Welcome to my betting breakdown for UFC 268: Usman vs. Covington 2.
This week the promotion will be in New York City at Madison Square Garden for the first time since for the first time since UFC 244. This marks the first back-to-back numbered event stretch for the UFC in quite some time as well. Following two title fights last weekend in Abu Dhabi at UFC 267, we have two more title fights on tap this weekend. In the co-main event, we have a rematch between the current strawweight queen and two-time champion Rose Namajunas and former champion Zhang Weili as they will battle for supremacy at 115 pounds following their matchup earlier this year. In the main event, Kamaru Usman will look to defend his title for the fifth time as he takes on his arch-rival and former interim champion Colby Covington in a rematch of their fight at UFC 245 in December 2019. Opening the main card is a fight that should guarantee violence between two former lightweight title challengers in Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler. Other notable names on this card include Al Iaquinta, Bobby Green, Shane Burgos, Frankie Edgar and Marlon Vera. On paper, this weekend appears to be the best UFC card of the year and I’m of the opinion that there are several solid betting spots for us to fire on.
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Osbourne made his UFC debut in January of 2020 when he was quickly submitted by Brian Kelleher in the first round and has since gone 1-1 in the promotion with a knockout win over Jerome Rivera and a knockout loss to Manel Kape in August. Stylistically, Osbourne is extremely long for 125 pounds and uses his athleticism to explode into strikes. He has a decent offensive submission game but is a poor wrestler and defensive grappler. Vergara makes his UFC debut at age 30 this weekend and is riding a five-fight win streak with each victory coming by knockout. Stylistically, he is a compact striker who looks to march forward and eat a shot to land two of his own. He has not shown much grappling upside on the regional scene and has been instantly submitted before against a lower level of competition.
Osbourne is somebody who anytime he steps in the cage my first look will be to the under. He has solid power offensively and will sell out for submission attempts while grappling, but typically opens himself up to be hit often (39% striking in the UFC) and can be taken down. Vergara appears to be a similar type of fighter, as he’s willing to brawl and carries power in his hands but has been hurt on multiple occasions, although never finished. Osbourne has had his fights finish in the first round his last eight times out and hasn’t been to a round two since 2016, I don’t see that changing here. Vergara should be a willing dance partner and I expect a low-level wild fight here. My original play was on the under, but Osbourne KO1 10/1 on FanDuel Sportsbook is an insane price for what I think is the most likely outcome of the fight so I took a small piece.
Ode Osbourne/CJ Vergara Under 2.5 Rounds -130 1.5x until -135, 1x until -150 (Placed Thursday at BetMGM)
Ode Osbourne by First Round KO +1000 0.25x until +500. (Placed Friday on FanDuel)
Baghdasaryan debuted in the UFC in July with a head kick knockout against Collin Anglin after he secured his contract with a win over Dennis Buzukja on Contender Series. Stylistically, Baghdasaryan is an explosive offensive striker who can land big strikes with all four of his limbs and carries fight-ending power. However, I do think he’s a flawed fighter at a -300 price tag. His takedown defense appears poor, and we’ve seen him slow down in fights that get out of the first 7.5 minutes. Souza is making his UFC debut this weekend on a 10-fight win streak after dropping his first regional fight. Souza has had his last five fights in LFA, which I rate as a solid promotion, but I haven’t been too impressed with his performances. Souza is primarily a karate-style striker and prefers to point fight at distance with his opponents en route to decisions. He does not seem to carry much offensive firepower and not many of his fights have included grappling sequences.
While Baghdasaryan is being overrated by the market here and I expect to be fading him down the line, this is not the spot. Souza’s game revolves heavily around his kicking game, and he is very susceptible to counters. Baghdasaryan carries a lot of power early in fights, and although I wouldn’t be surprised if he got exposed in one of his upcoming fights, Souza is likely to try and strike with him at distance and that is a matchup where I strongly favor Baghdasaryan and think he will have plenty of openings to hurt Souza. The moneyline price on Baghdasaryan is certainly inflated and unplayable, but hopefully we can cash a prop ticket here before fading him in future matchups.
Melsik Baghdasaryan by Knockout +175 1x until +150 (Placed Friday on FOX Bet)
I’m going to keep this writeup extremely short as the line is currently out of playable range and there have been a number of fight-week happenings that would make me no longer interested in betting the fight at the current odds (Villante announced his pending retirement and weighed in at 260 pounds despite fighting at light heavyweight most of his career).
The original thought process behind the play here was that Villante is going to be the much bigger man with a more well-rounded MMA skillset. Barnett is 5-foot-9 at heavyweight and has about five minutes of cardio before really slowing down. Villante is the larger man and carries power in his hands but also the ability to wrestle in his back pocket. If you got in at +100 I still think we’re marginally +EV in this spot so I’m just letting the wager ride, but I wouldn’t be getting involved at -130 if you missed the original number.
Gian Villante +100 1.25x until +100, 1x until -115 (Placed Monday on FOX Bet)
Pereira is making his UFC debut this weekend after just four previous MMA fights. He is famous for his high-level kickboxing background and history, which includes two victories over current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, one of them coming by knockout. Pereira is solely a striker at this point in his career and is a dangerous man in 4-ounce gloves. Michailidis secured his first UFC win over K.B Bhullar this past May after dropping his promotional debut via controversial knockout against Modestas Bukauskas last year. Stylistically, Michailidis has a decently well-rounded MMA game but there are no clear strengths he possesses. He carries a good amount of power and has secured takedowns at the UFC level, but his striking isn’t very technically sound, and his wrestling is below average at the UFC level.
