Fight fans, rejoice!
The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) three-week break will come to closure this weekend when UFC Fight Night 143 hits ESPN on Saturday, Jan. 19.
The UFC’s $100 million per year deal with FOX finished at the end of 2018 after a seven-year stint. Now, ESPN swoops in from out of sight to take the reigns for the next five years after signing a deal worth at least $1 billion.
It goes without saying that the UFC and ESPN want to get things started in the best way possible, so this opening show has been packed to the rafters with exceptional mixed martial arts talent.
Whether it’s the champion vs. champion battle headlining the event, the several exciting fan-favorite athletes competing on the card, or any of the rising stars coming through their respective divisions, there’s something for everyone this weekend at UFC Fight Night 143 live from Brooklyn.
- Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw
- Greg Hardy vs. Allen Crowder
- Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros
- Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz
- Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich
- Glover Teixeira vs. Karl Roberson
- Alexander Hernandez vs. Donald Cerrone
- Joanne Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski
- Alonzo Menifield vs. Vinicius Moreira
- Cory Sandhagen vs. Mario Bautista
Early Preliminary Card
- Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards
- Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal
- Kyle Stewart vs. Chance Rencountre
Today, we’ll break down several of the fights that matter and bring you the best high-value betting opportunities for the weekend.
Let’s get started!
Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw
Henry Cejudo, the current UFC flyweight champion, will be defending his title from the reigning bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw this weekend.
It’s somewhat of a shocker considering that Cejudo only recently defeated the longest-reigning champion in UFC history, Demetrious Johnson by a controversial split decision. There’s also the fact that TJ Dillashaw is the first UFC athlete to ever move down a weight class to challenge for a second title.
With that has come plenty of speculation around whether Dillashaw will actually make the 125-pound limit or not. Dillashaw is already looking like a “cross-counter runner” according to Cejudo, more than one week out from the fight. We can talk about weight cutting all day, but what matters is whether this will have an impact on Dillashaw’s performance or not. After all, we’re trying to identify betting value here.
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Dillashaw and his team are seemingly using a highly-advanced weight cutting regime that relies on mathematics (ugh) to get down to the 125-pound limit in time. He’s a professional and there’s no doubting his ability to make it.
But will he have enough time to rehydrate and regain mass before competing with Cejudo, who is looking like a monster right now?
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Anyway, Cejudo’s not going to be an easy task for the reigning bantamweight champion. Having previously won Olympic gold for freestyle wrestling, Cejudo is now the most accomplished athlete on the UFC’s roster.
But Olympic style wrestling is vastly different to what you’ll come to see inside a cage, and Dillashaw plans to exploit these differences on Saturday night (more on that later).
For now, let’s take a look at the odds for this champion vs. champion super fight.
Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw Odds
Don’t get it twisted – these odds are actually not as wide as we predicted.
TJ Dillashaw is a beastly, well-rounded athlete who can mix it up on the feet or on the mat with the best that the 135-pound division has to offer. Cody Garbrandt was renowned for lightning-fast hand speed and devastating power in his punches, but Dillashaw found a way to finish him in consecutive fights. What’s more impressive is that Dillashaw achieved this using his hands in the second fight after identifying an opening that presents itself as Garbrandt attempts a right-hand punch.
He’s relatively patient and will work to create openings or merely wait for their arrival. Dillashaw is also superb at defending takedowns and avoiding disadvantageous positions on the floor. This is critical against Cejudo and his offensive wrestling potential. But one of the biggest takeaways from our tape study was that Cejudo reacts significantly to an opponent’s feints. When Johnson feinted a punch or kick, Cejudo would react and occasionally drop his hands and leave his head and/or body exposed.
Expect Dillashaw to cash in on these opportunities.
Without the type of stopping power in his hands that is required to finish an elite opponent, Cejudo’s most likely pathway to victory is to grind out a decision win over five rounds. This outcome needs to be appreciated considering Cejudo’s accoldades, but it’s difficult to see him keeping this up for the 25-minute period against Dillashaw, who is arguably just as good at scrambling as Johnson.
