As the UFC gears up for UFC 231 this weekend in Toronto, Canada, it feels like this is a return to regular programming for the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion.
After a relatively lackluster November that featured just the one relatively lopsided UFC Heavyweight Championship bout, the UFC is now strapping up for a memorable December. This month will see four of the very best title fights that we’ve seen in quite some time set to take place.
At UFC 231 on Saturday, December 8, Max Holloway will defend his UFC Featherweight Championship from the rising 145-pound star, Brian Ortega. That fight will take place moments after a decade-long rivalry between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk is settled in a UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship bout.
We’ve carefully analyzed both of these title fights as well as all the other contests scheduled for this weekend at UFC 231 to bring you actionable MMA betting advice.
Here’s what we’ve found:
- Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega (🔥 💰)
- Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (🔥 💰)
- Alex Oliveira vs. Gunnar Nelson (🔥)
- Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos (🔥)
- Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak
- Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff
- Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye
- Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders
- Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
- Devin Clark vs. Aleksandar Rakic
- Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez
- Chad Laprise vs. Dhiego Lima
- Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Jesse Ronson
🔥 = Must-watch fight 💰 = Betting opportunity
As always, we’ll be bringing you the same bets that we’re placing this weekend.
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega is exactly the reason why we should all love the sport of mixed martial arts.
On the one hand, we have the champion, Holloway, who has masterfully worked his way to a 12-win streak and remained unbeaten since 2013. He’s unbelievably confident, intelligent and extremely dangerous when inside the cage.
And the challenger, Ortega, is a submission grappling machine with improved striking ability. He’s currently undefeated through his outstanding 14-fight career.
Many believe that this fight is genuinely up in the air and most pundits and fans are having a hard time backing either fighter.
It looks like the bookmakers are in the same boat.
Best Odds For Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
- Max Holloway: +100 (5Dimes)
- Brian Ortega: -105 (Pinnacle)
It wasn’t all that long ago when Holloway was considered a slight favorite in this main event at odds of -140 and Ortega was all the way out to +120 at most sites.
While the exact reasons remain unknown, it appears that many bettors are fading Holloway merely because of lingering health concerns.
And that’s a significant topic in the leadup to this title fight.
In July, Holloway was forced to withdraw from his previously scheduled bout with Ortega due to mysterious health complications that are yet to be resolved. Some fans have pointed out that Holloway’s health seems to be deteriorating yet again as we approach the event this weekend.
Here at WagerBop, we believe Holloway will be ready and willing to defend his title come Saturday night and have disregarded speculation regarding his health. After all, is it reasonable to assume that his coaches, family, friends and the UFC would keep him away from fighting an elite-level fighter if his health was in a bad state?
Holloway vs. Ortega – Points of Discussion
We’re going to break this fight down into two simplified points of discussion.
Holloway’s striking advantage
We believe that the gap between Ortega and Holloway on the feet is far too significant to ignore.
Ortega’s striking has improved over the years, but it’s not even close to the level of elite striking that Holloway – or even Jose Aldo, the next-best featherweight in the division – possesses.
There’s a real possibility that Ortega’s stand-up ability has been blown up too much after his impressive first-round finish of Frankie Edgar and that the public is overrating his talent. After all, Ortega has never been known for one-punch knockout power, and it was a chain reaction of events that eventually led to the stoppage of Edgar.
Ortega does have relatively effective boxing techniques including a particularly tricky defensive shoulder roll tactic that helps him evade incoming shots. However, the downside of that technique is that it causes him to shell up too often and remain flat-footed.
Renato Moicano is one former opponent of Ortega’s who punished him while standing. Moicano was on his way to a unanimous decision victory before he stupidly exposed his neck while shooting for a takedown.
And despite being beaten through the first two rounds, that fight was probably one of the best examples of Ortega’s work. Although he was walking into strikes all night long, Ortega’s forward pressure was eventually enough to fatigue his opponent and force an error. For an opportunistic finisher like Ortega, that’s a dream come true.
