UFC Fight Island – Whittaker vs Till Betting Picks and Predictions
21 July 2020
Apologies in advance for the briefness of the piece this week, but I am on vacation through Sunday and taking some reset days to come back fresh and stronger than ever. We will bounce back on Saturday after our first losing card in quite some time this past Saturday, let’s get to the picks.
Robert Whittaker -115 vs Darren Till
Fight is five rounds at 185 lbs and is -160 to end inside the distance.
This is a fun main event that is necessary for clarity at the top of the middleweight division. We will find out what Whittaker has left in the tank and if Till will take his place in line for a crack at the middleweight crown.
Whittaker’s last three fights have been, in a word, brutal. The former champ made it through twenty five minutes with Yoel Romero in consecutive fights before being wrecked by now champ Israel Adesanya and KO’d in the ninth minute of their fight. Whittaker will be the busier striker in this one, as will just about all of Till’s opponents, but I see this matchup as one he will have difficulty surviving. After being slept by Adesanya, he now has to deal with the real power Till carries in his hands, and just one power left could/would end his night, and he has to avoid said shot for five full rounds. Where Whittaker can win in this fight is with kicks and staying out of punching range, and setting up combos where his chin is not at risk.
Till, who will show that middleweight is quite obviously his natural weight class, has one path to victory in this fight, and that is via KO. I believe Till brings more power than Adesanya does and in 25 minutes, he will bang home a piston left that Whittaker is unable to recover from. Of course, if this never comes, Whittaker will run away with a decision but I believe it is more likely than not that Whittaker’s chin gives out, and we get a nice price on Till via KO at +225. That is the play for the main event, and don’t blink, even if Till appears to be moving slow and not landing a ton, it just takes one.
Betting Play: Till via KO +225
Marina Rodriguez -175 vs Carla Esparza
Fight is at 115 lbs and is +290 to end inside the distance.
Let me be clear in saying I am a fan of Marina Rodriguez, but I am only comfortable betting with her when she fights another striker. She has seen two winnable fights in her UFC tenure slip away to draws against Cynthia Calvillo and Randa Markos. She has real trouble on the floor and with her grappling game, and Esparza is no stranger to a grappling heavy fight. Make no mistake, Rodriguez is the superior and longer striker and will have the blatant advantage on the feet. On the other side, Esparaza has taken down 10 of her 11 UFC opponents and the one she was unable to take down was the best wrestler in MMA, Tatiana Suarez. Of the 10 opponents she has taken down, only Michelle Watterson and Joanna Jedrzejczyk were the only opponents to not surrender multiple takedowns. Esparza will understand what she needs to do and go to the well until it works in this fight.
Now, flash back to June of 2018. The former champ Esparza was riding a two fight winning streak entering her fight with Claudia Gadelha. She was absolutely robbed of a decision in that fight, but it showed as an L on her record in any event. Her next fight was with the brutal matchup of Tatiana Suarez, who destroyed Esparza as she does everyone else. At that point Esparza was left for dead, but she has quietly strung together three straight wins since then, and quietly has a ton of momentum. I believe she will come in with a wrestling heavy game plan and take a somewhat comfortable decision call in this one, and at +145, the play oozes with value. Take Esparza to continue to take advantage of the grappling deficiencies of Rodriguez.
Betting Play: Esparza +145
Tom Aspinall -220 vs Jake Collier
Fight is at heavyweight and is -195 to end inside the distance.
For a line of -220 for a debuting fighter, it seems like it’s not nearly wide enough. The size difference in this fight will be significant, as Collier has fought as low as middleweight in the UFC and is now up two weight classes since that time. Oh, Collier is also returning after a massive three year layoff. He does not have a tiny frame for a heavyweight fighter but Aspinall is the natural heavyweight and one with a bright future, while Collier is just the first test to bring Aspinall along in his career.
Aspinall has a complete skill set and throws with power, and I believe that power will be significant enough to get a KO on the feet in this fight. Aspinall will also tear up the lead leg of Collier. It likely won’t take long before Collier starts shooting desperation takedown attempts, and that would put him on the floor with a BJJ black belt in Aspinall. All of this is to say, I don’t see a path to victory for Collier in this matchup, period. What’s more, we even get an ITD line on Aspinall of just +100. Take Aspinall to roll ITD in this one as that is the screaming value, but if you went the conservative route to just take Aspinall flat to keep a decision in the winning range of outcomes, I would understand doing so.
Betting Play: Aspinall ITD +100
TJ Calkins – UFC 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.