In a matter of 24 hours, the UFC 294 card was reshuffled. What we have now is arguably an even more intriguing card, certainly from a betting perspective. You’ll want to keep reading to get our expert picks on UFC 294 fights!
What: UFC 294
When: Saturday, October 21
Where: Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski Betting Pick
Charles Oliveira busted his eyelid open, forcing him out of this rematch with the lightweight champion. But we’re still getting a rematch — only against Volkanovski, who lost a close decision to Makhachev earlier this year. This new main event excites us because the Makhachev vs. Volkanovski odds are a lot closer. Here’s how the top betting sites for UFC have it pegged:
Even in defeat, Volkanovski shocked the world in his first go-round with Makhachev. The featherweight champion entered the fight around +300 odds. Volkanovski was fighting a much larger foe in Makhachev and also in Abu Dhabi, a de-facto homecoming for the Muslim-abiding Makhachev. Regardless, Volkanovski didn’t struggle to escape takedowns and strike right back against the bigger fighter. He ultimately lost on the scorecards (48-47, 48-47, 49-46), but some argued he did enough to win.
Bookies are respecting Volkanovski’s chances more in this one based on the current moneyline, but we actually think the odds are more against him this time. We mean, the guy took this fight on 11 days' notice. 11 days — that’s it. It’s a big change of gameplan going from Oliveira to Volkanovski for Makhachev, but at least he was in camp and preparing. Volkanovski wasn’t AND he has to jump weight still. Let’s also not forget that Volkanovski had hand surgery this past July.
These two are arguably the best pound-for-pound fighters in the promotion, but one is at a massive disadvantage. That’s why we’d recommend a sizable bet on Makhachev. Yes, sizable cause we just don’t see how Volkanovski pulls out this win. Credit his heart for taking this fight last-minute but it’ll hurt him inside the octagon. We predict a repeat decision win for Makhachev.
Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev Betting Pick
A day after Volkanovski inserted himself into the main event, Usman did the same in the semi-main event. The former welterweight champion replaces Paulo Costa in this fight against the undefeated Chimaev. Here’s the current Chimaev-Usman moneyline odds:
This fight will be at middleweight — new territory for both guys. Usman won that championship and dominated the division for a number of years. However, he lost the belt to Leon Edwards then another rematch afterward. Then there’s Chimaev, who likely would’ve been in line for a title shot but making weight became an issue. The last time we saw him, he failed to make weight against Nate Diaz and then beat Kevin Holland instead.
On the surface, both fighters have extremely similar styles. Neither is afraid to stand up and exchange fists, however, each is also excellent at the takedown and control afterward. Of course, Usman has the disadvantage of not being fully prepared for this fight. Moreover, many think the 36-year-old is in decline physically.
Though, we’d push back on that narrative. Look, is Usman the same caliber fighter that completely knocked out Jorge Masvidal a few years ago? No, but he’s not chopped liver either. He would’ve won the first Edwards matchup if not for a wild KO in the fifth round. The rematch wasn’t his best effort, but it was a close loss. We wouldn’t be so quick to write off the former welterweight champion.
With that said, Chimaev is the bet to make. The narrative going against him is he’s never fought any top-tier talent and is untested. Personally, we think he’s the real deal and will show that here. It wouldn’t shock us if Chimaev stops Usman early.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker Betting Pick
After betting two straight moneylines, we’re going with the Ankalaev-Walker over/under line instead. It hasn't been released by bookies yet, but that won't deter us from our prediction.
|Over TBD rounds
|Under TBD rounds
This one is going under. It has to given each’s fight style. Ankalaev is the big favorite to win at -335 moneyline. The light heavyweight could be in line for a title shot again (he drew last time out against Jan Blachowicz) and it’s because he’s a balanced fighter. His A-game is grappling but he’s a KO guy too — 10 of 18 wins have been by knockout.
Speaking of KO’s, that’s Walker's MO. He’s a KO artist if we’ve ever seen one with 16 of 22 wins coming via knockout. Going head-hunting is Walker’s best chance at victory so we can see him being aggressive in this fight — which could be good or bad (bad for leaving himself vulnerable to being countered right back). All things considered, bet on the early finish and under.
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