If the name of this column sounds familiar, it’s because it is!
Previously a 30-45 minute monologue, All Bets Aren’t Created Equal will now be compact and succinct, yet chalked full of a value as I explore weekly UFC fight cards from an oddsmaker perspective and use my experience as an avid fight fan and analyst to find value on the betting docket.
Six-months into the 2021 Head-to-Head Pick Em’ Tournament I’m sitting at 61-44 (58%) and have gone 26-7 over the last six UFC events.
Let’s kick things off by covering the implications that line this week’s PPV event – UFC 263: Adesanya vs Vettori 2
The two biggest bouts of notice are the championship rematches taking place at UFC 263:
*Featured odds are from ‘opening week’ and are via ESPN.com*
Middleweight Championship (Rematch)
(C) Israel Adesanya (20-1) vs #3 Marvin Vettori (17-3-1)
Flyweight Championship (Rematch)
(C) Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) vs #1 Brandon Moreno (18-5-2)
Aside from those big name bouts the card is graced with the return of Stockton, California’s Nate Diaz – who looks to bounce back from his TKO loss against Jorge Masvidal nearly eighteen-months ago at UFC 244 – making his return against the notoriously unlucky, yet surging Englishman in Leon Edwards in a five-round non-title bout. (-500/+380)
We also get Welterweight bout between a legend and a contender, though I don’t believe that anybody (including myself) was particularly interested in seeing these two matched up in the first place. The matchup is between the 43-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia and the recipient of one of the nastiest eye-gouges we have seen in the UFC in Belal Muhammad. (+200/-240)
Rounding out the card is a Light Heavyweight bout between two fighters who are at the tail-end of the top-15 in Paul Craig vs Jamahal Hill. Though this matchup does indeed have “sleeper” written all over it, I would rather see it serve as a ‘featured prelim’ instead of having to pay PPV money to watch it take place. After all, the bout has little impact on the top-end of the division (unlike the Women’s Flyweight title-eliminator between Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood, but that’s neither here-nor-there). (+240/-300)
Now that we have a rough-take on the stakes at hand for the UFC 263 main card, let’s get in-depth.
Off the bat, I think the UFC marketing team has done a great job at selling this rematch. Unless you and the notorious MMA judge Chris Lee share the same set of eyes, the first fight between these two was nothing short of definitive.
The first time I watched it I witnessed a clear 29-28 victory for Adesanya and granted him rounds one and two due to striking, cage-control, and takedown defense (dictating where the fight takes place) with Vettori outright winning the third round due to takedowns, top-control, and out-striking his opponent.
The second, third, and fourth time I watched it back absolutely nothing changed. In my opinion, this fight is only taking place because the champion wanted to stay active and the number one contender in Robert Whittaker (who fought and won a five-round fight against Kelvin Gastelum less than two-months ago) wasn’t going to be ready to fight with the short turnaround.
However, since I’m not in control of the matchmaking I’ll stick to breaking the fight down from a betting perspective.
What’s changed since these two last fought?
- Improved distance management
- Takedown defense
- Finishing capability in UFC
- Striking output
- Securing takedowns from the clinch
- Work-rate while grappling
- Earning clear decision from judges (rather than contested split/majority decisions)
- Doubling down on his strengths
The case for the underdog:
There is only one clear path to victory for Marvin Vettori in my opinion. We all see it clear as day – he needs to find a way to close the distance on the champion and his 6 inch reach advantage. If he can get his hands on Adesanya and rag-doll him to the floor the way he handed Kevin Holland in their respective bout, “The Italian Dream” has a real case to make an upset. Ultimately, taking down Adesanya once won’t win him the fight.
Vettori has to be a wet blanket on Adesanya and keep his shoulders flat on the mat for at least 3 of 5 rounds. It’s a very tall task given the way the first fight played out, but Adesanya’s one CLEAR weakness is his inability to get off his back, which was highlighted in his title loss against Light Heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz (though, getting smothered by the champion who is 20 pounds above your weight class isn’t the most uncommon thing to witness, in my opinion).
This is a smash spot for “The Last Stylebender.”
In their first fight Adesanya froze a lot of Vettori’s output with feints, head movement, and footwork. He went to the well with calf kicks, which definetly took a toll on Vettori’s movement and explosiveness throughout the fight. Being that this is a five-round fight instead of three, I expect those calf kicks to have a much more dramatic and noticeable impact on the fight.
Vettori has shown drastic improvement in his grappling and has sharpened his left cross out of the Southpaw stance as well. However, he still lacks the footwork necessary to close the distance on Adesanya without eating shots in the process. Due to his plodding nature on the feet, concerning lack of head movement, and willingness to outright brawl (like when he flipped the bird on Adesanya out of rage in the first fight), I anticipate Adesanya cruises to another decision victory.
