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  • How To Bet UFC 227

    How to bet UFC 227, including TJ Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt

    Reed Kuhn
    ESPN INSIDER


    The UFC returns to Los Angeles for a night of title rematches at UFC 227. Pitting the same two fighters in the men's flyweight and bantamweight divisions might sound redundant if each didn't offer such an interesting storyline for the matchup.


    For Henry Cejudo, the question is whether two additional years of MMA training will bring him up the curve enough to truly challenge the sport's best pound-for-pound fighter, Demetrious Johnson. Cejudo's Olympic wrestling pedigree makes him an interesting matchup if he can survive elsewhere in the cage long enough to utilize it.

    Meanwhile, the main event is not a question of "if," but "when." When will either Cody Garbrandt or TJ Dillashaw hurt the other? Which one will first capitalize on a small opening of opportunity? The leather traded in their first matchup resulted in three knockdowns combined. Though Dillashaw was the first to be dropped, he recovered and finished the fight by knockout in the second round. It foreshadows the violence each is capable of, and leaves us wondering which side of the coin will decide the championship on fight night.



    Let's look at the betting odds for both title fights, and where the performance metrics contrast. The decisiveness of the outcomes will influence whether a trilogy is in order for either division, or if we could finally get a superfight matchup between the flyweight and bantamweight champions.


    Flyweight title: Champion Demetrious Johnson (-600) vs No. 1 Henry Cejudo (+425)


    {C}
    Tale of the tape


    Last fight weight class
    Flyweight
    Flyweight
    Age
    31
    31
    Height
    63
    64
    Reach
    66
    64
    Stance
    Orthodox
    Orthodox
    Minutes analyzed
    351.7
    98.2
    Total knockdown ratio
    4 : 1
    3 : 1
    Distance knockdown rate
    2%
    3%
    Head jab accuracy
    30%
    21%
    Head power accuracy
    31%
    28%
    Total standup strike ratio
    1.1
    0.8
    Total head strike defense
    86%
    80%
    Chin (distance knockdown defense)
    99%
    100%
    TD attempts per min. standing/clinch
    0.7
    0.5
    Total takedown accuracy
    56%
    38%
    Advances per top control
    0.8
    0.6
    Opponent takedown attempts
    123
    7
    Takedown defense
    65%
    100%
    Share of total ground time in control
    69%
    100%
    Submission attempts per trip to ground
    0.10
    0.06


    With the exception of Jon Jones, we have seen nearly all fighters called the pound-for-pound best falter at some point. With each title defense, the question is whether a specific challenger brings the particular skill set that uniquely matches up favorably against the champion's, or whether the fight will randomly fall prey to the extreme volatility of MMA. For Demetrious Johnson, we have to go back a long time to find the fight he struggled through, which was when he fought Ian McCall to a majority draw in the flyweight championship semifinal in 2012. It was a fight where Johnson scored zero takedowns, but was taken down by his opponent four times. And that fight came off of Johnson's only UFC loss. He challenged Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title in 2011 but was severely outwrestled by Cruz, who landed 10 total takedowns en route to a clear unanimous decision victory.

    It would seem then that fighters who can get Johnson to the mat and keep him there, would be ideally suited to challenge for the throne that has been so dominantly held by a single champion. Enter Cejudo, winner of a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the Olympic games in Beijing in 2008. While he clearly comes from wrestling roots, he has strangely elected to strike during most of his UFC matchups. To his credit, he has shown steadily improving boxing, avoids much damage while trading and throws solid power behind his punches.

    However, Johnson's technical striking has reached a superlative point of absurdity. He presses his opponents in pace while combining precision with excellent avoidance. His speed plays an important role, as he has proven nearly impossible to hit. The key to this matchup will be whether Cejudo can hold his ground while standing comfortably enough to find openings to change levels. He took Johnson down early in their first fight but didn't keep him there, eventually being caught by a knee in the clinch. If Cejudo has learned from mistakes, advanced his hybrid MMA style of fighting, and maintained his wrestling base, he's certainly capable of winning rounds against Johnson. Lots of "ifs" but not entirely unrealistic ones.

