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UFC 281 MMA Betting Odds (11/12)

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UFC 281 will be the best card in 2022, not only because of the rivalry in the main event between Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira, but also because it’s inside the most iconic building in the world, Madison Square Garden. This will be the second time both fighters step into the octagon in MSG, the third time they face off against each other in their fighting careers. This fight settles the score between the athletes and marks Adesanya’s sixth title defense and Pereira’s sixth MMA fight.

 

This event also features two future Hall of Famers and the people’s main event when Dustin Poirier and Mike Chandler get locked in the cage Saturday night. Two fighters looking for another shot at the title, but most importantly, big paydays, and this matchup in MSG is precisely that. Frankie Edgar returns to the octagon for the final time when he takes on Chris Gutierrez in a retirement fight. Edgar is easily one of the most likable fighters in the UFC, and it’ll be sad to watch him retire, but after being stopped in three of his last five fights, the time has come for Frankie to retire and leave us with good memories instead of bad ones. This weekend will be an exciting fourteen-fight card, and below I will be breaking down my favorite fights and what are the best bets for each. All the odds come from BetMGM.

Main Card

Adesanya vs. Pereira Odds

Israel Adesanya -210, Alex Pereira +170

This is possibly the biggest fight of 2022. I initially figured it would be the Do Bronx/Makhachev fight, but considering the history between Pereira and Adesanya, this is a script for the movie screen. Pereira and Adesanya had fought twice already in their past lives when they were kickboxing superstars. In those matchups, Adesanya is 0-2, losing the first fight by a questionable decision and the second by KO. Adesanya was winning both of those fights until he wasn’t, and it’s interesting to note that Pereira won the second fight on one week’s notice. I may sound biased by saying that Adesanya won the first fight and the judges got it wrong, but anyone who watches the fights can see that Adesanya used the ring and angles to point fight and made Pereira look amateur. If Adesanya were to have the same type of power as Pereira, Izzy would sleep Pereira early in both fights as some of the strikes landing on Pereira were devastating and fight-ending.

This time they are fighting in an octagon, and Izzy has more experience in MMA but also more experience at the highest level of the sport and in fighting five rounds. Pereira is a good striker, no doubt, but he is not as dynamic as Izzy, and if he can’t get you out of there with his power, he can be timed, and patterns can start to form the longer this fight goes on. From a betting perspective, this fight will go similarly to how the fight with Paulo Costa went for Adesanya. He fought a much more powerful fighter and used spacing and movement to keep Costa at the end of his strikes and himself out of danger. There is no doubt that Pereira has a death touch, and one bad mistake can cost you the fight against him; still, I believe this will be the best Izzy we have ever seen in the octagon. Every fight is a must-win for the champion, and this fight is for legacy. To prove to Alex and fans who want to see him lose that the past is in the past and this moment belongs to the style bender. Don’t be surprised if we see Alex become a jiujitsu fighter during this fight as he has been training with former champion and legend Glover Teixeira. This fight will be a master class of striking by two of the sport’s best strikers, a treat for fans to witness live and to talk about for years to come.

The Bets: Adesanya in Rounds 4/5 or decision -120/Adesanya by KO/TKO or decision -175

Zhang vs. Esparza Odds

Carla Esparza +315, Weili Zhang -425

In the co-main event, Esparza takes on the challenger and former champion Zhang. Two times in her career now, Esparza has captured the belt but has never been able to defend it. Both times she won the belt, it was against Rose Namajunes in a matchup that was favorable for her because of her wrestling base. Still, that first belt was in 2014, and this time around, she won the belt in what was the worst fight of the year so far. The cookie monster is a good fighter and a veteran in the ufc, but in this matchup against Zhang, I can’t see it going any other way but bad for Esparza. Zhang is faster, stronger and can do everything that Esparza can but at higher levels. Esparza is on a current six-fight win streak, and frankly, some of those wins were questionable, but she won and, this weekend, will be stopped inside five rounds and coast into retirement. I wish I could sugarcoat it and make it sound nice, but I can’t see Carla overpowering Zhang or out striking her. The only way I see Zhang losing is if she tires herself out trying to finish the fight early and lets Esparza wrestle late in the fight if it gets that far. Zhang averages nearly three times Esparza’s significant strikes and defends takedowns at a 60% rate. Zhang wins however she wants this weekend as long as she paces herself and doesn’t blow her gas tank.