If Cejudo had devastating ground and pound or an arsenal of submission techniques on the mat, we’d likely lean toward his side slightly more. One of Cejudo’s main challenges is that he doesn’t have these finishing techniques and mostly relied on staying heavy on top to control Johnson and ‘win’ the round.
There are parts of Cejudo’s game that don’t get nearly enough credit as they should, however.
For instance, his fast reflexes helped him to negate the gap between himself and “Mighty Mouse.” Although Johnson had notable success with the leg kick in the fight, Cejudo did occasionally threaten with a counter-takedown or strike on occasion with rapid speed. He also disallowed Johnson from trading at close range, either by meeting him in the exchanges first or by moving slightly out of range. Johnson also didn’t have the easiest of times sweeping Cejudo off-base with butterfly hooks or x-guard attempts, either, proving that Cejudo’s top pressure is absurd as we all were to initially believe.
But this fight is mostly going to be fought on the feet, and the most realistic outcome in this fight is that TJ Dillashaw’s power and impact will be the difference.
Whereas Cejudo will look to outscore Dillashaw by landing strikes and racking up control time, Dillashaw will be looking for a finish.
Who knew that the difference between two fighters could be how violent they actually are?
We’re taking TJ Dillashaw to get the finish inside the distance.
Bet on TJ Dillashaw to win: -194 at Pinnacle
Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich
It was on, then it was off, and now it’s back on.
Paige VanZant and Rachael Ostovich will go to war at UFC Fight Night 143 in Brooklyn in what should be an exciting women’s flyweight matchup.
VanZant, who was a highly-rated contender in the UFC’s strawweight division for quite some time, has since made the move to the flyweight division. Her first fight at 125-pounds didn’t go to plan, however, as Jessica-Rose Clark defeated her via unanimous decision in January last year.
Now, after a long 12-month layoff, VanZant is set to return with the hopes of snapping a two-fight skid.
She’ll be up against Rachael Ostovich, who has been tucked away in the depths of two The Ultimate Fighter cards already in the UFC. With a win over Karine Gevorgyan via first-round armbar, Ostovich then slipped to 1-1 after losing to Montana De La Rosa via third-round rear-naked choke. At the age of 27, Ostovich isn’t regarded as a high-potential competitor, but can certainly find a home near the middle-to-low end of the rankings.
Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich Odds
VanZant, a creative striker who utilizes exciting techniques such as jumping high kicks and spinning attacks, will be looking to march forward and connect on Ostovich. Ideally, the 24-year-old would appreciate an exact replica of the fight with Bec Rawlings in which she smoked the Australian with a high kick in the second round. That win marked the fourth stoppage victory in her last five victories, with three from four in the UFC.
Statistically speaking, VanZant should be the superior striker in this matchup. Connecting with 3.47 significant strikes per minute compared to Ostovich’s 2.68 per minute, and absorbing almost one strike less per minute, the stats seem to suggest that VanZant’s activity will get her across the line.
From our review, we found that Ostovich was relatively flat-footed and found herself eating straight punches down the line far too often both during her time at Invicta and in the UFC. Particularly impactful was the opponent’s jab, which would land cleanly on the nose without fail.
However, these are opportunities that VanZant may not be able to exploit. Because of her unique attacks and non-traditional boxing (which would actually be extremely effective against Ostovich) she might find herself tagging the hands and elbows of Ostovich rather than connecting cleanly through the guard.
Both fighters are relatively attacking when the fight hits the mat and are capable of locking up a fight-ending submission. But of most interest is that both fighters are defensively below average on the floor. Ostovich is known to give up her back with ease and VanZant did the same against Michelle Waterson. In many ways, this fight looks like it could finish inside the distance.
Currently, the odds for under 2.5 rounds are +212 at BetDSI and that screams excellent value for bettors.
Bet on Total Rounds – Under 2.5: +212 at BetDSI
Best Bets for UFC Fight Night 143
- TJ Dillashaw to win: -194 at Pinnacle
- Paige VanZant vs. Rachael Ostovich, Total Rounds – Under 2.5: +212 at BetDSI