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UFC 251 Fight Card: Predictions, Betting Odds, DraftKings Picks

Stephie Haynes breaks down the UFC 251 main card with DraftKings millionaire contest predictions and DraftKings Sportsbook betting odds. The contest begins at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 11.

At 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 11, one of the biggest cards of the year —if not the biggest— will take place in Abu Dhabi. Heavily promoted as “Fight Island,” UFC 251 features not one, not two, but three title fights and a veritable cornucopia of compelling fights as the supporting cast of what looks like will be a phenomenal show.

DraftKings is hosting a massive fantasy MMA Millionaire tournament that gives out $2.25 million in total prizes and pays out $1 million to the winner. The contest locks at 6:00 p.m. ET on Saturday. Set your lineups here: MMA $2.25M The Island Millionaire [$1M to 1st! + ToC Entry].

DraftKings users can also get in on the UFC action by betting on DraftKings Sportsbook or by downloading the DK Sportsbook app.

Kamaru Usman (-230) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+185)

Masvidal has definitely turned a corner in his career. He has gone from a slow starter that was able to be walked down and taken to a decision loss on several occasions to an explosive fire-starter that’s managed to break the record for fastest knockout in UFC history. He’s become much more invested in his excellent boxing and has used it masterfully in fights with Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz, collecting the BMF title in the process.

He has very underrated grappling and wrestling but isn’t infallible here and has been taken down and controlled by lesser wrestling pedigrees than Usman’s. That is a very important factor in this fight. There are those that believe that Usman’s willingness to stand and trade with Covington signified that he’d abandoned his wrestling in favor of his evolving striking, but that is likely not the case.

Usman is an intelligent gamesman and tends to adjust his fight plan according to opponent, no doubt guided by longtime coach Henri Hooft. With Colby’s real weapon being his wrestling—not his volume punching that lacks real KO power—the course of action seemed to be to take their chances standing, and they were correct to take that path, which led to a TKO victory.

Usman isn’t training with Henri Hooft these days, though—at least for this camp anyways. He’s with Trevor Wittman out in Denver, Colorado. Wittman is the man who helped fine tune Justin Gaethje’s raw style into the polished, well oiled machine it is today. Sparring footage of Usman and Gaethje was revealed a couple weeks ago, and the bodywork shown in that video was intense.

Masvidal has a heater, and Usman probably won’t take the risky avenue of keeping this contest upright. Rather, he will look to get Masvidal on the canvas where he can smother him with that crushing, inescapable top control. That is where the fight will be won for Kamaru, and conversely, it will be won on the feet for Jorge. The question is, who will realize their winning effort first?

My bet is on Usman trading with “Gamebred” on the feet just long enough to set up one of those monster blast doubles thus establishing the tone for the rest of the fight from there. I doubt we’ll see a finish, but I do think we’ll see another dominant victory for “The Nigerian Nightmare” won through ironclad control and pressure on the ground.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman via Decision

DraftKings Sportsbook odds for Kamaru Usman via Decision: +150

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Volkan Oezdemir (-159) vs. Jiri Prochazka (+129)

Jiri Prochazka is a one-punch wrecking machine who possesses the ability to send his opponents to visit the Sandman in nearly all his fights. As a matter of fact, in 29 fights, Jiri has only gone the distance once. He’s finished 25 men, losing just three times, with the last defeat being nearly five years ago (that loss was later avenged). He holds wins over C.B. Dollaway, Fabio Maldonado, Muhammad Lawal, Vadim Nemkov and Satoshi Ishii, to put names to some of those wins, and is making one of the most anticipated UFC debuts we’ve seen in ages.

All that said, he’ll be facing a solid Top 10 contender in Volkan Oezdemir, a guy who seemed like he was satisfied just getting the quick knockout without putting in the work to fully flesh out other aspects that are required to make a well-rounded fighter. Fortunately, that was not the case, and we were treated to much more technical striking, better grappling and most importantly, the ability to learn from mistakes and show growth from fight to fight.

Volkan has an exceptionally durable chin, having only been finished by Daniel Cormier via TKO (ground-and-pound). His fight with Dominick Reyes was a hotly contested split-decision, one that probably should’ve gone his way, but history is set, and we must move forward.

