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  • Keith Eppinger

UFC 259: Betting Guide

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

If you’ve been tailing me so far in 2021; you’re 6-2. You’re welcome. UFC 259 boasts one of the most stacked cards ever, which means it’s another opportunity for us to stack our bread. This is my third set of picks here at Russos Playbook, and while they are some solid picks, I encourage anyone who doubts them to fade me. This is going to be a really entertaining night whether you bet or not, but as always bet responsibly. We’ve got three champions defending their belts, and each of them is obtainable by the challenger.

Sterling -105 v Yan -115

The first of the championship fights is Petr Yan defending the bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling. This is a fight that fans have been looking forward to since its cancellation last December. Petr Yan is an absolute beast in the striking realm, and only has one loss on his record, currently sitting at 15-1. This will present an interesting matchup stylistically against Aljamain Sterling, a renowned wrestler with a record of 19-3. Yan excels at smashing his opponents on their feet, so Sterling’s strategy going into the fight will be to get Yan to the ground. Yan won’t make this easy for Sterling. Petr Yan boasts incredible takedown defense, and in every interview leading up to the fight, Sterling has acknowledged this. “I can shoot one hundred times, it’ll be a bad night for him,” Sterling said in an interview with ESPN. I disagree with Aljamain on this point. If he goes for too many takedowns, at least one of them will be sloppy enough to open him up to a huge knee or uppercut. If there is one guy in the bantamweight division who will make you sorry you went for a sloppy takedown, it’s Petr Yan.

Even if Sterling brings Yan down, his wrestling is good enough to get the fight back to standing, where he will then corner Aljamain and rain down with a furious storm of punches. There is a chance Aljamain could find Yan in a vulnerable position on the ground and submit him with one of his usual chokes, but I can’t see this happening with Yan’s defensive wrestling abilities.

The belt is staying in Russia. At -115, I’m taking Yan to win this fight. I think it comes by way of knockout in the third round. According to Yan by KO/TKO/DQ is +275, meaning that Vegas feels like it is a pretty achievable outcome. A Petr Yan victory in the third round is +1100, so it is a risky bet and offers a great payout, but it is entirely dependent on just how aggressive these fighters choose to start. I’m basing that on Yan’s history of bringing fights to the later rounds and then finishing them.

Megan Anderson +700 v Nunes -1100

Next up, we’ve got the women’s featherweight division championship. Amanda Nunes is defending her belt once again, this time against newcomer Megan Anderson. Everyone knows Amanda Nunes is one of, if not the greatest woman to ever fight in the UFC. Both the bantamweight and featherweight divisions have belonged to Nunes since 2016. She’s a grappling expert and has absolutely dominated fights in the clinch and on the ground. Her most impressive victories have come against some of the other greats; such as Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. There is only one way for Megan to win this fight: use her power and size. Megan is six feet tall, as opposed to Nunes who is only 5’8. If Megan can use her size to keep Nunes at bay, she’ll prevent herself getting tied up in a nasty clinch or ground situation. She’s got a nasty arsenal of punches and nearly caught a victory using them against Holly Holm, until late in the fight when Holm exposed some holes in Megan’s grappling game. I’m not sure that Nunes still has the power to put Megan to sleep, but if she gets in close she’ll control the fight by grappling against the cage. Two out of her last three fights have been victories by decision, and I think if she wins Saturday it’ll happen the same way.

At -1100, a straight up Nunes victory is not worth taking on its own. In my eyes, the value play here is Nunes to win by decision, currently sitting at around +450/+500. However, as a Megan Anderson fan, and a regular supporter of the underdog, it is tempting to place a stake on her. We’re due for one big surprising upset, and at +700, Megan Anderson has the potential to give it to us.

Blachowicz +190 v Adesayana -240

Finally, the fight of the night. Israel Adesanya is fighting to achieve a title very few fighters in history have: Champ Champ. He’s moving up from the middleweight division, where he was undefeated and reigning champ, to fight the current owner of the light heavyweight belt. His opponent: Jan Blachowicz, a big Polish badass. Izzy is currently the favorite in this fight, and for good reason. He is the most talented striker the UFC has ever seen. His strategy in the past has been to pick a single spot on his opponent and attack it relentlessly, most recently coming in the form of splintering leg kicks. Blachowicz isn’t very different in that sense, as we saw in his fight against Dominick Reyes where he left visible footprints on Reyes’s ribs in the first round.

Where Jan differs from Adesanya is in his power. He isn't nearly as precise as Adesanya but packs some of the meanest punches in all of MMA. This fight probably won't go to the ground due to each fighter's preference to striking.This fight will end via knockout, but it is hard to determine which of the two will be left standing. Izzy is entering this fight at more than ten pounds lighter than Jan, and he may not be prepared for the power that comes with that extra weight. At the same time, Jan may not be ready for Izzy’s speed. I think Izzy pieces up Jan early, picks a specific spot on his body and completely flays it. Eventually Jan will become hurt and leave his head open for a knockout.

For that reason, I’ll be taking Izzy for KO/TKO/DQ at +120. I believe it’s very realistic, and once again Vegas agrees. The stage is set for Israel Adesanya to be the greatest fighter of all time, but it requires a victory at UFC 259.

Like I said; these belts are all up for grabs, and at least one will change hands on Saturday. We’re due for a big upset. Once you lock your picks in, all there is left to do is sit back on Saturday night with your favorite beer and hope for the best.

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