While we have to respect Pereira’s striking background and acknowledge his ability to do serious damage to his opponents in MMA, this is a totally different sport than the one he has excelled in for years. Pereira took three MMA fights between 2015 and 2016 and if you go back and watch the tape he was dominated while grappling against low-level regional opponents in Brazil. Since then, he took a four-year hiatus from the sport prior to getting a highlight win a year ago in LFA, but that was against an opponent who was a +700 underdog and made very little effort to wrestle in that fight. While I don’t rate Michailidis as anything special and know that he has had some durability problems in the past, this is a guy who has been training MMA his whole life and has some non-awful elements of his game. If he comes in with a solid game plan, Michailidis will look to wrestle early and often here. There’s a good chance Pereira passes this test with an early KO, but Michailidis is a +200 underdog who could easily look -300 in this spot with the right game plan.
Andreas Michailidis +220 1.25x until +220, 1.5x until +195 (Placed Friday)
Gaethje is coming off a title-fight loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov 13 months ago following his interim title win over Tony Ferguson in May of 2020. “The Highlight” is 6-3 inside the UFC with all six wins coming by knockout. Stylistically, Gaethje is widely regarded as the most exciting fighter in MMA due to his zombie-like style of continuing to move forward despite eating lots of damage from his opponents. However, he has become a little more tactically sound of late. He is still hyper-aggressive in pursuit of his opponents, but Gaethje has worked on refining his jab and not putting 100% effort into all of his strikes in exchange for some defensive improvements. Chandler entered the UFC last year following a long Bellator career. He beat Dan Hooker by knockout in his promotional debut and was given a title shot against Charles Oliveira following Khabib’s retirement. Chandler had his moments in that fight but ultimately was knocked out twenty seconds into the second round. Stylistically, he is a power-puncher with a D-1 wrestling background but has historically struggled with both his durability and cardio.
The overwhelming consensus from the betting public seems to be that these two men will stand and bang this weekend until one man is finished. I tend to agree with that take, there just aren’t many Gaethje fights that don’t turn into absolute wars. Chandler has one clear advantage in this matchup and that’s his top game if he’s able to land takedowns. Chandler has a decent submission skill set and solid ground and pound. However, he’s not always insistent on trying to land takedowns and when he does wrestle proactively that can zap his gas tank. On the other side, there are multiple clear advantages for Gaethje in this matchup. The clearest one is durability. Gaethje has never been the most defensively sound fighter but has the ability to eat a lunch and had a great win rate in those all-out defense-optional wars that he’s found himself in historically. The second is his cardio, as we’ve seen Gaethje pushed into deep waters multiple times over the course of his career and he’s had the ability to fight though fatigue, whereas Chandler carries a good gas tank for lesser period of time and is not as effective as Gaethje when both men are fatigued. The last advantage for Gaethje is just his technical striking. More specifically, Gaethje is the best leg-kicker in the UFC and we’ve seen Chandler compromised to the legs multiple times throughout his career including in his last fight. In addition to the kicks, I favor Gaethje’s boxing ability here. He should land kicks early and often and then put Chandler away.
Justin Gaethje -162 1.5x until -170, 1x until -190 (Placed Oct. 28 on FOX Bet)
Burgos was viciously knocked out by Edson Barboza in May and has dropped consecutive fights in the UFC for the first time in his UFC career after beginning his career 6-1 in the promotion. Stylistically, Burgos is an all-offensive striker with solid wrestling defense and get-up games. His biggest strength by far is his volume (7.29 Strikes Landed per Minute), but he is extremely hittable and eats a ton of punches because of his hands-down style. Quarantillo is 4-1 in the UFC and coming off the best performance of his career against Gabriel Benitez when he won via 3rd round knockout. Quarantillo historically has been more of a grappler than striker, but his hands are steadily improving (two knockouts in his last three fights). His biggest strength is easily his cardio, as that’s an asset that Quarantillo has historically been able to lean on down the stretch of fights to break his opponents.
This is a tough fight to project from a side perspective because although I’ve underestimated Quarantillo’s striking ability throughout his career, I’m very confident that Burgos is the much cleaner puncher in this matchup. However, cumulative damage is real, and Burgos has gotten hit a lot throughout his career with a scary scene occurring in his last matchup as he was knocked out with a delayed reaction where his brain and body seemingly shut off. Quarantillo likely needs to get this fight to the ground often to win, but I just can’t see him controlling Burgos for that long. Clearly this is a fight with the potential to be extremely high-variance and my favoeite way to approach these spots are to play the under. Both men are durable and neither are massive hitters historically, but the pace of this fight projects to be insane and I think we’re going to see 400+ punches thrown if this gets extended. At plus money I’m happy to take a stab on one punch connecting flush.
Shane Burgos/Billy Quarantillo Fight Does NOT Go The Distance +115 1x until +100 (Placed Friday)
A student at the University of Colorado and +EV bettor, Jonah will be contributing both MMA betting and DFS content at FTN. He’s studying journalism and sports media at CU, and this is his first job in the betting industry. Jonah is the MMA Dog of The Night Challenge champion amassing a 90% ROI in the contest and has been a profitable MMA bettor with tracked results. He is known for betting early lines and getting out ahead of the betting market, and looks forward to helping subscribers do the same!