UFC 254 Odds, Picks & Predictions: Khabib vs. Gaethje
Bet of the Card: (2u) Over 1.5 Rounds @ -125 (to Return 3.6 Units)
(1u) Alexander Yakovlev via Decision @ +375 (to Return 4.75 Units)
Preliminary Card Lightweight (155lbs) Bout – Approx. Start Time: 10:45 a.m. EST.
- 7 of Alexander Yakovlev’s 8 UFC fights have gone over 1.5 rounds (per Tapology.com).
- Joel Alvarez has allowed all three of the attempted takedowns against him during his time in the UFC (per UFCStats.com)
My bet of the card for UFC 254 is on the opening fight, Joel Alvarez vs. Alexander Yakovlev, to go over 1.5 rounds.
Yakovlev (pictured above) has been knocking around the UFC since mid-2014, in which time he’s only amassed 8 fights within the promotion. Normally this, combined with his climbing age of 36, would be a big red flag for me when I’m considering betting a fight/fighter, but not in this instance against Joel Alvarez.
Alvarez is 9-years Yakovlev’s junior, and his approach to fights heavily centers around his ground game and submission skills. In his last fight, Alvarez submitted fan favorite, “Irish” Joe Duffy, in the first round as a moderate +210 underdog (per Tapology.com). He perhaps was being slightly overlooked in that spot, but it appeared to me that his victory largely came from Joe Duffy’s dwindling interest in competing, which was only compounded by his immediate retirement following the fight. It seems that Alvarez’ performance against Duffy, has led many to believe that he is a decent prospect, but I’m yet to see enough to think the same, and I certainly don’t see enough to warrant him being this big of a favorite against Yakovlev.
I expect Yakovlev to contend with Alvarez on the feet, before taking him down to the mat. Alvarez loves to try and work off his back in fights, and as a result he’s often keen to give up takedowns in an attempt to work for submissions (pictured below). In the past, this has proved effective for him, with 15 of his 17 career wins coming via submission, but against someone with the submission defense and top control of Yakovlev, I can see him getting grounded out and controlled on the mat.
Outside of an early Alvarez submission finish, I find it hard to see this fight ending within the first round and a half, and for that reason I like the over 1.5 rounds prop. On top of this, I also like Alexander Yakovlev to win via decision at a healthy +375. I think he should be able to control this fight and avoid the submissions of Alvarez. This could get a little dicey if Yakovlev fatigues later on, but I see him doing enough to win at least two of the three rounds, and I don’t see him being much of a finishing threat. Take the over 1.5 rounds prop for 2 units, as well as 1 unit on Yakovlev via decision.
(1.5u) Justin Gaethje @ +280 (to Return 5.7 Units)
Main Event UFC Lightweight (155lbs) Championship Bout – Approx. Start Time: 4:45 p.m. EST.
- Justin Gaethje is 22-2 in MMA and he’s won all of his last 4 fights via KO/TKO.
My pick for Saturday’s blockbuster main event is Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje.
It takes either a very brave, or very stupid individual, to bet against the undefeated 28-0, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Time will tell as to which one I am, but right now I feel pretty good about my +280 shot on Justin Gaethje. He’s the more calculated and refined striker, and his defensive wrestling could prove to be the key that sets him apart from the 28 fighters that’ve fallen to the wayside on Khabib’s ascension to becoming MMA’s lightweight G.O.A.T.
Gaethje is one of two fighters that I see posing Khabib some real issues at lightweight, the other being submission ace, Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira. As previously stated, the reason is that Gaethje has a wrestling background, and one which he prides himself on his defensive wrestling ability. It’s even been said by Gaethje that he twice competed with Olympic gold medallist wrestler, Jordan Burroughs, in college, with their second encounter proving close with Burroughs claiming it 7-4. It’s unclear if he’s still possesses high-level wrestling defense, but with him spending time on the mats with elite-wrestler and UFC Welterweight Champion, Kamaru Usman, and training under the scrupulous eyes of coach, Trevor Wittman, it’s hard to believe that his wrestling won’t be at its sharpest for the biggest fight of his career.
This fight will likely come down to whether Khabib can get takedowns and keep Justin on his back. Gaethje of course has been taken down by Eddie Alverez and Michael Johnson in the UFC, but it’s important to note that he’s now a much more calculated and energy conserving fighter than he was when he fought those guys. Should Gaethje put up a couple of stops to Khabib’s takedown attempts early, it could begin to get really interesting, and Gaethje could start to pour on the damage with his insane volume and hard-hitting shots. Gaethje’s leg kicks could be a big factor in this fight, if he’s able to land them frequently on Khabib’s lead leg, it could cause Khabib some serious issues when putting pressure on it, hindering his ability to both lunge for takedowns, and strike on the feet.
