While Ortega is a black belt with high-level jiu-jitsu skills, if you believe the statistics, this fight is going to be a striking battle.
Neither fighter is particularly good at defending strikes. In his last three bouts, in which he’s lost to Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski in title fights and defeated Chan Sung Jung in non-title bout, Ortega has absorbed 566 significant strikes.
His face was barely recognizable when he left the Octagon against Holloway and Volkanovski. Given that Rodriguez has landed 374 significant strikes in his last three bouts, against Holloway, Jeremy Stephens and Chan Sung Jung (excluding a 15-second bout against Stephens that was stopped because of an inadvertent eye poke), the pure numbers could spell trouble for Ortega.
There’s always a but, and in this case, it’s about the number of strikes that Rodriguez has absorbed. In those same three bouts, he’s taken 406 significant strikes.
That leads me to look at proposition bets on how the fight may end. At BetMGM, Ortega is a -175 favorite to win, with Rodriguez at an appealing +145. But in the prop bet that asks, “Will the fight go the distance?’ No is the favorite at -140. Yes is even money, at +100.
Rodriguez has been stopped twice in his 16 pro fights, once by Frankie Edgar at UFC 211 in 2017 and by Roberto Herrera in a Mexican Promotions bout in 2012 that was his fourth pro bout. Ortega was stopped by Holloway in his only stoppage.
Ortega can be lured into slugfests and Rodriguez is a fighter who likes to push the pace and throw heavy volume. Ortega absorbs 6.69 strikes per minute, which is extraordinarily high.
Lightweight Islam Makhachev is the UFC’s all-time leader in strikes absorbed per minute at 0.84. Rodriguez absorbs 4.09 strikes per minute, which is also high.
In his nine UFC fights not counting a no-contest against Mike de la Torre, Ortega has been out-struck six times, including by better than a 2-to-1 margin in three of those. He out-struck his opponents twice and in one fight they landed an equal number of significant strikes.
In his 10 UFC fights not including the 15-second no-contest bout with Stephens, Rodriguez has landed more than his opponent in seven and was out-landed in three. He out-landed opponents by more than 2-to-1 in three fights.
Ortega would do well to get this fight to the ground, where he can work on his submission skills.
But based on the numbers, it would suggest Rodriguez wins, particularly since he’s a hard hitter and throws strikes from unusual angles that are hard to prepare to defend.
I’ll take the plus money and bet Rodriguez to win at +145. But I think both guys are durable and I do believe they’ll manage to go 25 minutes. I like Rodriguez by KO at +400, but Ortega is one of the most difficult men to finish in the UFC and I think he’s going to continue that trend.
So I’ll pass on that and instead bet that the fight goes the distance at even money.
Other plays for UFC Long Island
• I will lay the -175 and bet Muslim Salikhov to defeat Li Jingliang, who is -145.
• I will lay -110 and bet Miesha Tate to win by decision over Lauren Murphy. Tate is a -200 favorite to win but I don’t see her getting the finish, so I’ll play her to win over three full rounds.
• I’ll take the +135 and bet Ricky Simon to win over Jack Shore, who is a solid -165 betting favorite.