UFC 246 Betting Plays
13 January 2020
UFC 246 takes place Saturday January 18th in Las Vegas. The headliner is Donald “ Cowboy” Cerrone vs Conor McGregor.
The UFC knows what they’re doing, and putting Conor on any card as the headliner is going to sell. Knowing this fact, they put something of a weak card behind the main event for pay per view standards, at least on the remainder of the pay per view portion of the fights. Holly Holm and Aleksei Oleinik sure aren’t selling tickets or PPV buys, but they don’t need to on this one. Conor remains the largest draw in the fighting world and the world will be watching his return. Luckily for us, the quality of the card for viewing purposes doesn’t impact our ability to wager! Let’s get to the fights to target. We won’t cover all 13 fights, just the ones with sound betting plays.
Conor McGregor -315 vs Cowboy Cerrone
Fight is at 170 lbs and is -675 to end inside the five round distance.
We know Conor McGregor is the main draw in this fight, but let’s sort out his opponent first. For me, when looking to predict a Cowboy fight, there are two questions to put answers on.
1. Can he set up a head kick against this opponent?
Cowboy’s most dangerous striking weapon is masterfully setting up head kicks against opponents that aren’t of the most elite striking caliber. It is his most clear path to knockouts. He’s had a total of six head kick KOs in the UFC, two of which came at welterweight, the other four at his more natural and better weight class of lightweight.
The answer to this question is a mostly resounding no. Conor’s absence doesn’t mean he’s lost a step as a world class striker and he has still never been finished by strikes.
2. Will his opponent attempt to grapple, opening the door for a submission?
This is a hard no. Conor has no interest in grappling. Cowboy has a slick submission game but doesn’t have the wrestling prowess to will his fights to the floor. More often he takes advantage of opponents willingness to grapple, like he did in the Mike Perry fight. This fight is unlikely to hit the floor aside from knockdowns from striking.
It was a bit puzzling that Cowboy would accept a fight at welterweight instead of lightweight. Cowboy fought at welterweight from 2016 to 2018, going just 6-4 in ten fights. Each of the four high level opponents he faced in that weight class were losses. That list was Jorge Masvidal by KO, Robbie Lawler by dec, Darren Till by KO and Leon Edwards by dec. Conor has fought twice at welterweight, both fights against Nate Diaz that were split with one win for each. Despite eight fewer fights, a win against Diaz makes the body of work at this weight class an edge for Conor.
More alarming for Cowboy, is he was stopped by strikes against both of his last two elite opponents at lightweight in Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. This fight sets up similarly to the Gaethje fight in which he was pummeled and knocked out in the very first round.
There is no such thing as a risk free fight, but this is the perfect fight for Conor to return in. He gets a known and respected opponent, but not one in the upper echelon of fighters. Make no mistake, Conor is the biggest cash cow the UFC has and they do not want him to lose by any stretch of the imagination. He gets a tune up fight here that is a stylistic joy before being matched up with the big dogs at 155 or 170 going forward. This fight will be another KO loss for Cerrone, but will be the biggest pay day of his career, so it’s a sound trade off for him. It is difficult to envision a scenario where Cowboy survives five rounds against Conor, and there’s more value in taking Conor inside the distance (ITD) at -205 than flat at -315.
Betting Pick: Conor McGregor ITD -205
Maycee Barber -1000 vs Roxanne Modafferi
Fight is at 125 lbs and is -260 to end inside the distance.
This is typically as wide of a betting line as you’ll see for a UFC fight, and it is so wide because one of the brightest young prospects is making her way up through the rankings, but is already markedly better than and more dangerous than all but the elite of the division.
Roxanne Modafferi is an awkward striker and capable grappler and is tough. She made a mistake agreeing to take this fight however, as the power coming at her from Maycee Barber is going to be something she’s never experienced before. Modaferri’s striking is very awkward and she will be a deer in headlights once the punches and elbows from Barber begin to land. Her career has been made of hard work and not god given talent and it is wholly respectable, but that can only take a fighter so far. Modafferi will need this fight to take place on the floor, but even then it is quite questionable whether she has the better ground game and even more questionable whether she can get the fight there.
This line is as wide as it is for good reason and I personally won’t lay this level of odds at any level, but if you want to take a small stab and come up on a few extra bucks to lay on Conor, I’m all for it.
Can’t call this a dedicated play but this fight will be as one sided as we will see.
Grant Dawson -265 vs Chas Skelly
Fight is at 145 lbs and is -115 to end inside the distance.
Chas Skelly is a fighter that is fairly predictive in the sense that we know what his skill set is and what his limitations are. He is not really a striking threat at all, instead relying on his grappling and submission game. That is problematic for him in this particular fight as Grant Dawson has the better grappling game and is the better striker between the two. Skelly is 3-3 in his last three fights, with three of those fights coming against opponents with a similarly better grappling game than him… take a guess at which three fights were losses, two of which by stoppage on the floor.
This fight is fairly simple, Skelly wins and performs well when there is a grappling advantage to exploit, and loses when there is not. This fight certainly falls under the latter category as Dawson will improve to 3-0 in the UFC plus his additional stoppage win on Dana White’s Contender Series. The method of victory is wide open for Dawson so simply taking him flat is the best avenue.
Betting Pick: Grant Dawson -265
I know just a couple dedicated plays for a full card might not be quite enough action for some, so here’s the remaining PPV fights with my lean and a brief thought on how the fight might go.
Holly Holm by split dec over Raquel Pennington
Rocky Pennington remains a high end fighter, but she continues to not fight with enough pace to look good to the judges. While I would give her the slight edge in overall ability over Holm, I think Holm will be just busy enough to steal a decision.
Maurice Greene by TKO over Aleksei Oleinik
Oleinik’s prime is long gone and his chin is shot. He is still the most dangerous man in the world when it comes to an Ezekiel Choke but the length of Greene will keep him on the outside where he won’t win a striking battle with anyone at this point in his career.
Alexa Grasso by TKO over Claudia Gadelha
Grasso is the superior striker here with the superior gas tank. Grasso struggles with wrestlers and Gadelha isn’t clueless when it comes to takedowns, her bigger strength is once the fight actually hits the floor. Grasso isn’t getting a one shot KO by any means, but a late stoppage by attrition is very much in the cards. She could pour on the strikes in mass volume once Gadelha begins to tire.
Diego Ferriera by dec over Anthony Pettis
The game has passed Pettis by for the most part, and he does not have an area to exploit in this fight. He normally has a submission game edge but that is not the case here, and Ferreira will strike his way to a win on the scorecards.
… and the remaining fights:
- Fili by dec over Yusuff
- Haqparast by dec over Dober
- Camur by KO over Ledet
- Elliott by dec over Askarov
- Osborne by submission over Kelleher
- Mazo by dec over Aldrich
TJ Calkins – Expert
TJ Calkins was raised in a gambling loving household. He knew how to handicap horse races and follow line movements well before his tenth birthday.