It’s impossible to say for sure whether Gaethje can defend against multiple Khabib takedowns, but with his new-found patience, combined with the tutelage of Trevor Wittman, you’ve got to think that he’ll have the best possible game plan to keep the fight standing and in his realm. Ultimately, I won’t be shocked if Khabib came in and produce yet another wrestling masterclass, but at +280 on a highly-skilled and ever-improving fighter with one shot KO power, and potentially solid takedown defense, I simply have to bet him. Take Justin Gaethje to become the Undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion, I think he’s live to get a decision victory, or to win via KO/TKO at any point in the fight.
(1.1u) Jarod Cannonier Moneyline @ -110 (to Return 2.1 Units)
Co-Main Event Middleweight (185lbs) Bout – Approx. Start Time: 4:15 p.m. EST.
- Jared Cannonier is 3-0 at middleweight, and all three of his wins have come via KO/TKO.
My final bet for this weekend is on the “Killa Gorilla”, Jared Cannonier.
Cannonier has been experiencing quite the career resurgence fighting down at middleweight. Initially he was contending at heavyweight, before dropping to light heavyweight. In his time in the heavier weight classes, his raw strength and power was evident, but at heavyweight he was unsized, and at light heavyweight he was too slow. Now fighting at 185lbs, it appears water has finally found its level, and Jared Cannonier is both quick and explosive, whilst still being one of the larger and stronger guys.
I see Whittaker being the more technical and versatile fighter between the two, but I see Jared Cannonier being the more powerful and durable fighter. I can see Jared Cannonier’s 4-inch reach advantage (per Tapology.com) playing a roll in helping him reducing Rob’s technical edge, enabling him to land first as Whittaker closes the distance, thus disrupting his attack. In addition to this, Jared’s leg kicks have become a thing of beauty, they’re hard and fast, and they can be very effective for stifling his opponent’s movement. Whittaker does pose some threat of takedowns, but considering that he’s normally adverse to grappling, and Cannonier’s defensive wrestling seems to be improving fight-to-fight, I feel pretty comfortable saying that this should predominately be a striking affair.
I think this fight should be close, as the pick’em moneyline would suggest, but with Cannonier’s clear edge in power, and Whittaker’s history of getting dropped and even stopped (pictured below: Robert Whittaker getting dropped by Israel Adesanya), I see Cannonier as the value side of the line. Take Cannonier to get the win, I see him getting it done via KO/TKO, but a decision victory wouldn’t shock me.
Scroll down to view event details, odds & Christian’s full card predictions.
Event: UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje / Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje / Khabib vs. Justin / #UFC254
Location & Venue: Flash Forum (UFC Fight Island), Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date: Saturday, October 24th, 2020
Start time: Main Card: 2 p.m. EST, Prelims 12 p.m. EST, Early Prelims: 10:30 a.m. EST.
Where to watch: Main Card on PPV, Prelims on ESPN/ESPN+, Early Prelims on ESPN+
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje Full Fight Card Predictions:
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje Main Event Prediction:
Lightweight (155lbs): Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje – Gaethje via Decision
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje Main Card Predictions:
Middleweight (185lbs): Robert Whittaker vs. Jared Cannonier – Cannonier via KO/TKO
Heavyweight (265lbs): Alexander Volkov vs. Walt Harris – Volkov via KO/TKO
Middleweight (185lbs): Phil Hawes vs. Jacob Malkoun – Hawes via KO/TKO
(W) Flyweight (125lbs): Lauren Murphy vs. Liliya Shakirova – Murphy via Decision
Light Heavyweight (205lbs): Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba – Ankalaev via Decision
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje Prelim Card Predictions:
Heavyweight (265lbs): Stefan Struve vs. Tai Tuivasa – Tuivasa via KO/TKO
Welterweight (170lbs): Alex Oliveira vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov – Rakhmonov via Decision
Light Heavyweight (205lbs): Da Un Jung vs. Sam Alvey - Un Jung via KO/TKO
(W) Flyweight (125lbs): Liana Jojua vs. Miranda Maverick – Maverick via Submission
Catchweight (140lbs): Nathaniel Wood vs. Casey Kenney – Kenney via Decision
Lightweight (155lbs): Joel Alvarez vs. Alexander Yakovlev – Yakovlev via Decision
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights subject to change.
Light Heavyweight (205lbs): Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Maxim Grishin – Antigulov via Submission
Bantamweight (135lbs): Said Nurmagomedov vs. Mark Striegl – Nurmagomedov via Decision
*Fight card, bout order and number of fights subject to change.