    Insider recommends: The odds for Johnson are steep, which is actually quite normal during his dominant title reign. He's been favored in every fight since becoming the first and only flyweight champ. But on paper, while we agree with Johnson as a clear favorite, we can't quite justify the current price. Arguably there's some small value on the upset play, as long as you're getting at least 4-to-1 odds on Cejudo. More practically, however, expect Cejudo to put in a more measured performance that could turn this fight into a positional chess match, one that must eventually be decided by the judges. In which case, getting even or better odds on the Over 4.5 Rounds or Goes the Distance prop is the most reasonable play. Tough fighters have survived five rounds with Mighty Mouse before, and Cejudo could do so while also stealing a round or two.

    Bantamweight title: Champion TJ Dillashaw (-120) vs No. 1 Cody Garbrandt (EV)


    Tale of the tape


    Last fight weight class
    Bantamweight
    Bantamweight
    Age
    27
    32
    Height
    68
    66
    Reach
    65.5
    68
    Stance
    Orthodox
    Orthodox
    Minutes analyzed
    70.5
    182.3
    Total knockdown ratio
    9 : 2
    7 : 2
    Distance knockdown rate
    7%
    3%
    Head jab accuracy
    44%
    28%
    Head power accuracy
    30%
    27%
    Total standup strike ratio
    0.9
    1.4
    Total head strike defense
    76%
    73%
    Chin (distance knockdown defense)
    98%
    99%
    TD attempts per min. standing/clinch
    0.2
    0.4
    Total takedown accuracy
    38%
    38%
    Advances per top control
    0.6
    1.3
    Opponent takedown attempts
    8
    34
    Takedown defense
    100%
    85%
    Share of total ground time in control
    82%
    96%
    Submission attempts per trip to ground
    0.00
    0.46
    UFC 227 probably will end in violence thanks to the heated rivalry between two of the best to ever compete at bantamweight. In the first fight, both fighters had their moments, but Dillashaw came out on top. On paper, it's a bit surprising, given that Garbrandt is harder to hit, more powerful, and came into their first fight having never been dropped.

    Having both trained at Team Alpha Male, one would expect each to be a competent wrestler. While we haven't seen much wrestling from them in recent fights, both have strong takedown defense and about average takedown success rates, suggesting their wrestling skills could cancel out and force another firefight.



    Which leaves us with what could be a spectacular striking duel. Garbrandt is a sometimes-hesitant headhunter, and delivers the best power in division history (owning a higher knockdown rate than John Lineker). While his highly accurate jab shows his boxing skills, he rarely throws them, instead mostly swinging for the fences. The result is a lower output than opponents but great success in dropping them to the canvas. On paper that's ideally suited to face a combination striker like Dillashaw.

    Dillashaw has evolved into a stark stylistic contrast in striking. He throws with high volume, mixes his attack with plenty of kicks and combinations, and maximizes his use of the cage with constant movement. He wants to deliver strikes in flurries, allowing cumulative damage to take a toll and set up the finish. He outlanded Garbrandt in their first fight, settling into his groove in the second round after the first-round scare. But his aggression can also be countered, if only his opponent is good enough to time the entrances.

    Insider recommends: Will history repeat itself? Can Dillashaw be the smarter and rangier fighter, or will Garbrandt deliver a knockout counter, this time without getting overly aggressive and giving Dillashaw an opening to exploit. The numbers show a near coin-flip, with an ever so slight edge to Dillashaw, possibly due to his superior clinch and ground position control. However, if Garbrandt was either slowed down by a back injury in the first fight, or caught up in the moment enough to forget his striking strategy, we'd recommend a pass unless either fighter becomes clear plus money on fight night. The weapons of one or the other should eventually find a target, making "does not go the distance" parlay fodder, but even the 2.5 rounds total is too tight to play, as they could fight conservatively out of the gates. With so much potential on either side of the cage, this fight is simply one to watch and enjoy.

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