Alexander Volkanovski celebrates
Alexander Volkanovski celebrates after defeating Max Holloway in a mixed martial arts featherweight championship bout at UFC 245, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Fight Night: Boxing/UFC 266 Best Bets, Sept. 25


From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, ‘the perfect storm’ awaits in this boxing match as Anthony Joshua will be defending his heavyweight title against fellow 2012 gold medalist, Oleksandr Usyk. Joshua won his London gold at heavyweight, while Usyk placed 1st in the cruiserweight division. Although the tale of the tape tells us AJ is a 6’6 physical specimen, despite his disadvantage at height and reach, Usyk’s sharp precision and quickness may pose a threat to the british style of Joshua. Nonetheless, it will be a fiercely competitive fight between two of the top fighters in the sport. Here’s how I expect this fight to go down.

The opening line for this contest favored AJ at -280 and his ML odds have yet to move from that mark. Although Joshua soundly defeated his last opponent by KO, he was not as heavily favored going into the fight. After suffering his first loss in devastating fashion to 9/1 underdog Andy Ruiz, oddsmakers have been generous with Joshua’s opening lines given uncertainties surrounding his chin. However, AJ has a tremendous resume with 24 wins where 22 of them came by knockout. The British fighter has experience with boxers from the Ukraine, notably when he won the IBO heavyweight title in his more recent victory over Ukrainian, Wladimir Klitschko. He will certainly have his hands full versus this Ukrainian cat, but he has plenty of knowledge with this brand of boxing. Given their all-around ability, I was surprised to see this as not the favored method of victory. Although this should be a competitive back and forth fight, Joshua will edge out a victory. If you want more value than the -280 ML, take this juicy method prop.

UFC 266

Across the pond from Las Vegas, this fight night heats up with UFC 266. This card is loaded with fun action featuring two championship bouts in the women’s flyweight and men’s featherweight division. However, the main headline of this card surrounds the return of UFC legend, Nick Diaz. It will once again be another volatile night in the UFC with this stacked card, and here’s what I like.

The initial line for this match was a lot closer for Diaz at +105, but his odds have since decreased to +125. In this one, he will be going up against his former foe Robbie Lawler. The last time these two saw each other was 2004, where Diaz knocked out Lawler in the 2nd round. Given that Diaz hasn’t fought since 2015, this double chance prop is more of a value pick than anything. Contrarily, Lawler has stayed the course in the UFC as a journeyman striker. However, he is on a four fight losing streak and has not won a contest since 2017. In the event press conference, Diaz did promise fireworks for this fight which could go either way. The line for this bout to end inside the distance is nearly at even odds, so he may be the one who ends up getting lucky. In his 26-9 record, 21 of his wins have ended either via knockout or submission so he’s always looking for a finish. Although he has been away from the sport for some time, I fully expect Nick to put up a gritty Diaz-esque performance. Against a guy who he has beat and has visibly lost steam, Nick has a real shot at making a comeback.  

In this main event of the evening, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski defends his title versus Brian Ortega. Volkanovski opened up as a -190 ML favorite and is currently listed at -185. He is coming off back to back victories against title contender Max Holloway, whereas when Oretega faced Max he was knocked out in the first round. While this is a completely different matchup, Max has been one of the best all-around fighters and serves as a great benchmark for this contest. Although Ortega is no slouch and certainly deserves a title shot, Volkanovski’s skills are unmatched in the division he reigns as a true champion. Ortega should be able to hold him off until the final bell which gives these +135 odds remarkable value. Bet on Bruce Buffer to announce “aaaand still!” at the end of this one. 

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