UFC 286 features one of the hottest prospects out of Scotland: “King” Casey O’Neill. The unbeaten fighter returns from a knee injury in his first fight since a close decision to women’s MMA pioneer Roxanne Modafferi. The UFC lines favor O’Neill even if she did not look too impressive against Modafferi, although former champion Jennifer Maia will prove to be harder to slay.
Maia has Fought Only the Best
Maia has been in the sport long enough to have shared the cage with the best fighters. She’s only lost to champions like Valentina Shevchenko and top contenders like Katlyn Chookagian. Against everyone else, she tends to prevail. She was a former Invicta champion in her own right.
But once again, Maia enters as an underdog. The sportsbook tends to line her as one, as the public underestimates her frequently. She is just 3-5 as a dog but did win her last bout as one. Maia is versed enough in both striking and grappling and has plenty of high-level experience. A young lioness like O’Neill won’t faze her.
As far as UFC picks go, Maia has a decent return at +150. That implies she has short of a 50 percent chance to prevail here. But this is a fighter who held her own against Shevchenko and beat well-rounded veterans like Modafferi (twice) and Alexis Davis. Bet online against her at your own risk.
Can O’Neill Level Up?
After a layoff of more than a year, O’Neill returns and it could be with a vengeance. The Scottish prospect was tearing through the competition until 2022. She eked out a decision against Modafferi as a -400 favorite. It was supposed to be her “breakthrough” performance. Alas, this ho-hum win plus a knee injury has sapped some of her momenta.
Undefeated Casey O’Neill was not going to miss #UFC286 in London for the world!
— Women’s MMA Rankings (@WMMARankings) March 14, 2023
But in her time off, the 25-year-old has stayed sharp. She stayed glued to the gym and quickly recovered from her injury. If anything, O’Neill could be even better than she was 14 months ago. A surge in her skill level makes her the rightful favorite for the UFC betting odds.
The key would be for O’Neill to put it together against Maia. But she should as the veteran is not impervious to takedowns and is relatively hittable. UFC 286 could be O’Neill’s star-making performance and she’s doing it in front of her fans.
Maia vs O’Neill Head-to-Head
O’Neill has the advantage physically against Maia. She is two inches taller with a five-inch reach advantage. Notably, she is also nine years Maia’s junior. Both of them strike in the orthodox stance.
Maia vs O’Neill Fight Information
- Fighters: Maia (20-9-1) vs O’Neill (9-0-0)
- Location: O2 Arena, London, England
- Day/Time: Saturday, March 18, 5:00 p.m. ET
- Maia vs O’Neill Live Stream: UFC Fight Pass
Maia vs O’Neill Betting Lines
Maia vs O’Neill Picks and Prediction
O’Neill is being given a tough test that she should pass, albeit not without difficulty. It can be tough to look good against Maia. But O’Neill is bigger, younger, and should be improved from her time off. She’ll find a way to hit Maia enough and win the grappling exchanges to score a decision. Chalk one for Casey as she makes UFC news with a triumphant return.
Maia is listed at +150 in our Vegas UFC lines. This means that if you wager $100 on Maia, you have a chance to win $150. O’Neill is -180, offering a chance to win $56 on a $100 wager. The implied probability attached to the betting lines gives Maia a 40.00% chance to win, with O’Neill at 64.29%.