UFC 254: Breaking Down the Best Value Picks for Gamblers

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2020

UFC 254: Breaking Down the Best Value Picks for Gamblers

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    Mahmoud Khaled/Associated Press

    UFC 254 on Saturday features undefeated lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on interim titleholder Justin Gaethje to crown the UFC's undisputed divisional champion at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi.

    The co-main event is a middleweight showdown between former champ Robert Whittaker and top contender Jared Cannonier in a contest that should help determine which fighter gets the next crack at 185-pound kingpin Israel Adesanya.

    But there's plenty of other action on the card, too.

    Below, Bleacher Report breaks down the best value picks for gamblers for UFC 254. Be sure to leave your own betting tips in the comments, too.

Good Value

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    It may not be flashy, but this is a good value bet.
    It may not be flashy, but this is a good value bet.Jon Gambrell/Associated Press

    Khabib Nurmagomedov is such a huge favorite to defeat Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254 that you'll likely find many betting tips out there suggesting to back the underdog in hopes of the big payoff.

    While that's always a possibility, there's simply no data here to suggest Gaethje will beat Nurmagomedov.

    Even Gaethje's strengths are also his weaknesses. Sure, he throws and lands a ton of hard strikes, but he also gets hit way too often in return for him to be considered a legit threat to arguably the most dominant MMA fighter in the world today.

    You can back the longtime divisional ace Khabib all day and feel good about it despite the limited return.

    Back Nurmagomedov by any method at -335 (Bet $100 to win $30).

Better Value

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    These odds are closer than perhaps they should be.
    These odds are closer than perhaps they should be.John Locher/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Alexander Volkov is a long, lean and awkward striker who knows how to dish out punishment from long range. His opponent Saturday, Walt Harris, had a nice four-fight win streak (although one was overturned to a no-contest owing to a failed PED test) before he got handled by Alistair Overeem via second-round stoppage in May.

    While Volkov is also coming off a loss, his was a five-round decision to Curtis Blaydes, who dumped the lanky Russian to the ground over and over and over again just as he does to everyone not named Francis Ngannou.

    But Harris is not nearly on the same level as Blaydes, and he's probably not even comparable as a contender to Volkov.

    Volkov is the slight favorite in the fight, but he should probably be favored much more than the bookies have him listed. That makes the 31-year-old Russian a solid value to hand the 37-year-old American his second loss in a row.

    Back Volkov by any method at -175 (Bet $100 to win $59).

Best Value

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    The slight favorite has what it takes to get the win.
    The slight favorite has what it takes to get the win.Jim Young/Associated Press

    Jared Cannonier has been on an incredible tear since moving down to the 185-pound division. The 36-year-old has won three straight fights, and his last two losses came against the two fighters who just fought for the vacant 205-pound title, Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes.

    But Cannonier will find himself in a tough spot against former middleweight champ Robert Whittaker. Bobby Knuckles looked sharp in his last win, over Darren Till just three months ago, and he will represent the toughest middleweight competition Cannonier has ever faced.

    There also seems to be a little too much talk in the media about Cannonier getting the next crack at UFC champ Israel Adesanya. That storyline implies he's a lock to beat Whittaker, a fighter seven years younger who would love nothing more than getting his rematch against "The Last Stylebender" to win back his title belt.

    Backing Whittaker, who still appears to be operating in his prime at age 29, at less than -110 against Cannonier is a solid deal.

    Back Whittaker by any method at -106 (Bet $100 to win $95).

Bonus Big-Money Pick

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    This underdog is a great chance to score big.
    This underdog is a great chance to score big.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    With big-money picks, you're looking for a way to beat the bookies.

    Ion "The Hulk" Cutelaba is a 26-year-old Moldovan who fights mean and angry. Now, his opponent, Magomed Ankalaev, is a hotly touted 28-year-old Russian prospect who seems on his way up the ladder, and Ankalaev appeared to be winning the pair's first fight in February before the referee controversially stopped it. But Cutebala was still fighting and should have been allowed to continue, and he seems to have been trying to lure his prey in for the kill.

    In anything, even when Cutelaba is getting beat up, he's the type of fighter who always swings for the knockout.

    That alone makes him a dangerous big-money underdog worth backing this weekend.

    Back Cutelaba by any method at +225 (Bet $100 to win $225).


    Odds via DraftKings. Unless otherwise noted, all stats via UFC Stats.