UFC 257: Breaking Down the Best Value Picks for Gamblers

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2021

UFC 257: Breaking Down the Best Value Picks for Gamblers

0 of 4

    Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    UFC 257 is the first pay-per-view event for the company in 2021, and it could turn out to be one of the biggest and best cards of the entire year.

    The action is set to take place at Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday, and the main event features an important rematch over six years in the making between superstar Conor McGregor and tenacious contender Dustin Poirier.

    In the co-main event, three-time Bellator lightweight champ Michael Chandler is finally making his UFC debut against rugged striking savant Dan Hooker, and there are plenty of other big fights as well.

    Here, Bleacher Report breaks down the best value picks for gamblers for UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor 2. Read through these betting tips, and be sure to leave your own in the comments, too.

Good Value

1 of 4

    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood appears to be one of the sneaky good fights on the card that has largely gone unnoticed because of the incredible star power of the main event fighters, most notably McGregor.

    Both Eye and Calderwood are ranked among the top 10 fighters in the women's flyweight division. Calderwood seemed to be on her way to getting the next crack at divisional queen Valentina Shevchenko before Jennifer Maia surprisingly earned the first-round submission win over "JoJo" in her last fight.

    Meanwhile, Eye lost via decision to the streaking Calvillo over the summer, and the American has already been felled by Shevchenko in a title bout back in 2019.

    Eye vs. Calderwood is an even matchup on paper, which means the betting line should be similar to how it opened most places: even money on both sides.

    But Calderwood's slightly better striking stats seems to have earned the early action on the market, so here's a case where you would back Eye at plus money because that's the better value.

    It would be the same the other way around for these evenly matched contenders. As it stands now, ride with "Evil" over "JoJo" this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

    Back Eye by any method at +100 (bet $100 to win $100)

Better Value

2 of 4

    Juan Cardenas/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Remarkably, the same idea that makes either plus-money side in the previous fight stand out as the value bet applies for the co-main event battle between lightweight contenders Hooker and Chandler.

    Chandler is a three-time Bellator champion whom Scott Coker and Co., as well as anyone with a vested interest in Bellator MMA, hope dominates and stops his UFC competition on his way to a title run. 

    Hooker is a remarkable fighter who just happens to be competing in maybe the UFC's deepest division. He lost a five-round war against Dustin Poirier over the summer that gave Poirier his big chance to face Conor McGregor this weekend, while Hooker got the much shorter straw and will welcome Chandler to the UFC.

    This one appears to be an even fight, so plus money on either side is the true value. Hooker is about four inches taller and has a longer reach. That should only help his kickboxing-centric style. But Chandler is the more complete MMA fighter, one who can strike hard just as well as he can wrestle his way to wins.

    Back Chandler by any method at +100 (bet $100 to win $100)

Best Value

3 of 4

    Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    There's only one Conor McGregor, but the 32-year-old version we know today seems to be getting credit on the betting market for the fighter he was three or four years ago.

    How else can you explain McGregor being such a huge favorite over Poirier in the main event of UFC 257?

    I'm not saying McGregor shouldn't be favored. But I am saying there isn't any relevant data to suggest he should be sitting at -305 on fight week.

    The line didn't open that wide, but McGregor's popularity, as well as the memory of the first UFC "champ champ" from 2016, has led many to believe McGregor will steamroll Poirier the same way he did in that featherweight contest back in 2014.

    Here's the problem. Nobody does that to Poirier, at least nobody in a long time.

    Since the beginning of 2017, Poirier has defeated Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and Max Holloway. The American's lone loss was by submission to undefeated Russian dynamo Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019.

    Over that same period, McGregor has gone just 1-1. He suffered a submission loss to Nurmagomedov in 2018 and stopped Donald Cerrone in 2019.

    I'm not telling you to back Poirier in the straight upset. But I am telling you there is serious value in expecting the fight to go the distance. Poirier is one of the elite contenders in the sport, so he could give McGregor a real war for all five rounds on Fight Island.

    Bet Yes on Fight to Go the Distance at +275 (bet $100 to win $275)

Bonus Big-Money Pick

4 of 4

    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Bonus big-money picks are designed for you to take a small portion of your portfolio to back an underdog. I usually do that because there's typically a lot of plays made backing the favorites in combat sports.

    Since all three of the value picks for UFC 257 are plus money, I thought I would give you a compelling case for backing "The Diamond" over "Notorious" in the main event upset bid.

    Throw out the first fight between McGregor and Poirier. It's a completely different contest this time around, and even the fighters would admit that.

    McGregor still ranks himself as one of the best fighters in the sport, but there's no set of data over the last three years that supports the Irishman being a better fighter than Poirier.

    On top of that, the American has single-mindedly gone about his UFC career as if it was the only thing that mattered. McGregor? He's retired three times in the last four years and constantly allows himself to be pulled in different directions.

    Finally, Poirier would seem to have more ways to win the fight. Other than knockout ratio, Poirier's striking stats are similar to McGregor's, and he's the better grappler and submission artist, too.

    Backing Poirier in a straight bet might be folly, but getting the American at +250 could be one of the smartest moves on the board.

    Back Poirier by any method at +250 (bet $100 to win $250)


    Betting information courtesy of DraftKings.

    If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).

    Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), or call or text the TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789 (TN).

    21+. NJ/PA/WV/IN/IA/CO/IL/TN only. In partnership with Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.