Though I don’t believe much in the chances of Vettori pulling the upset, I do believe in the toughness of the Italian. The man has never been finished in his entire MMA career and he did chalk the first judges decision of Adesanya’s MMA career (he was previously 13-0, with 13 KO/TKO).
I don’t see much value in a -240 moneyline ($240 earns you $100), but you can count on the champ to take advantage of this mismatch of a rematch and get right back to his winning ways. If you’re like me and believe in the toughness of “The Italian Dream,” Adesanya via points is sitting at +150 and looks like a mouth-watering prop waiting to be bet.
This bout is the People’s Main Event, if you ask me.
Not only did the first title fight between Figueiredo and Moreno end in a draw, but both fighters had to make the 125 pound weight limit twice within the span of three-weeks.
Lest we forget, both Figueiredo and Moreno finished their respective opposition at UFC 255.
The champion made his first title defense by submitting Alex Perez, who was on a three-fight win streak at the time.
Moreno defeated the up-and-coming Brandon Royval, though it was more of a technicality than a true finish as the fight was called off due to a shoulder injury that Royval suffered.
Nonetheless, both fighters made it out of UFC 255 relatively unscathed and ready to save the UFC 256 main card, which was riddled by injuries causing fighters to withdraw from previously scheduled bouts.
With that being said – Who’s to say that we both fighters at 100% going into their initial fight?
According to Ryan Harkness of MSN.com, “Shortly after Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno scrapped to a majority draw at UFC 256, Figueiredo revealed to Joe Rogan that he had spent the night before the fight in the hospital dealing with weight-cut complications.
“‘Last night I had a stomach infection,’ Figueiredo said through a translator. ‘I was in the hospital until 2 a.m., came here to fight with my stomach full of wind, and didn’t know if I would fight well today, and that’s what happened. This fight went the distance, but I really won. Even with a bad stomach, I came here and won, defended what’s mine. I gave my blood with hour and came out with my hands raised.’
Deiveson’s manager Wallid Ismail confirmed the illness was related to his second cut to flyweight in 21 days.”
As for Moreno, we now know from his post-fight interview that he suffered a shoulder injury to his lead (left) arm mid-fight.
“I don’t think it’s broken, but I threw too many jabs, and I felt something in my shoulder,” Moreno said. “After that, I felt amazing. I feel really good, to be honest. [I threw the jab very hard], and something popped in my shoulder. But I think it’s fine” noted the “Baby Assassin.”
This excerpt isn’t intended to excuse Figueiredo or Moreno of their performance, which if I’m being honest, was spectacular regardless of the circumstances. Rather, this context goes to show that we could have an even closer, well-matched fight on our hands that transcends measurable and records and instead falls closer to the aura of the Gatti vs Ward boxing trilogy (points deducted from a low-blow included).
Narrative aside, here are my thoughts on the rematch.
The case for the underdog:
Brandon Moreno is as close to a live dog as one gets in championship bout. The first fight revealed to us common folk that the “Baby Assassin” should probably change his nickname to “Granite Chin” or “Crimson Chin” or something that commemorates that onslaught he weathered early on against the champion.
However, Moreno did much more than just take punches in the first fight. He showed that Deiveson is a human, and his punching power definitely fades going into the championship rounds. Moreno actually was the sharper, faster, more accurate fighter once rounds four and five came into place (unfortunately Moreno’s shoulder injury didn’t allow him to throw much in round 5).
Moreno seems to have the champion’s number when it comes to timing, especially since he uses his jab to disrupt the constant pressure of Figueiredo. The primary question I have regarding the underdog is how he will incorporate his wrestling into the rematch, because his ability to secure four total takedowns is arguably the reason the fight ended in a draw (including the deducted point via Figueiredo’s full-blast low-blow).
If Mexico’s Moreno can get the Brazilian on his back and keep him there, that might be smarter than chasing another Fight of the Night against the uber-powerful “Dues Da Guerra.”
This fight should be much closer to a pick em’ than what the odds currently are.
If Moreno can extend Figueiredo into deep waters again, he might actually be able to drown him. Then again, the champion landed some flush shots against Moreno that would have knocked any other Flyweight into unconsciousness.
Personally, I find it hard to envision a killer like Figueiredo losing his title after such a short run, but as I noted earlier, this fight has trilogy written all over it. Sometimes it’s easier when you’re fighting to gain something (the case of Moreno) as opposed to fighting not to lose something (the case of Figueiredo).
Lastly, If you can control where the fight takes place, you control the fight. With that being said, I have to go with the real deal value that lies at plus money with the “Baby Assassin.” After being that close to becoming the UFC’s first full-blood Mexican champion, you know Moreno is coming out full-tilt in the rematch.
Tune in to this week’s All Factors Considered Preview Show to find out the rest of Derick G’s UFC 263 main card picks! Available on YouTube, the ‘Watch’ tab of our website, or wherever else you get podcasts!
Free lock of the week 🔒
Moneyline: Alexis Davis (+175) to defeat Pannie Kianzad (-210)