The UFC is back at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena once again for its third event in just eight days, and the fight card offers a host of exciting matchups, including a pivotal bout in the heavyweight division.
Here are our best value picks for the main card in Jacksonville this weekend.
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Alistair Overeem v Walt Harris
After the horrific time Walt Harris has had to endure over the last year, I don’t think there’s a single soul who would begrudge him a victory over Alistair Overeem on Saturday night. But, MMA can be a tough, cruel sport, and Overeem isn’t the sort of guy to be fighting in these circumstances.
“The Reem” is one of the most dangerous, decorated and experienced fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division. He’s won titles almost everywhere he’s fought, except in the UFC. And with the big Dutchman looking to bounce back after his last-gasp knockout defeat to Jairzinho Rozenstruik last time out, he’ll be looking to right the ship against Harris.
Before his very public family tragedy, Harris had hit red-hot form, having finished both Sergey Spivak and Aleksei Oleinik in a combined time of just 62 seconds in his last two bouts. His striking has reached new levels and his confidence was soaring.
Now he faces Overeem as the betting favourite, and perhaps he’ll enter the octagon with even more fire as he fights for the memory of his murdered stepdaughter. But, the smart bet here is Overeem. He has stunning knockout power of his own, can submit people in an instant and is as savvy as they come.
It’s hard not to root for Harris – and we’d be delighted for him if he won – but the smart bet here, especially given the odds, is Overeem.
VALUE BET: Overeem by KO/TKO @ 13/5
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Claudia Gadelha v Angela Hill
Angela Hill is awesome. She will step up any time, anywhere, against any opponent, even on short notice. She’s set for one of the biggest fights of her career this weekend against former title challenger and perennial strawweight contender Claudia Gadelha. It’s a fight she might just win, too.
Gadelha has long been considered one of the world’s best at 115 pounds, but her striking game hasn’t evolved hugely, and that’s where Hill shines. A former Muay Thai fighter who has since rounded out her MMA game, Hill is in the best form of her career and is riding a three-fight win streak – including wins less than a month apart in January and February this year.
Gadelha’s body of work makes her the betting favourite, but we like the value available on a win for “Overkill” Hill. The 16/5 on Hill taking the win on the scorecards after three hard-fought rounds looking like a solid value bet.
VALUE BET: Hill by points @ 16/5
Edson Barboza v Dan Ige
“Dynamite” Dan Ige is a man in form, but the rising featherweight contender had a big problem. He isn’t a big-name player in the UFC’s 145-pound division, which means the men above him in the rankings see little upside in facing him – especially given his recent form.
But, Ige has been handed the chance to prove his championship credentials against a different big-name opponent, but it might prove to be too much to handle.
That’s because former lightweight contender Edson Barboza is moving down to featherweight to face him as he makes his 145-pound debut. I’m writing this after watching Barboza weigh in just a few minutes ago, and the Brazilian looked so thin he’d have to pass something twice to cast a shadow. But he didn’t look ill, and his eyes looked clear, which suggests his weight cut went well.
If that’s the case, that could mean bad news for Ige. Barboza is one of the most spectacular, damaging strikers in the UFC, and his kicks have laid waste to a host of top-level fighters over the years. He’ll be bigger and stronger than Ige on fight night, and his striking power will be unlike anything Ige has faced before.
If Ige survives three rounds, he’ll not just deserve a top contender fight, he’ll deserve a medal. I like him as a fighter, but against Barboza’s baseball bat leg kicks, I don’t fancy his chances.
VALUE BET: Barboza by KO/TKO @ 12/5
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— danawhite (@danawhite) May 15, 2020
Krzysztof Jotko v Eryk Anders
The main card bout between Jotko and Anders sees two mid-tier middleweights battling for a chance to move up and face a big name.
Anders undoubtedly has the power, but Jotko is slippery, smart and elusive. The Pole is always up on his toes, bouncing around and always presenting a constantly-moving target for his opponent. Anders, by contrast, is much more flat-footed.
Jotko has shown that he’s capable of sticking and moving his way to a points win. Anders has a puncher’s chance, but we prefer the Pole here.
VALUE BET: Jotko by points @ 11/8
Song Yadong v Marlon Vera
The bantamweight main card opener features two crowd-pleasing 135ers who both know how to finish fights. But, I fancy this one to go all the way to the scorecards.
Yadong has shown his power-punching up close is more than enough to get the job done in the UFC, but Vera has the ability to finish fights, too.
Yadong is the more likely winner, and the odds reflect that, but the fight is much closer than the odds suggest. Taking the view that the bout will go all the way to the scorecards, and factoring in the big discrepancy in the two prices, we like Vera on points as a better value bet than Yadong at 9/5.
If there’s going to be a finish, it’ll be the Chinese fighter who’s more likely to get it. But, if it goes to the cards, it’ll be a coin flip and I’m taking the value.
VALUE BET: Vera by points @ 9/2
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* All odds correct at time of posting and are subject to change.