UFC 249 Betting Preview – Everything You Need to Know

By Trent Pruitt & Nick Stavas

The current global pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the entire world. It seems like at this point we’re stuck in a daily loop of reading bad news and watching reruns of Law and Order or binging an entire Netflix series. For sports fans, the past few months have been especially difficult. Every league from the NBA to the NHL on down to the Scottish Premiership soccer league has either postponed or flat out cancelled its season. It’s dire straits for sports fans at this point. Enter: Dana White. The UFC commish was heart-set on setting up events and giving the public a taste of live sports again, and he finally succeeded. After getting his first attempt to host UFC 249 in California shot down a few weeks ago, an arrangement was made between the UFC, Disney, the Florida State Athletic Commission and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to host three UFC events in one week in Jacksonville, starting with UFC 249 on May 9th. Well, here we are. Days away from real life sports, and we couldn’t be more excited. Of course with sports comes gambling, and what better way to get you ready for UFC 249 than a full betting preview of every single fight on a stacked card that consists of a whopping 12 bouts. So, without further ado, The Lynq’s UFC 249 preview.

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

Main Card – 10 P.M. on ESPN+ PPV

Main Event: Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje – UFC Interim Lightweight Championship

Co-main Event: Henry Cejudo vs. Dominick Cruz – UFC Bantamweight Championship

Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik – Heavyweight

Calvin Kattar vs. Jeremy Stephens – Featherweight

Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan de Castro – Heavyweight

Preliminary Card – 8 P.M. ET on ESPN

Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone – Welterweight

Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexey Oleinik – Heavyweight

Carla Esparza vs. Michelle Waterson – Women’s Strawweight

Ronaldo Souza vs. Uriah Hall – Middleweight

Early Preliminary Card – 5:30 P.M. ET on ESPN+ 

Vicente Luque vs. Niko Price – Welterweight

Bryce Mitchell vs. Charles Rosa – Featherweight

Ryan Spann vs. Sam Alvey – Light Heavyweight

Key

Best bet: most likely to profit

Value bet: best bet relative to Vegas odds

Confidence level: 5-star scale next to each bet (★★★☆☆)

Fight Previews & Best Bets

Tony Ferguson (-180) vs. Justin Gaethje (+150)

Let’s start at the top of the card with a fight that has seen the odds spread out further and further as we get closer to Saturday night. It’s Tony Ferguson (25-3) vs Justin Gaethje (21-2) from Jacksonville, Florida. 

As I did my research on this bout, I was able to come to a conclusion – Tony Ferguson is really good. He carries a 12-fight winning streak into the octagon on Saturday and hasn’t lost since May of 2012. Yes, you read that correctly, 2012. Gaethje is currently riding a 3-fight win streak and his overall record is excellent. He has big knockout power as 18 of his victories have come via KO. 

The only shot Gaethje has is coming out and giving Ferguson the hands early. He’ll need a first round knockout otherwise the edge shifts to Ferguson as he’s better tactically. For me, I think Ferguson gets the job done easily. I’ll pay the (-180) vigorish, I don’t care. Tony Ferguson is going to absolutely destroy Gaethje and we’re going to cash this ticket. Ferguson is a monster and he wants to fight Khabib. That’s the fight he wants, that’s the fight that the people want… And the only way we get to that point is with an El Cucuy victory. 

Best Bet: Ferguson (-180) ★★★★★

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

Henry Cejudo (-210) vs. Dominick Cruz (+170)

The Dominator is back. After over three years away from the octagon, Dominick Cruz returns. A man who terrorized the bantamweight division for half a decade, Cruz took three years off to recover from multiple injuries and even spend some time as a commentator alongside Jon Anik and Joe Rogan. But now the prodigal son returns, and maybe I follow the wrong people, but the lack of hype this fight is getting blows my mind. On any other card ever this would be the main event. 

You would assume a guy who spent three years away from fighting and is over the age of 35 would probably choose a low-profile, less-talented opponent as his first fight back. Right? Wrong. Not for Cruz, at least. Cruz is going straight for the title shot; right out of the frying pan and directly into the proverbial fire. That fire goes by the name Henry Cejudo, and I’m not sure Cruz is ready for that fire yet. There is no doubt in my mind that Cejudo was wildly offended when he fought Marlon Moraes last June and was listed as an underdog even though he was the champion. It feels as if the UFC world doesn’t want Cejudo to be great. Unfortunately for them, he is. Given that Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling and a two-division UFC champion, with a few more wins under his belt Cejudo is going to be considered the greatest combat sports athlete of all time. Don’t get me wrong, Cruz has an unbelievable track record of his own, but the fact that he hasn’t fought in three years scares me.

