There are some excellent fights scheduled for UFC 266 on Saturday and we’re not expecting many to go the distance.
It’s often one way or the other; the entire card is decided by decision or it’s a knockout fest. We’re hoping for the latter as our UFC best bets center around the fights being over early.
Headlining the card is the Brian Ortega vs Alexander Volkanovski title fight, which is set to turn heads.
Under to Hit on Main Events
The three main event fights are Ortego vs Volkanovski, Murphy vs Shevchenko and Rozenstruik vs Blaydes. We expect all three to be decided before the final hooter.
Our best pick is Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Curtis Blaydes to go under 1½ rounds. Both fighters are knockout artists and we would be surprised to see it go past the second round.
Blaydes has said to the media that he wants to land a knockout blow, which would propel him further up the heavyweight rankings. It’s uncommon for a fight involving power punches to make it out of the first round, so that’s where we’re heading.
Under 1½ is +125 with UFC betting markets, which is a price worth locking in.
We also like the under 4½ for the title fight between Ortega and Volkanovski. Despite the title holder typically winning by decision, he’s capable of leg kicking his way to an early stoppage. However, we base this pick on Ortega’s ability to strike.
He will go out guns blazing at UFC Apex on Saturday, which could result in an early stoppage. Bettors have more wiggle room because it’s a five-round title fight, so we’re happy with the +105 odds for the under 4½.
The champ has hit the stage🏆
— UFC (@ufc) September 23, 2021
The third main event is Lauren Murphy vs Valentina Shevchenko. The titleholder is expected to score an easy win over the +750 underdog, and we agree with bookmakers.
Shevchenko should put on a first-round clinic and put Murphy out of her misery. Despite it being scheduled for five rounds, the line is 2½. That’s being generous to Shevchenko, who will apply the pressure from the outset and score a quick knockout victory.
Out of the three main event UFC picks, we’re going with Rozenstruik vs Blaydes with the most confidence.
Pick: Rozenstruick vs Blaydes Under 1½ (+125)
Diaz vs Lawler to Go Distance
We love seeing Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler back in action, but due to their age and respective stages of their careers, the over 2½ is the best play.
They are two of the most aggressive fighters in their prime, but bettors can’t expect to see a similar output at UFC 266.
The sportsbook has taken a lot of money for the over, which isn’t surprising. Over 2½ has firmed into -160, which is an incredible move.
Diaz is keeping his expectations in check against Lawler, which goes against everything we have seen from the brawler.
“Do I feel confident? I never do. I never have. I always feel like I’m going to get trashed out there, every fight I’ve ever done,” Diaz told MMA Mania. “How do you feel against Robbie Lawler? I feel like I’m going to get the shit beat out of me. And even when I win, I get beat up worse.”
Bettors will need to lay juice with this option, but we would be shocked to see this fight being stopped early.
Pick: Diaz vs Lawler Over 2½ (-160)
Hooker Returns Against Haqparast
We always feel uneasy when fighters return from their retirement for “one more fight.” That’s the case for New Zealand’s Dan Hooker, who was embarrassed by a former Bellator fighter last time in the Octagon.
It was a tough loss for the tough Kiwi, but we worry about his preparation against Nasrat Haqparast. Hooker only arrived in Las Vegas a few days ago, so the let jag could still be in effect on Saturday.
Big love to both Dan Hooker and Nasrat Haqparast for making this fight happen.
Nasrat committed to fight while dealing with the loss of his mother; Dan faces the most hectic fight week schedule ever, arriving about 12hrs before weigh-in.
No slander of either can be tolerated pic.twitter.com/axvEniKCP8
— Christopher Reive (@ChrisReive) September 20, 2021
He also showed how one-dimensional he was in the loss to Michael Chandler. It leans us towards the under 2½ rounds.
Despite Hooker being the -150 favorite to beat Haqparast, we’re confident the fight won’t go the distance either way. It should end in a knockout or submission, which could get the crowd firing before the big fights are scheduled.