The Bets: Zhang by KO/TKO or submission +100/Zhang vs. Esparza fight doesn’t go the distance -125 

Poirier vs. Chandler Odds

Dustin Poirier -230, Michael Chandler +185

The people’s main event this weekend features Poirier against Chandler in what should be an exciting fight for as long as it lasts. Both of these fighters are future Hall of Famers in the sport, and this fight is for the money and a chance to put on a show at MSG. My opinion is that Poirier may want to win this fight, but the hunger to chase the championship fights is not there anymore, and he is simply fighting for the big checks and PPV points. Chandler came into the UFC at the end of his Bellator career. Like Poirier, he wants the big checks and PPV events, and since joining the UFC has had nothing but exciting fights and has gone to a decision one time in four UFC bouts; and has only fought ranked opponents. From a betting perspective, I can’t see this fight going the distance, and taking into account that both fighters have gone to one decision in their last five, it’s clear that they want to leave the judges out of it. Chandler will be explosive, and considering how chinny Poirier can be at times, this fight will come down to the most resilient fighter during the chaotic exchanges. Both of these guys are very dynamic and athletic, but I still give the edge to Dustin in the boxing department and believe he has more tools to work with. Chandler is powerful and looks like an action figure but is one-dimensional, and if he doesn’t land his overhand right, he can become predictable. This fight will be exciting from beginning to end and is for the fans as both fighters aren’t motivated by the belt but more so by the opportunity to put on a show. Dustin will win and capitalize on the fact that Chandler will take big chances for the sake of the fans. Dustin is the cleaner and better striker and that will be the difference. Dustin has fought a fighter like chandler before when he fought McGregor, who similar to Chandler has a powerful rear hand and uses a wide stance. Poirier will use his leg kicks to neutralize the power shot and find a finish inside the distance. Book it. 

The Bets: Poirier to win in Rounds 1 or 2 +120/Poirier vs. Chandler under 2.5 rounds -185

Edgar vs. Gutierrez Odds

Frankie Edgar +185, Chris Gutierrez -225

In his final fight in the UFC, Edgar faces the dangerous Gutierrez. Edgar has been fighting for the UFC since 2007, and his tenacious fight style has always made him a fan favorite. A future Hall of Famer, Edgar should have been retired after his loss to Max Holloway, because every fight since has been a decline in his performance and Frankie has been finished in three out of his last five fights. Not only has he been finished, but he’s been finished bad and even became a viral meme after being knocked out by Chito Vera 11 months ago. Edgar is a legend and I’d love to see him win in this spot, but he is also fighter from a different era and even though his wrestling style can be effective if he can get Gutierrez to the ground. I just fear that the damage he will have to endure to close the distance will be too much to handle and the signature kicks for Gutierrez will play a huge factor in this fight. Edgar may land a couple of take downs early in the fight, but I expect him to be picked apart by Gutierrez’ kicks and eventually be stopped before the fight gets to the judges. If I’m wrong, I won’t be mad as I would be watching a legend ride off into the sunset as a winner, but I just don’t think Edgar has the durability anymore and will get finished this weekend. 

The Bets: Gutierrez by KO/TKO or submission +150/Gutierrez vs. Edgar goes the distance +105

Hooker vs. Puelles Odds

Dan Hooker -160, Claudio Puelles +135

Hooker faces Puelles in the night’s first fight on the main card. In a striker vs. grappler match, this fight will answer many questions for Hooker and shape his future with the UFC. Hooker is 1-4 in his last five contests and is now fighting at 155 pounds after being stopped by Arnold Allen his last time out at 145. Hooker hasn’t had the best luck recently, and before the pandemic was actually on a run that had him headlining events and on a path toward the title. Yet once the lockdowns happened, his performances seemed to dip, and his durability and future with the ufc came into question. Hooker is teammates with Adesanya, and there is a reason why he is still the slight favorite while on this current losing streak. Hooker is one of the best lightweights on earth when everything is clicking, and I believe we will get to see that version of Dan hooker this weekend. Claudio Puelles is 5-1 during his UFC career, and since joining the UFC after his stint on the Ultimate Fighter has been climbing his way to the top. This fight against Hooker will be his biggest test after taking out UFC legend Clay Guida in April. Puelles has a path to victory, and that would be to get this fight to the ground and out of dan hookers comfort zone. Puelles can strike, and with four-ounce gloves on, anyone has power if they land cleanly. Still, Dan Hooker averages nearly three times the significant strikes and defends 78% of takedowns coming his way. Puelles has a 38% takedown accuracy, and if he can’t get this to the canvas, I don’t see him winning this fight. Hooker has to keep this fight standing, and if he gets taken down, he needs to pop back up and keep Puelles at the end of his strikes. Hooker is the complete Fighter here and will get a win and a new contract after this weekend.