Cruz has two surgically repaired knees. Cejudo is a gold medal freestyle wrestler. Connecting the dots isn’t difficult here: expect Cejudo to go low and keep it low. Cejudo has also wildly improved his boxing over the past few years, so if he wants to fight standing up he probably could hang with Cruz, but if he wants to win and win quickly, taking Cruz to the canvas is his best option. Either way, I just don’t see Cruz being able to hang with Cejudo for more than a couple rounds. 

Best Bet: Cejudo (-230) ★★★★☆

Value bet: Under 4.5 rounds (+150) ★★☆☆☆

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

Francis Ngannou (-280) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+220)

Francis Ngannou is the #2 contender in the heavyweight division and boasts a 14-3 record overall. He’s won three straight fights, including a TKO over Junior Dos Santos back in July. Francis is a heavy hitter, racking up 10 KO’s and his other 4 victories have come via submission. If Ngannou wins this matchup, he should be wanting a shot at the Championship Belt, which is currently with Stipe Miocic. 

Despite a 10-0 MMA record, Jair Rezenstruik enters this contest as a heavy underdog. Rozenstruik won four UFC fights the last calendar year and has clearly shown a lot of potential so I’m not sure why this line is this inflated. Rozenstruik was eyeing defeat in his previous bout until he knocked out Alistair Overeem with just four seconds left. Even though he used basically the whole clock, Jair got the job done. 

My only concern is that this fight may be a dud since each fighter will recognize and respect each other’s knockout power. That means Rozenstruik must be aggressive and take the fight to Ngannou. Ultimately, I believe Francis Ngannou will get the job done here. It took a lot of restraint not to take a shot on the undefeated rising star Jair, but I cannot pull the trigger. He was too shaky in his last fight and barely escaped victorious. Francis is much more well-rounded and should get the W here. 

Best Bet: Ngannou (-280) ★★★★☆

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

Calvin Kattar (-250) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+195)

Being that this is the third time this fight has been booked, it seems destined to finally happen Saturday. There are a lot of interesting storylines surrounding this bout. On one side, Calvin Kattar has been a busy man. With five fights over the past two calendar years, Kattar has slowly but surely risen up the ranks in the UFC featherweight division. Kattar suffered a tough decision loss back in September to Zabit Murgomedshapirov, who is one of the hottest fighters in the entire UFC right now. Aside from that, Kattar has had a solid track record over the past few years, including two consecutive first-round knockouts against Chris Fishgold and Ricardo Lamas.

On the other side, Jeremy Stephens is trying to keep himself out of the ranks of the “has-beens.” Stephens has lost three straight fights dating back to July of 2018. However, those three losses were to no slouches: Yair Rodriguez, Murgomedshapriov, oh, and some guy named Jose Aldo. Stephens is generally a knockout fighter; always looking for the best way to get a nasty right hook to slip past his opponent’s defense. Tough thing for Stephens: Kattar has never been knocked out in a professional fight. Kattar’s defense against significant strikes is amongst the best in the featherweight division, which really counteracts Stephens’ main offensive strategy. I wouldn’t count out the grizzly veteran’s ability to get creative, but the fact that Stephens relies so heavily on his hands could be a major issue against Kattar. I think Stephens will expend a lot of energy trying to end the fight early, which in turn will allow Kattar to stay comfortable defending whatever Stephens throws. As this fight drags on, I see Stephens getting tired, at which point Kattar starts swinging and finishes it late. I’m most certainly not ruling out the possibility that this fight goes the distance, so taking Kattar straight up is probably the safest bet, but if you want a little more reward don’t be afraid to throw some down on Kattar by stoppage. 

Best Bet: Kattar (-250) ★★★★☆

Value Bet: Kattar by stoppage (+175) ★★☆☆☆

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

Greg Hardy (-200) vs. Yorgan de Castro (+160)

Two sophomoric heavyweights square up on Saturday night and have seen their young careers travel on different trajectory paths. Hardy, since switching over from the NFL hasn’t panned out as much as one would’ve thought. He boasts a 5-2 MMA career but lost his most recent fight against Alexander Volkov back in November. The fight went to a decision, but it was clear that Volkov handled Hardy. It’s worth mentioning that Greg Hardy entered that contest with only 22 days elapsed since his previous fight. 

