Khabib Early Favorite vs Poirier in Much-Anticipated UFC Bout

Khabib Early Favorite vs Poirier in Much-Anticipated UFC Bout

On April 13 at UFC 236, two new interim champions were crowned.

In the co-main event, Israel Adesanya outlasted Kelvin Gastelum in an instant classic. In the main event, Dustin Poirier finally achieved his dream of earning UFC gold, out-pointing featherweight champion Max Holloway in what would have been the hands-down fight of the night had it not been preceded by one of the best fights of all time.

With the wins, Poirier and Adesanya set themselves up for the next shots at the lightweight and middleweight titles, respectively. Preliminary odds have already dropped for both bouts, scheduled for later in 2019, so let’s take a look at two of the most highly anticipated fights of 2019 for UFC betting enthusiasts.

Nurmagomedov Defending Undefeated MMA Record

Khabib Nurmagomedov is among the most unique figures in MMA. A combat sambo world champion, Nurmagomedov is 27-0, including an 11-0 record in the UFC that has seen him win the lightweight title and stake a claim as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. His biggest claim to fame is a victory over Conor McGregor (and a post-match brawl in the crowd) in 2018.

Given his nearly unprecedented run of success at the top of the hardest division in the sport, Khabib should be seen as the favorite heading into a title unification bout with Poirier. He is, with Nurmagomedov coming in at -300 and Poirier at +225 per Betfair.

Those odds are a bit long, but also to be expected. Though Poirier is on legacy-defining run at lightweight, none of his opponents have really looked to grapple with him. The only one who spent time on the floor with him, Jim Miller, earned a draw on one judge’s scorecard with a number of good submission attempts.

In Khabib, Poirier faces one of the best grapplers in the sport, and probably the best functional wrestler in MMA. To win the undisputed title, Poirier will have to do something 27 men have been unable to: Stop Khabib’s takedowns.

Still, Poirier is a fan favorite, a solid wrestler and one of the hardest punchers in the division. This line will probably get close to -200 towards Khabib as the fight approaches. So if you’re a Khabib backer, hold off until closer to fight week. If you think Poirier will hear “And New…” then I’d suggest getting in now to maximize odds.

Whittaker Narrow Favorite Over Adesanya in Early Odds

Robert Whittaker is in an interesting position against Israel Adesanya because both men arguably possess the equivalent of an interim title.

Whittaker won an interim middleweight belt by outlasting Yoel Romero at UFC 213. He was promoted to undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre retired but Whittaker yet to defend his title after a series of injuries. A short-notice rematch with Romero saw the Olympic silver medalist miss weight so he did not challenge for the belt.

Now, in Adesanya, Whittaker faces another Oceania native on a dominant winning streak through the middleweight division, but one who has never tasted defeat in MMA. The odds on this title unification bout are much closer with Whittaker at -140 and Adesanya at +110 on Betfair.

Coming off the Fight of the Year against Gastelum, I would have expected Adesanya’s odds to be closer to even. Whittaker has been plagued by injuries lately and will go more than a year without a fight by the time they finally lock horns.

Meanwhile, Adesanya has been on a tear, improving every time out and showcasing impressive takedown defense and submission skills in his fight with Gastelum. On top of that, Adesanya’s fight with Gastelum is a star-making performance.

With a few months of promotion and Adesanya’s “it” factor, I expect “The Last Stylebender” to get the public on his side and see that line move toward pick ‘em. If you’re an Adesanya backer, this may be the best chance to get him at plus money.

As for how the fight plays out, it’s early to say but Gastelum gave Adesanya all he could handle and Whittaker feels like a better version of Gastelum – a more dangerous striker and a better wrestler. Waiting for the line to get closer and pouncing on Whittaker is a pretty good idea.