UFC 266 kicks off Saturday on ESPN PPV, headlined by The Ultimate Fighter head coaches Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. We’ll take a look at the movement of three fights on the main card.
Nick Diaz’s Pre-Fight Actions Boost Odds
A few UFC lines have seen movement, but the biggest shift on UFC 266’s fight card is Robbie Lawler vs Nick Diaz. Lawler opened at -115, and the line has moved in his favor quite a bit since it opened last week. Lawler now commands a -165 price as a favorite and there are a few reasons why.
Despite Diaz’s nearly seven-year layoff from the sport, his camp made an 11th-hour request to change the weight class from welterweight to middleweight. This is a huge red flag for oddsmakers or bettors considering a bet online. The first of those red flags came from Diaz being vocal criticizing UFC’s matchmaking and questioning himself as to why he took the fight.
“This doesn’t make sense for me to go in and fight Robbie Lawler again, Diaz told ESPN. “I don’t know why I’m doing this. … This should not happen. Whoever set this up is an idiot. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t know why this happened. I should be fighting Kamaru Usman — and that’s it.”
Plenty of Metrics Work in Volkanovski’s Favor
We’ve seen Las Vegas odds move in favor of Alexander Volkanovski before he defends his title for the second time against Brian Ortega. Opening up at -160, he’s been steamed up to -190, as bettors may be done questioning the UFC featherweight champion. He’s been the underdog in three out of his last four fights, including his first title bout with Max Holloway.
Outside giving up a small height advantage, there’s a lot on paper that works Volkanovski’s way. You can begin with significant strikes. Not only does Volkanovski land more significant strikes than Ortega, but he also outstruck Holloway in his first title defense.
Volkanovski lands nearly 60% of his significant strikes and is known to be the harder puncher. The well-rounded Ortega is notably better on the ground and if he plans to showcase more of his improved striking, he’ll have to land better than his current 33% significant strikes. Volkanovski also averages 2.49 significant strikes absorbed per minute versus Ortega’s 7.36.
Calvillo Odds Drop on Potential Knockout
A telling bout in the women’s flyweight division is top-five contenders Jessica Andrade and Cynthia Calvillo. Calvillo opened as a +215 underdog and has since taken heavy action on her upset chances — enough to drop her odds to the current +180.
Andrade seemed to be the obvious favorite being the more powerful striker with a ground game that matches well with BJJ black belt Calvillo. The move implies a Calvillo upset could come by KO, TKO, DQ, or submission. Calvillo is currently +450 to win by those means. Both of Calvillo’s TKO/KO victories came early in her career.
In other actions that moved betting lines this week, the favorites took the bulk of the money.
Valentina Shevchenko jumped from -1400 to a more prohibitive -1800 price in her bout against Lauren Murphy.
Curtis Blaydes opened -300 last week and has since been bet up to -350 against Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
Oddsmakers hung a -235 on Merab Dvalishvili, but bettors faded his opponent Marlon Moraes — pushing Dvalishvili’s current price to -260.
Chris Daukaus’ odds of -190 got bought up to -210 in his match versus Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Books priced Talia Santos at -360 last week, and bettors backed her against Roxanne Modafferi. Santos is now -450 to win.
Bettors also found the opening -400 price on Matthew Semelsberger to be cheap in his fight against Martin Sano. Sharps considered Semelsberger one of this week’s UFC best bets and have since taken him up to -550 odds.
Two other underdogs on the card did get money in this week’s betting action. Nasrat Haqparast got backed on his opening +145 price down to +125 in his pending battle with Dan Hooker. And Jonathan Pearce notched down to +115 from his opening of +125 against Omar Morales.