The fight that really showed what a complete tactician he’d become was when he beat Ilir Latifi from pillar to post before putting him on another plane of consciousness. He followed that performance up with a solid, hard-fought victory over Aleksandar Rakic, bringing us to the present.

Oezdemir has been susceptible to a couple submissions, once to Kelly Anundson in 2014, and in late 2018 to Anthony Smith. Jiri Prochazka does have two submission wins on his record, so there is another path to a finish for him in that regard, as well. It’s unlikely that this battle will be fought on the ground, but for those that require all the details, there they are.

Prochazka will have a three-inch height advantage, but that shouldn’t matter much to Oezdemir, who’s fought taller men than himself a few times. It’s the power that Jiri packs that presents the X-Factor. I know Oezdemir packs a wallop, too, but trying to gauge which one has more blast potential is tricky.

As one of the legions of fans ridiculously excited about Prochazka’s debut, I’m cautiously choosing him to make a big statement with a knockout of a Top 10 contender right off the bat. It’s a dicey call, but fortune favors the brave, right?

Prediction: Jiri Prochazka via (T)KO

DraftKings Sportsbook odds for Jiri Prochazka via KO, TKO or DQ: +300

Amanda Ribas (-770) vs. Paige VanZant (+500)

I almost feel guilty for making such an obvious chalk pick, but I am quite enamored with Ribas’ skillset, and feel she deserves tons of recognition for all the time and effort she’s put into honing her craft. She is one of the most well-rounded women on the roster and in my very humble opinion, is going to be a star.

Paige VanZant is by no means a terrible fighter. She’s got tons of heart, grit and determination, and enough athleticism to have netted her some nice finishes, most notably of Bec Rawlings, Kailan Curran and Rachael Ostovich. She has a very durable chin, taking loads of punishment from Rose Namajunas and still managing to soldier on to the scorecards, albeit a lopsided decision loss.

That said, courage and the ability to absorb punishment are not the best descriptors of a fighter’s capabilities, and her wins over middling competition don’t really stack up to Ribas’ strength of schedule. And chin durability aside, Paige’s body durability is another thing altogether. She’s fought just two times in the last four years thanks to an arm injury that’s been re-broken a couple times, requiring surgery with plates and screws each time, followed by extensive periods of rehab that have affected any possible forward momentum in her career.

Considering that it was a blocked kick that caused the initial break, and that Ribas has some seriously powerful kicks, this is definitely a factor to take note of. It is also worth noting that Ribas has an excellent ground game, and no doubt her training leading up to this contest has a submission focus on that very fragile arm.

Ribas’s ground game is bolstered by exceptional takedown ability, but she doesn’t rely on run-of-the-mill singles and doubles. Rather, she is a master of the harai goshi (judo throw) and employs it in the clinch where she does her best work. A judo blackbelt, Amanda is a phonebooth fighter that loads up on knees and body punches to soften up her opponent before positioning herself to get that sweet hip toss (see her fight with Mackenzie Dern). She was smart not to engage too much on the ground with Dern, but those throws were important for two reasons: they scored valuable takedowns and they sapped Mackenzie’s energy. Against VanZant, she won’t need to be as concerned with submission threats, as PVZ isn’t as well-versed on the ground as Dern is.

Amanda’s striking is also top notch, and in this bout, Paige should be wary of that threat. She’s a clean, technical striker with crisp combos that have quite a bit of pop on them. She spun Mackenzie Dern’s head more than a few times in their fight, and routinely beat her to the punch all three rounds. She’s got a durable chin as well, taking everything Dern threw with very little damage at the final horn.

Does Paige VanZant have a snowball’s chance in Hades? Absolutely, but it’s only in the farthest reaches of this dimension of space and time. She has a monumental task ahead of her, one that she probably won’t have the ability to rise to.

Prediction: Amanda Ribas via Decision

DraftKings Sportsbook odds for Amanda Ribas via Decision: +125

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All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change. For the full list of available bets, download the DK Sportsbook app or check out the DraftKings Sportsbook website.

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