It’s likely that we won’t see Holloway make the same mistake.
Fighting with a highly intelligent strategy every time he steps into the cage, Holloway excels at systematically breaking down his opponent with feints, perceived pressure, and well-timed punches and kicks.
Whereas Moicano and Clay Guida are two examples of opponents who gave in to the pressure of Ortega, Holloway actually builds up during the first two rounds and kicks into gear by the time the third round comes along.
In his last fight, a title defense against Jose Aldo, Holloway landed more strikes in the third round than in rounds one and two combined.
Max Holloway strikes landed vs. Jose Aldo – UFC 218
- 25 of 89 (28% acc)
- 41 of 104 (39% acc)
- 108 of 204 (52% acc)
With his superb range management and high pressure, Max Holloway is exactly the type of stand-up fighter that will cause major problems for Brian Ortega.
Ortega’s takedown inability
If Holloway looks as dominant on the feet as we’re expecting, what options does Ortega have?
Ortega is exceptional at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has some of the best submission grappling ability in the UFC today. No one wants to be on that mat against Ortega, and there’s no doubting that Holloway will actively try and keep away this danger.
But for as many of Ortega’s memorable submissions we have stuck in our minds, it’s hard to recall a time when he chose to take an opponent down to the mat and submit them. Most of his finishes are instead opportunistic chokes that begin while standing.
You might be surprised to discover that Brian Ortega has not secured a single takedown in any of his last six fights in the UFC.
The challenger has attempted only 0.22 takedowns per 15 minutes inside the octagon and completed these takedowns at 14% accuracy. His 1.8 average submissions attempted per 15 minutes support the fact that Ortega’s submissions are opportunistic.
And standing across from him is a fighter who has not been taken down in any of his last nine fights.
Holloway has deceptively effective takedown defense and has managed to defend 83% of takedown attempts through his UFC career to date.
A takedown attempt from Ortega would be unexpected, and a successful takedown attempt would be even more surprising.
But it’s worth remembering that Ortega didn’t need a takedown to submit Cub Swanson, Diego Brandao or Moicano. The Swanson and Moicano submissions were of a result of transitions that began when Ortega locked up the chin from the clinch.
Right now, it feels like Max Holloway should be capped at -140 and be considered a moderate favorite. We’re incredibly confident in betting on Holloway’s side in this main event.
Bet on Max Holloway to win: +100 (5Dimes)
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
We’re going to refrain from a blown-out essay on this co-main event here at UFC 231 but that doesn’t mean we don’t consider it to be a full-confidence pick.
Best Odds For Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
- Valentina Shevchenko: -315 (5Dimes)
- Joanna Jedrzjeczyk: +295 (BetOnline)
The odds for this UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship bout between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk seem off.
Don’t get us wrong, Shevchenko is a deserving favorite going into this contest. She’s a brilliant counter striker capable of landing well-timed strikes that make her opponent look silly (see the Holly Holm fight). But Shevchenko is also a slow starter who maintains a pace comparable to a snail for the majority of the fight. Her inactivity can cost her decisions, like what happened against Amanda Nunes.
On the other hand, we have a proven decision winner in Jedrzejczyk who might not be as effective or efficient as Shevchenko, but can steal decision victories thanks to her high volume of striking.
If this fight lasts five rounds, as it is expected, there’s a real chance that Jedrzejczyk’s more attractive fighting style can influence the scorecards and earn her a split decision victory.
The odds here are too enticing.
Bet on Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win: +295 (BetOnline)
Best Bets for UFC 231
- Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
- Max Holloway to win: +100 (Pinnacle)
- Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
- Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win: +295 (BetOnline)
Jake is a mixed martial arts analyst and reporter from Australia. At WagerBop, he merges his appreciation of combat sports and a strong passion for analytics to uncover betting opportunities for readers.