As for de Castro, he’s still maturing but owns a 1-0 record in the UFC and is 6-0 in his professional MMA career. de Castro defeated Justin Tafa in his UFC debut in October with a first-round knockout at the 2:10 mark. He stonewalled Tafa with the home crowd of Melbourne heavily in Tafa’s favor. 

I know one thing for sure, this fight will end in a knockout. 10/11 of their combined wins have come via the KO and I expect it early. With two fairly inexperienced fighters with huge knockout power, it’s clear that the value play is Yorgan de Castro. It’s definitely understandable that Hardy is the favorite, having a 4-inch height advantage and he has shown a lot of potential, but, I think it’s worth a shot at the underdog here!

Best Bet: de Castro (+160) ★★★☆☆

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

Anthony Pettis (-145) vs. Donald Cerrone (+115)

A couple of veteran fighters will square off on Saturday evening in Jacksonville as Donald Cerrone looks to break his three-fight losing streak while Anthony Pettis looks to stop a two-fight skid. These two have battled before, but it was over seven years ago so take it for what it’s worth. In that fight, Pettis led with a southpaw stance which enabled his left, power kicking leg to easily reach the midsection of Cerrone. That was quickly the difference in the fight as a couple of power kicks to the core sent Cowboy to the ground and it was game over in the first round. 

The line for this fight is correct in my opinion, since Donald has basically been a punching bag over his last three fights – perhaps his age is starting to show. Rather than pick a winner in this bout, I am going to put my money on the fight not going the distance. Out of Cerrone’s previous five fights, four of them haven’t made it to a decision while that is also the case with five out of the previous seven Pettis brawls. I see both of these guys coming out and trying to destroy one another. As both of their careers are essentially “over the hill,” they don’t have to sit back and be too tactical. They will go out there swinging. Personally, I hope Cerrone wins – I love the Cowboy. 

Best Bet: Fight does not go the distance (-175) ★★★☆☆

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

Fabricio Werdum (-310) vs. Alexey Oleinik (+240)

This is a bout between two aging UFC stalwarts, both having loads of heavyweight experience. Let’s get one thing out in the open: Fabricio Werdum is arguably the greatest grappler in the history of the UFC. If it weren’t for the fact that he hasn’t fought since March of 2018, I feel like Werdum would be an even heavier favorite than he is right now. Werdum can snap off a submission hold faster than you can say the word “submission,” and because that kind of grappling talent is so rare in the heavyweight division, Werdum has found great success with it. On the other hand, Oleinik is coming off a fairly recent armbar victory over Maurice Green back in January, which is probably the reason he isn’t a bigger underdog here. Oleinik’s main source of offense is grappling, specifically clinch grappling, which also happens to be Werdum’s main source of offense. The problem for Oleinik? Werdum is just way better. Not to mention that Werdum is also a much better boxer and Oleinik has a tendency to leave his head wide open when trying to initiate his grappling offense. Regardless of how you look at this fight, it would be really difficult to find a way for Oleinik to win. As far as total locks go, this fight is probably as close as it gets for UFC 249. If you want to make some easy cash, throw a lot of money down on Werdum (-310). If you’d like to get a little more bang for your buck, taking Werdum by stoppage att (-150) is probably pretty safe too.

Best Bet: Werdum (-310) ★★★★★

Value Bet: Werdum by stoppage (-150) ★★★☆☆

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

Carla Esparza (-160) vs. Michelle Waterson (+130)

There’s a really good chance that this fight is a snoozer, and Vegas knows that. The current odds for this fight to go the distance are -500, which in my time gambling on UFC are the worst odds I’ve ever seen. Both of these women love to start slow and neither of them are particularly keen knockout artists. Carla Esparza is younger, faster, and possesses a pretty significant boxing advantage. Not to mention the last performance for Michelle Waterson was not one to be proud of as Joanna Jedrzejczyk beat the brakes off of her for 15 straight minutes. Everything points to Esparza here so the safe bet is to just take her straight up at -160. But, given the fact that it’s almost a sure thing that this fight goes the distance, there’s some really good value in taking Esparza by decision. 