The Bet: Dan Hooker ML -150

 

Prelims

Riddell vs. Moicano Odds

Brian Ridell +105, Renato Moicano -125

Ridell faces Moicano in what should be an exciting bout that I don’t think reaches the judges’ scorecards. Moicano is the much bigger fighter, with a four-inch height advantage, but he only has a one-inch reach advantage. Moicano can strike and averages nearly five significant strikes landed per minute, but the striking advantage in this matchup goes to the ex-Tiger Muay Thai striking coach, Ridell, who like Moicano Averages nearly five significant strikes landed per minute but with more accuracy landing 53% of his strikes compared to Moicano’s 48% rate. Ridell is also part of the city kickboxing team and is surrounded by a wealth of talent and coaching. Moicano is 8-5 in the UFC and is a very talented fighter, but in this matchup if he can’t get this fight to the canvas, I don’t see him having much success if he stands and strikes with Ridell. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ridell stunned st some point by Moicano, but most likely the finish comes by submission for Moicano. He will try to stand with Brad at first and quickly turn into a wrestler when Ridell lands a couple of clean combinations. From a betting perspective I am going to keep it simple and bet Ridell straight up as I think he will avoid Moicanos takedown attempts and keep this fight standing where he is comfortable. 

The Bet: Brad Riddell ML +105

Frevola vs. Azaitar Odds

Matt Frevola +115, Othman Azaitar -140

Frevola faces the undefeated Azaitar in a matchup that is surely to bring fireworks — both fighters average less than 10 minutes of fight time in their mma careers. Frevola is 9-3-1 as a pro and 3-3-1 during his tenure with the UFC, Ottman is 13-0-0 overall as a pro but only 2-0-0 in the UFC so far. Frevola averages 3.43 significant strikes landed per minute while Ottman averages and lands 8.43 significant strikes. Keep in mind that the fight stats for Azaitar may be skewed considering the small sample size in the UFC. Still, Ottman is a finisher and during his career has nine first round finishes and has only been to a decision one time during his pro career. Similarly, Frevola has seen all of his finishes come in the first round and looks to take fights to the ground when he’s not busy brawling. The big difference in this fight and a possible path to victory for Frevola comes in the form of takedowns. Frevola averages 2.43 takedowns per 15 minutes and although Azaitar has a 100% takedown defensive rate, the sample size is small in the UFC, and that number can quickly change after this weekend. If Frevola can neutralize the power of Azaitar by getting this fight to the canvas, I can see Frevola coming out victorious in front of his hometown crowd. Still from a betting perspective I will side with violence and take the juice at -190 to not only enjoy the fight but almost guarantee profit as there’s no chance this fight goes the distance. 

The Bet: Ottman vs. Frevola goes the distance -190 

Ulberg vs. Nergumereanu Odds

Carlos Ulbert -130, Nico Nergumereanu +110

Similar to the fight between Frevola and Azaitar, this matchup between Ulberg and Negumereanu will be violent. I don’t expect this fight to go on past two rounds, and if it does, it ends early in the third round after nearly being stopped in the second. The reason I say that is because I’ll be backing the city kickboxing team member Ulberg, who averages less than seven minutes of fight time and has only been to a decision twice in his pro career. Not to mention he is the taller fighter and also has heavy hands. He has been knocked out before in the UFC, but I believe it was due to a bad gas tank and also it being his debut in the UFC. After that fight, Ulberg has really shined and as shown his striking prowess and as he grows in the UFC, I can see him becoming a future title contender. Negumereanu is no slouch either, but what stands out to me is the number of strikes that he absorbs, and although he is very durable and tough, It won’t take many from the black jag to end this fight. Nico may want to close the distance and make this fight ugly if he hopes to win. if Ulberg can keep this fight at range and at the end of his strikes I believe he can use that 100% takedown defense to negate any attempts from Negumereanu and finish Negumereanu who likes to block punches with his face. Negumereanu absorbs 5.43 significant strikes per minute and is facing a fighter that connects on 62% of his significant strikes. Give me Ulberg as the slight favorite and for this fight to finish within two rounds. 

The Bets: Carlos Ulberg ML -130/Ulberg vs. Negumereanu under 2.5 rounds -175 

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