter. She's better than Paige VanZant. She also has better odds than Anderson Silva was given in his entire career for every opponent other than Stephan Bonnar.

VanZant has largely been disappointing in her UFC career. After winning her first three fights in the organization and looking like she could be the next big thing in women's MMA, she went on to lose three of her next four bouts, with two of those losses coming by way of submission to Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson. 

The 26-year-old now fights Ribas, who has a three-fight win streak of her own since signing with the UFC. She scored a submission win in her debut over Emily Whitmire and decision wins over Mackenzie Dern and Randa Markos. 

Ribas, also 26, brings a lot of aggression into the cage and is relentless in looking for takedowns. On paper, the combination of her style and athleticism makes this a tough matchup for PVZ. 

However, the current odds give Ribas an implied probability of around 90 percent to win. Given her lack of experience compared to VanZant, that seems steep. The American might not have become the next big thing but she is proficient as both a striker and grappler.

VanZant earned a submission win over Rachael Ostovich last time out and has knockout wins under the UFC banner. If Ribas can't get her out of there early like she did in her UFC debut, that means she's going to need to go three rounds without getting caught. 

It's a long shot, but at these odds, Ribas has no value and PVZ appears to be getting disrespected.