On Saturday night at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the UFC offers up one of its better cards for the penultimate Pay-Per-View of 2018. UFC 231 is headlined by two marquee title fights and has a bevy of exciting undercard action.
In the co-main event, the former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk attempts to make history by becoming the first woman to win UFC titles in two divisions when she challenges her longtime rival, Valentina Shevchenko, for the vacant flyweight title.
Then, in the main event, Max Holloway puts his featherweight belt on the line against enigmatic contender Brian Ortega, in a fight that is the perfect distillation of this moment in MMA. They are two of the best fights in MMA today, so if you want to get in on MMA betting action, here is a breakdown of the best bets on the board.
Max Holloway is one of the best fighters on the UFC roster. He combines a devastating striking arsenal with a granite chin, bulletproof takedown defense, and an endless gas tank to overwhelm opponents like rising tide.
Just look at his two fights with Jose Aldo, inarguably the greatest defensive fighter ever. In their two bouts last year, Aldo had more tricks and skills than Holloway, but was done in by Holloway’s irrepressibility.
Max Holloway’s offense is like novocaine -- give it enough time and eventually it will put fighters out. But that is what makes this fight so interesting.
In Ortega, Holloway faces an opportunistic finisher who will lose the little battles but win the war in one incredible burst of dynamism. There’s a serious argument that Ortega has lost every round he’s fought in the UFC aside from his finishes and that is what makes him such a unique threat.
Holloway builds like a snowball rolling downhill, which gives Ortega more opportunities to do something spectacular before the avalanche buries him.
This should be a straightforward fight. Holloway will keep the fight standing and Ortega won’t have much of a choice in the matter given Holloway’s incredible take-down defense.
Ortega is content to let fights come to him and Holloway will do just that, meaning that the only realistic outcomes are Holloway gets going and piles offense on until Ortega falls or the bell sounds, or Ortega catches Holloway with something decisive.
Given that Jose Aldo - possibly the best fighter ever and an offensive powerhouse in his own right - was unable to seriously hurt Holloway, it seems unlikely that Ortega will be able to.
The X-factor here is the troubling health concerns surrounding Holloway but until we see those manifest inside the cage, I don’t put too much stock in them. The good news is those issues have dropped Holloway from a -175 favorite when they were first scheduled to fight, down to -125 at Karamba right now.
Holloway should take this, either by late stoppage or wide decision, and he is worth money at the original price so the extra 50 points is icing on an already extremely tasty cake. Bet Holloway at Karamba.
At this risk of sounding hyperbolic, this is the greatest fight in women’s MMA history. Shevchenko is the best female fighter on the planet and the rightful women’s bantamweight champion (though she was denied that title by judging).
Instead she will be fighting for the vacant flyweight championship -- a title that was presumed to be hers from the moment she dropped to 125 pounds. In her way is nothing less than the greatest female fighter of all time, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. If Holloway-Ortega is a fight for the moment, this is a fight for history.
Unfortunately for Jedrzejczyk, it’s also a fight with lots of history. Jedrzejczyk and Shevchenko have fought three times before, back when both were competing in Muay Thai, with Shevchenko winning each time.
While Jedrzejczyk was an elite kickboxer, Shevchenko was truly world-class, only losing once in her career. And though MMA and kick-fighting are different sports, both women essentially just ported their skills over and built their games around them.
In Shevchenko, Jedrzejczyk faces a stylistic nightmare of a matchup who also happens to have defeated her thrice before. While that kind of a bulletin board material might make for great motivation, it also indicates a general inability to overcome the gap between them standing, so unless Joanna Champion comes out shooting double legs, it’s doubtful she will get to reclaim that moniker on Saturday night.
Even if she does, Shevchenko’s ground game is nearly as lethal as her stand-up, having tapped out top-game specialist Julianna Pena from her guard. Add in that Jedrzejczyk appears to be declining physically and this has all the makings of a one-sided affair.
Shevchenko isn’t exactly one to put her foot down on the pedal so if Jedrzejczyk’s chin can hold up to pressure, she probably makes it to the cards, but a stoppage is also in play if Jedrzejczyk throws caution to the wind or if her chin is well and truly cracked.
Either way, Shevchenko at -360 on 888Sport is a good line, and if you’d like to bring that price down even more, parlay her with Claudia Gadelha (-315) and going to beat the brakes off of Nina Ansaroff at -148.
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