How to bet UFC 236's two title fights

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The UFC achieves another first this weekend with its first pay-per-view event on the ESPN+ platform. The card not only features two title fights, but also some of the most accurate power strikers on the roster.


Both divisions with belts on the line are in flux, with their respective incumbent champions on the bench. But there's no shortage of compelling matchups in the meantime. And the UFC's matchmakers clearly must be in their groove, because the card from top to bottom is super tight from a betting odds perspective. Yet despite the even matchups, the card also is trending toward more expected finishes.

All these ingredients point to a fun event for fight fans, but here and now we're just interested in whether either title fight offers betting value.

Interim middleweight championship matchup: No. 5 Israel Adesanya (-175) vs. No. 4 Kelvin Gastelum (+155)

Tale Of The Tape

Last fight weight class Middleweight Middleweight
Current age 29 27
Height (in) 76 69
Reach (in) 80 72
Stance Switch Southpaw
Analyzed minutes 68 165
Standup striking offense
Career knockdown ratio
(Scored : Received)
4:0 9:1
Distance knockdown rate 3.6% 4.3%
Head jab accuracy 35% 34%
Head power accuracy 39% 33%
Total standup strike ratio 1.2 1.2
Striking defense
Total head strike defense 81% 72%
Distance knockdown
defense ("Chin")
100% 100%
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts/minute
(Standing/clinch)
0.05 0.14
Takedown accuracy 0% 50%
Advances per
takedown/top control
N/A 1.1
Opponent takedown attempts 40 62
Takedown defense 85% 63%
Share of total ground
time in control
34% 47%
Submission attempts
per trip to ground
0.17 0.06
Israel Adesanya could be the next big thing, but taking just four fights to earn his first title shot doesn't leave us with much data for analysis.

The rangy and elusive striker looks like a new and improved (and much younger) Anderson Silva on paper and in style. Silva, coincidentally, is who Adesanya defeated soundly in his most recent outing to earn the title shot. Adesanya demonstrated his superior fast-twitch accuracy and strike avoidance against Silva, beating a legend at his own game.

A 43-year-old legend.



So, there is still some question as to the validity of the data given the selection of opponents. Adesanya's most dominant performance came against a top-10 middleweight, Derek Brunson, who offered a dangerous wrestling base to test the resiliency of Adesanya's striking game. Yet Brunson also came into the fight with poor strike defense and a low "chin" rating, making him ripe for counterstriking. We recommended Adesanya in that fight and expected the TKO finish. But Kelvin Gastelum is more durable than Brunson, with the bonus of a more effective takedown success rate.

Adesanya might be the middleweight division's most accurate striker, but not nearly the most powerful one. Gastelum is undersized in reach but has been successful in closing the distance thanks to his dual striking-wrestling threat. This will be the best test yet for Adesanya to see if he can deploy his striking in the long run by forcing a well-rounded opponent into a striking duel.

E+ recommends: At current odds, and based on the limited history for Adesanya, this fight looks like a pass. We do expect it to be close early on, and should Gastelum press forward with takedowns despite eating shots, the rounds could be mixed. While the outcome is volatile and uncertain, expect the fight to at least enter Round 3, so we'll lean the over 3.5 Rounds at nearly even money. Interim lightweight championship matchup: Featherweight champion Max Holloway (-210) vs. No. 3 Dustin Poirier(+175)

Tale Of The Tape

Last fight weight class Featherweight Lightweight
Current age 27 30
Height (in) 71 69
Reach (in) 70 73
Stance Orthodox Southpaw
Analyzed minutes 236 205
Standup striking offense
Career knockdown ratio
(Scored : Received)
8:0 11:2
Distance knockdown rate 1.0% 2.4%
Head jab accuracy 30% 37%
Head power accuracy 42% 43%
Total standup strike ratio 1.2 1.2
Striking defense
Total head strike defense 74% 70%
Distance knockdown
defense ("Chin")
100% 99%
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts/minute
(Standing/clinch)
0.03 0.43
Takedown accuracy 83% 41%
Advances per
takedown/top control
3.6 0.5
Opponent takedown attempts 107 49
Takedown defense 83% 69%
Share of total ground
time in control
44% 58%
Submission attempts
per trip to ground
0.30 0.46
It's a redemption fight eight years in the making, given that Holloway's UFC debut was a loss to Poirier. However, both fighters have clearly come a long way since then, and this matchup should reflect their performance trends in more recent fights.

Standing, both men are highly accurate and like to press the pace against opponents. That means we should see bursts of activity while the fight is standing. Holloway gets the edge on defense, and as the fight develops he also should start to overtake and dominate the pace of the fight during the championship rounds.
Poirier won the first contest on the mat, and his best chance against Holloway here should also leverage a grappling game. The problem for Poirier is that Holloway's takedown defense has been solid and has only gotten better with age. When he was barely 20 years old, Holloway suffered an experience gap that has since been closed. He's likely to stop most takedowns and survive time on the ground when Poirier is successful getting there. The early battle will be back and forth, but the more leather that is traded, the more Holloway should pull away and eventually get a finish.

E+ recommends: We once again have a recommendation for a fighter moving up a weight class, which tempers our expectations somewhat. But should the two trade leather, Holloway is likely to land more often and has proven to be more resilient than Poirier in the pocket. It could take a while to develop, but Holloway's ability to pour on the damage in later rounds should eventually prove too much for Poirier. Holloway is the money-line recommendation, and we don't expect this to go the full distance.