There is plenty of excitement surrounding UFC 249 this weekend in Jacksonville, Fla. While no fans will be in attendance, millions will be watching at home as the return of MMA symbolizes something of a move back to the status quo.
We will have almost six hours of fights to keep us occupied starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. The first three bouts will take place on ESPN+, and then the next four fights will be broadcast on ESPN before the five main card clashes take place on pay per view on ESPN+.
UFC 249 betting odds
(All odds via SportsInsider.com)
Anthony Pettis -154
Donald Cerrone +134
These two veterans are both fan favorites, but they are both at a crossroads in their careers. Pettis has lost two straight bouts and eight of his last 12 fights, while Cerrone has dropped three straight. The odds have moved in favor of Pettis as he was a -130 favorite per the UFC betting odds when they opened a few weeks ago, but Cerrone might be the play here. His last three losses were to three of the best fighters in Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor, and Pettis is a more manageable opponent.
Fabricio Werdum -315
Aleksei Oleinik +265
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Fabricio Werdum in the Octagon, but fight fans are eager to see his return. The one-time heavyweight champion was suspended after testing positive for trenbolone, and this will be his first bout since St. Patrick’s Day in 2018.
He will take on another grappling specialist in Aleksei Oleinik on Saturday. Olinik is a pretty one-dimensional fighter as 46 of his 58 victories have come by way of submission, so the game plan for Werdum is simple. If he stays on his feet, he should be in a great position to win the bout.
Greg Hardy -200
Yorgan De Castro +170
Neither one of these fighters is proven at this point. Greg Hardy is more well-known because of his NFL career and the media attention that surrounded his move to the UFC, but he has had a rather static career. All of his victories have come by way of first-round knockout, and any opponent that makes it through the first round has defeated him.
De Castro is more raw than Hardy, but he is 6-0 in his short professional career. He knocked out Alton Meeks and Junior Tafa in his two most memorable bouts, and his power means this fight should be much closer than the odds indicate. One of these opponents is likely to win by first-round knockout, so the underdog is good value here.
Calvin Kattar -275
Jeremy Stephens +235
Calvin Kattar cut his teeth in other promotions, but he has been impressive since joining the UFC. He is 4-2, with three of his four victories coming by way of knockout, and he went to the cards in his two losses.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Stephens is a common foil for featherweights at this stage of his career. The upper-tier featherweights usually beat him, but he can take care of anyone not up to the challenge. He has lost six of his last 10 bouts though, so Kattar is the play at this price.
Francis Ngannou -265
Jairzinho Rozenstruik +225
This fight is unlikely to last more than one round. These two heavyweights are both knockout specialists who rely on their immense power to pummel their opponents. Francis Ngannou’s last three victories have all come by way of knockout in the first round, while nine of Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s 10 victories have been knockout wins.
There has been considerable line movement on the underdog, but Rozenstruik still has good value at this price. Since both these heavyweights are going to come out swinging, all it takes is one punch to decide the matter.
Henry Cejudo -225
Dominick Cruz +190
This fight is seen as the most likely to go the distance according to the oddsmakers with an over/under of 4.5 rounds heavily shaded toward the over. Henry Cejudo has been better than expected as a standup fighter, and he has proven that he can do more than just grapple. Almost half of the former Olympic gold medalist wrestler’s victories have come by knockout, and he has knocked out some of the top bantamweights in the world on his way to claiming the title.
Dominick Cruz was a late fill-in for Jose Aldo, and this will be his first time in the ring since December 2016. Numerous injuries have sidetracked a once promising career, and he has pulled out of three fights since his last bout due to injury. It’s tough to see him upsetting Cejudo in this situation.
Tony Ferguson -199
Justin Gaethje +174
The main event should be well worth the price due to Justin Gaethje’s eye-catching style. Gaethje is fearless and isn’t afraid to take a lot of punishment in order to dole out some of his own. That lack of regard for his body and recklessness have made him a fan favorite in recent years, but he’s going to have a hard time getting past Tony Ferguson.
Ferguson is a smart, calculated fighter, and he can punish opponents who like to get close with his elbows and knees. He has won 12 straight fights over the last eight years, and he has won half of those bouts by submission. His style is a great counter to Gaethje, so betting him at anything under -200 is shrewd.