This weekend is a rare triple-header for MMA betting fans.
On Friday night, Bellator 215 is headlined by Matt Mitrione vs. Sergei Kharitonov. On Saturday night, Bellator 216 is headlined by a welterweight grudge match between Michael Page and Paul Daley and the co-main event is a heavyweight title eliminator between Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov.
Then on Sunday, the UFC makes it ESPN debut with a heavyweight clash between former two-time champion Cain Velasquez and hot prospect Francis Ngannou.
Heavyweights are the name of the game for this weekend and some heavyweight betting opportunities are also available, so let’s jump right in.
Bellator 215 is headlined by a heavyweight slugfest between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov. Mitrione’s last outing in the Bellator cage was a unanimous decision loss to now double-champ Ryan Bader in which Mitrione was unable to do anything at all due to Bader’s suffocating grappling.
Mitrione is a brawler by trade and he should get just that opportunity against Kharitonov.
Kharitonov has been fighting for almost 20 years and is himself a striker. He qualified for the Olympics in 2004 but passed on the opportunity to compete in the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix where he eventually lost a unanimous decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Despite his advancing age, Kharitonov is actually on one of the best runs of his career, unbeaten since getting KO’d in his Bellator debut against Javy Ayala.
888Sport has this fight as a pick’em with both men coming in at -114, and there’s is solid reasoning behind it. Kharitonov is the better, craftier boxer, but Mitrione is the better athlete and has fought the better competition recently.
That being said, Mitrione’s best days seem to be behind him. His recent wins have been hard fought and he’s getting dropped with much more regularity. A crafty boxer like Kharitonov should be able to take advantage of Mitrione’s fading chin and put him away.
Kharitonov at -114 is a fine bet and if the line moves to plus money, it’s a great one.
Bellator 216 is headlined by a welterweight fight with serious bad blood behind it as Michael Venom Page and Paul Daley finally settle their differences, with the winner set to face Douglas Lima in the semifinals of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix.
Daley has been a staple of the welterweight division for over a decade, fighting for all the big organizations and putting forth one of the best highlight reels in MMA. Daley is almost exclusively a striker and his left hook is among the most devastating weapons in the division.
Page is also a striker, having made a name for himself over the past few years with his own scintillating highlight reel. Unlike the boxing heavy attack of Daley though, Page uses many more weapons, employing a karate-like style that bears shades of Israel Adesanya.
This fight will be a standup affair and in that, the bout is much closer than the odds indicate. Betfair currently has Page listed as a -230 favorite, with the comeback on Daley at +175. This is by far the biggest step up in competition for Page and considering the jump, seeing him as such a favorite is shocking.
Page certainly can win, but this fight should be closer to a pick ‘em, so getting all that free value on Daley is worth a bet. Also, betting on Page by Decision at +350 with Betfair is worth a bet as well.
Daley hasn’t been finished by strikes in eight years and if Page does win, it’s likely by using his length to outpoint Daley over 25 minutes.
In the co-main event of Bellator 216, undefeated heavyweight and former champion Vitaly Minakov makes his return to the Bellator cage to take on Bellator’s winningest heavyweight, Cheick Kongo, with a title shot on the line.
This fight does not need much breakdown as the odds indicate what should happen here. Minakov is a -455 at 888sport for a reason. He is better than Kongo everywhere at this point and considering Kongo’s age, Minakov should make quick work of him.
This isn’t to denigrate Kongo, who is on the best win streak of his career, having gotten his hand raised in his last seven fights. Nut Minakov is an entirely different animal and should be a heavier favorite. Betting Minakov straight with 888Sport or including him in a parlay is excellent value.
After a 30-month absence, Cain Velasquez makes his UFC return on Sunday, headlining the UFC’s debut on ESPN, and he faces one of the most dangerous heavyweights to come along in years, former title challenger Francis Ngannou.
At his peak, Velasquez had the potential to become the greatest fighter of all time. A well-rounded heavyweight with the cardio of a lightweight, when Velasquez won his title back from Junior dos Santos, everyone expected him to put together a generational reign.
Instead, he was submitted by Fabricio Werdum and then spent most of the next four years battling injuries. If Velasquez is back to his best self, he is still probably the best heavyweight in the world, but at this point, that question is highly debatable.
Like Velasquez, Ngannou was seen as a new breed of heavyweight. A relative MMA novice, Ngannou blasted his way to a heavyweight title shot with only four years of experience under his belt.
After getting manhandled by Stipe Miocic in their title fight though, Ngannou regressed heavily, clearly struggling to cope with his first defeat. His last venture out though, Ngannou returned to form, obliterating Curtis Blaydes in just 45 seconds.
The main event of UFC Phoenix comes down to which versions of each fighter we will be getting. Is Velasquez still the same guy or have injuries ruined his career? Will Ngannou show up ready to fight or will the hesitant and unsure Ngannou rear his head again?
I believe we are in store for the better versions of both fighters ,and as a result, I think Velasquez should win. Though Ngannou is steadily improving as a fighter, he still has a lot of work to do, particularly with his wrestling and grappling.
Miocic was able to exploit this aspect of Ngannou’s game and, assuming he is healthy, Velasquez should be able to do the same, pressuring Ngannou until he can get the takedowns and wear the heavyweight slugger out.
Velasquez at -167 with Karamba is well worth a bet, and Veleasquez Inside The Distance props show up, those are also worth betting on.
Finally, the last bet of the weekend is for the bantamweight fight between Aljamain Sterlin and Jimmie Rivera. Rivera put together a 20-fight win streak before being KO’d by Marlon Moraes last June, and since then he rebounded with a unanimous decision win over John Dodson.
Meanwhile, Sterling has always been a fighter with enormous potential and seems to finally be reaching that potential over his last few fights.
Rivera will primarily be looking to box in this fight while Sterling should be looking for takedowns. Sterling is competent on his feet and getting better but Rivera’s combination game could start adding up over the course of 15 minutes.
On the ground though, Sterling has a tricky and interesting grappling game that should be able to neutralize Rivera, if not threaten and finish him. I like Sterling’s improving striking to keep the fight competitive on the feet long enough for his ground game to take over.
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