Live sports return to American soil on Saturday night with UFC 249 betting from Jacksonville, Florida. The fights will take place inside an empty VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena. Dana White has rolled out an electric card that sees a potentially great fight such as Anthony “Showtime” Pettis v. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone banished to the prelims. Let’s dive in:
Greg Hardy (-225) vs. Yorgan De Castro (+175)
NFL fans making the crossover to MMA as the sports cupboard is bare right now will recognize Greg Hardy, the former Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys DE. Obviously it takes some athleticism and power to make it to the NFL, but so far Hardy’s mixed martial arts career has received unimpressive reviews. Having nobody in attendance actually helps Hardy as UFC fans haven’t exactly warmed up to the former pro football player.
Hardy also announced Thursday that fighting as a person with asthma ‘terrifies’ him during a pandemic. Yorgan De Castro isn’t going to be mistaken for a cross country runner anytime soon but he did score a 1st round KO in his UFC debut last October and is 6-0 in his MMA career. Hardy lost a decision to to Alexander Volkov back in November and had his unanimous win over Ben Sosoli changed to a NC after using a puffer to combat his asthma. It’s hard to expect De Castro to knock out Hardy, but you like the underdog to win in what may very well be a slow, methodical battle.
Pick: De Castro +175
Calvin Kattar (-280) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+220)
There is a lot to like about Calvin Kattar here except the high -280 price tag. Kattar has a 2″ height and 1″ reach advantage over Jeremy Stephens and his last three wins have all come by knockout – two in the 1st round. Kattar dropped a decision to Zabit Magomedsharipov last time out but that’s a fighter who has won six straight. Kattar has never won – or lost – by decision.
In his last four fights Stephens has been KO’d in the 1st by Jose Aldo, lost a decision to Zabit, then had his match with Yair Rodriguez stopped because of an accidental eye punch before beating Rodriguez by decision in October. Kattar has the edge, but this one seems to have 3 rounds written all over it.
Pick: Fight to go the Distance, Yes -160
Fight to Complete 2 Rounds, Yes -230
Francis Ngannou (-280) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+220)
This UFC 249 betting matchup comes down to who lands “the one” first? Victory, defeat, and potentially a career threatening injury all lay in the balance on one punch between two of the most powerful hitters in the game. The last 7 wins for Ngannou have all come within the 1st round. His last three fights have lasted a total of 2:23 after bouncing back from consecutive defeats to Derrick Lewis and Stipe Miocic.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik has similar ‘ending power’ with a 10-0 career MMA record. “Bigi Boy” has won 9 of those 10 fights by KO and needed just :38 total to knock out Allen Crowder and Andrei Orlovsky in 2 of his last 3 fights. Rozenstruick can dial one up at any minute as evidenced by his KO of Alistair Overeem back in December with just :04 left in the 5th. You take the return on investment potential in this battle:
Pick: Rozenstruick +220
Henry Cejudo (-200) vs. Dominick Cruz (+160)
Under normal circumstances, +160 would be great value for the 22-2 Dominick Cruz, who many consider the G.O.A.T. 135 pounder. Cruz hasn’t gotten in the octagon since losing his belt to Cody Garbrandt back in 2016 however. Cruz has battled arm and shoulder injuries along the way and that’s a lot of ring rust to shake off vs. a competitor of Henry Cejudo’s status.
Cejudo is an olympic gold medalist, the former UFC flyweight champion, and the current bantamweight title holder. If Cruz is in peak shape, his footwork and motion will aggravate Cejudo but that is a huge IF.
Pick: Cejudo wins by KO +215
Tony Ferguson -210 vs. Justin Gaethje (+170)
Tony Ferguson doesn’t get the fight with Khabib like he wanted but that doesn’t mean he should overlook Justin Gaethje by any means. Ferguson is in the midst of an iconic run in the sport winning 12 straight fights over a span stretching back to 2012. Over that span Ferguson has 6 submissions, 3 KOs and 3 decisions. His last two wins over Cerrone and Pettis have come via 2nd round KOs.
If anybody can play spoiler on Saturday night it’s Gaethje who has put together a three game win streak all with 1st round KOs. Gaethje usually comes like a madman out of the gates whereas Ferguson has traditionally been a slower starter (Gaethe by KO +190). Ferguson has some of the better cardio in the sport though which is key when battling the jittery Gaethe. Ferguson has been in this spot before, coming through 12 straight times. You know Dana White wants that Ferguson – Khabib superfight at some point this Fall as well.
Pick: Ferguson -210