Posted By Dave Bontempo on May 15, 2020 - Last Updated on May 18, 2020
Underdogs have become “wonderdogs.”
Upsets marked three of the four headlined bouts in the UFC’s three-event, eight-day fight carnival, which concludes Saturday.
Two winners — Justin Gaethje on May 9 and Glover Teixeira on May 13 — even produced fifth-round knockouts yielding a 35-to-1 return at some sportsbooks for a correct knockout round prediction.
Saturday’s finale, like the first two cards, is matched competitively. Most of the favorites are less than 2-to-1, a rare commodity for contact sports.
In Saturday’s main event, heavyweight Walt Harris is the -155 favorite against Alistair Overeem, +130, at DraftKings Sportsbook. This is an excellent matchup of parity. Overeem is the number eight UFC heavyweight, while Harris is number nine.
Edson Barboza, the number 11 lightweight contender moving down to the featherweight class, takes on Dan Ige, the number 15 fighter in that division, in a bout that has drawn significant betting attention. Barboza is -137 while Ige is +110 at DraftKings.
Here’s a look at the entire event (fights subject to change), coming from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., without spectators.
Can lightning strike twice in the heavyweight division?
Number two contender Francis Ngannou electrified the UFC community with his 20-second knockout of Jairzinho Rozenstruik last weekend. That’s five first-round victories in the last seven fights and 62 seconds for the last two Ngannou wins.
But Walt Harris needed only 12 seconds to destroy Aleksei Oleinik last July. A knee and a chopping left hand put Oleinik on the canvas. One-punch knockouts in the heavyweight division are gas in a sport’s promotional automobile. An early win by either fighter on the heels of Ngannou’s feat would spike excitement in this division.
Alistair Overeem can’t seem to get over the hump. Losses to Rozenstruik, Ngannou and division champion Stipe Miocic raise questions about his ability to win a big fight. Indeed, Overeem is the underdog despite being ranked eighth in the UFC, with Harris ninth.
In the early betting action, Harris had 69% of the handle and 57% of the bets at DraftKings. Harris is the most-bet fighter by handle on the entire card.
A look at some of the ways to bet the main event on Saturday:
UFC main event props
To win by knockout or TKO is -110
To win by points is +650
To win by submission is +29-1
To win by knockout or TKO is +320
To win by decision +550
To win by submission is +950
Exact knockout round
Harris ranges from +310 in round one to +2500 in round five
Overeem is +1000 in the first round and + 4000 for round five
When the fight ends
Rounds 1-3 is -220
Rounds 4-5 is +164
Will we see the start of Round 3? Yes is -104
Undercard betting overview
The big names are getting attention, but there’s still money coming in on the other fights. And through two fight cards, it’s been clear you can bet either side with confidence on the moneyline. Matchmaking has been excellent, showcasing the depth of the UFC.
That was really borne out Wednesday when Brian Kelleher secured a second-round knockout over favored Hunter Azure. Kelleher was +144 at Fan Duel.
Andrei Arlovski, +132 at FanDuel, defeated Phillipe Lins.
Ben Rothwell later delivered a surprise in the co-main. He was +115 at DraftKings and notched a split-decision triumph over Ovince St. Preux. And then Teixeira, +150 at DraftKings, rewarded the underdog bettors to cap the night.
Where the chalk has been consistent over the first two cards has been in the women’s bouts. No upsets there.
On Saturday, Claudia Gadelha will try to keep that going in the co-main event against Angela Hill, who has won three fights in a row. Gadelha is ranked sixth in the strawweight division. Her most notable win came over Carla Esparza, ranked seventh.
Do you miss the NFL?
Want to make an NFL-style wager? Anthony Hernandez and Kevin Holland are both -108 at FanDuel as of Friday, comparable to the NFL moneyline bet with the vig.
It’s been tough for both fighters to gain momentum. Hernandez has suffered three fight cancellations in the last three years. He does come off an August 2019 victory over Jun Yong Park.
The betting variables contradict each other, perhaps explaining the line.
Point: Holland has dropped two in a row to higher competition, including Thiago Santos, who lost to the sport’s pound-for-pound king, Jon Jones.
Counterpoint: Hernandez won the battle of common opponents. He beat Brendan Allen, who defeated Holland.
Intangible: Holland has a six-inch reach advantage, the largest edge any fighter holds on this card.
Which point to you like most? Or dislike least?
A similar dilemma surrounds Darren Elkins and Nate Landwehr. BetMGM puts Elkins at -115 and Landwehr at -106.
Combined, they have lost four in a row. Before recent losses, they had both amassed nice winning streaks.
Regardless of the setbacks, they are both in the same boat. Each fighter badly needs a victory. That’s why the odds indicate parity.
Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.