Best Bet: Esparza by decision (+105) ★★★★☆

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

Ronaldo Souza (-135) vs. Uriah Hall (+105)

This battle between two seasoned veterans would probably be a main card fight for most UFC PPV events. But, because Dana White dubbed this the “most stacked card of the year,” this bout will take place on the prelim card. Ronaldo Souza comes in as a bigger favorite than I originally imagined. Souza is undoubtedly on the downside of his career. The 40-year-old Brazillian jiu jitsu artist went on a legendary run through the early 2010s, but has gone a meager 2-3 in UFC contests in the past two calendar years. In the other corner, Uriah Hall has had a roller coaster career, but has been trending upward lately. Hall has won two fights in a row, most recently a thrilling split decision victory over Antonio Carlos Junior last fall. Hall essentially lives by the KO and dies by the KO, considering his win over Carlos Junior was his first decision victory since 2014. There’s no doubt Hall will try to keep this fight off the ground, which is the total opposite of what I’d expect Souza to do. Souza holds a clear advantage if this fight hits the canvas, but considering he’s gone six straight fights without a submission victory makes me think that he’s starting to lose his edge on the ground. If this is true, this fight plays right into Hall’s wheelhouse. 

I think there’s some serious value in the underdog here. Souza has fought in the light heavyweight division nearly his entire pro career, but this fight is listed as a middleweight bout, which means Souza will be cutting weight. Hall, on the other hand, is as powerful as ever and could be blooming into a late prime at age 35, and securing a third straight victory would further that narrative. Expect Hall to be at full power, and if these two fighters get in a stand-and-bang battle, Souza is in trouble.

Best Bet: Hall (+105) ★★★☆☆

Value Bet: Hall by stoppage (+275) ★★☆☆☆

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

Vicente Luque (-280) vs. Niko Price (+220)

This will be a rematch of UFC Fight Night 119 back in October of 2017, where Luque defeated Price in the 2nd round via submission. Got him with the ol’ D’arce Choke. Luque was fighting on just an 11-day turnaround, yet, truly controlled that fight. 

Vincente Luque is looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in his career and he comes in as a heavy favorite to do so. The #12 ranked welterweight owns a 17-7-1 record and has won 10 out of his last 12 fights overall. As for his style, he loves to stand and box – four out of his last five have been finished with punches. Niko Price, on the other hand, is 14-3 in his career and ranked #25 in the Welterweight division. The American is a heavy hitter and although he lacks some discipline in the octagon, he only needs one opportunity to land a knockout blow. 

If Price wants to have a shot at winning this, he’ll have to be way more aggressive than when they fought back in 2017. That could lead to opportunities for counter strikes and moves by Luque though. Ultimately, I will be rolling with the all-around better fighter in Vincente Luque. In order to knock down that heavy juice, I’ll take the Brazillian to win by finish! 

Best Bet: Luque by stoppage (-150) ★★★★☆

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

Bryce Mitchell (-160) vs. Charles Rosa (+130)

For being on the early prelim card, this is a matchup that I’m looking forward to a lot. Both Bryce Mitchell and Charles Rosa are extraordinary on the ground and it should be a good grapplers fight. That is, of course, unless Mitchell takes Rosa’s recent warnings to heart and wants to keep it off the floor. Those comments you ask? Charles Rosa recently stated, “If he wants to take it to the ground, you can guarantee he’s getting one of his limbs ripped off…” Nothing more that I love than some good banter between a couple of warriors like these guys. 

As a quick background before I give my pick, Mitchell is 12-0 in his MMA (3-0 in the UFC) while Rosa is 12-3 (3-3 UFC). This is a featherweight fight at 145 Lbs. and this will be Charles Rosa’s 2nd fight back after taking 2 years off. He was victorious via a first-round submission his last time out against Manny Bermudez. As for Mitchell, he picked up a win in incredible fashion, registering just the 2nd “Twister” in UFC history. Believe me folks, it’s as painful as it sounds, give it a Google. 

The masses are on Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell to win this one and for good reason. He’s undefeated in his professional career and I have to side with the public here, he’ll be moving to 4-0 in the UFC after Saturday. Despite the strong words from Rosa on walking away with a limb, Mitchell gets the job done here. I have a lean that this will finish with a submission, but I’m going to play it safe and take Thug Nasty on the moneyline.

Best Bet: Mitchell (-160) ★★★★☆

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

Ryan Spann (-450) vs. Sam Alvey (+325)

Ryan Spann enters this fight as the highest favorite on the whole card, and rightfully so. He’s riding a 7-fight win streak and as for Alvey, he’s on a 3-fight skid. 

I hate that my most confident bet on the card comes with a -400 price tag, but there is no way that Spann stumbles here. 15 of his 17 victories have come in the form of knockout or submission, so I’m surprised to see only a -125 price with Spann to finish inside the full time. I’ll use that as my value bet here with a little less confidence since Alvey is a veteran fighter and may be able to hang around and push this fight to a decision. 

Best Bet: Spann (-450) ★★★★★

Value Bet: Spann by stoppage (-125) ★★☆☆☆

– Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

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