How to bet UFC Fight Night: Velasquez vs. Ngannou 👊



Mar 6, 2018
How to bet UFC Fight Night: Velasquez vs. Ngannou


In a long-awaited moment, this week's UFC main card (and even prelims) will air live on ESPN. Trendy restaurants and lounges around the country who normally refuse to put "combat sports" on their bar TV's, will suddenly be forced to rethink their position. You can't turn off ESPN at a bar!

And so, a very large television audience, perhaps the largest ever, will witness a heavyweight showdown between a former champion and a former championship contender to help solidify the division's title picture. And it wouldn't be an intriguing MMA matchup without a significant stylistic contrast.

Let's look at the stats, and decide where the betting value might be.
Heavyweight Matchup: Cain Velasquez (-165) vs No. 3 Francis Ngannou (+145)

Tale Of The Tape
Last fight weight classHeavyweightHeavyweight
Current age3632
Height (in)7376
Reach (in)7783
Analyzed minutes11165
Standup striking offense
Career knockdown ratio
(Scored : Received)
Distance knockdown rate9.1%8.3%
Head jab accuracy34%26%
Head power accuracy37%27%
Total standup strike ratio1.21.5
Striking defense
Total head strike defense68%66%
Distance knockdown
defense ("Chin")
Wrestling and grappling
TD attempts/minute
Takedown accuracy43%0%
Advances per
takedown/top control
Opponent takedown attempts1232
Takedown defense75%69%
Share of total ground
time in control
Submission attempts
per trip to ground

It's hard to fully account for the long injury layoffs of Cain Velasquez. From a data perspective, Cain would fail a simple check for having three UFC fights in the last five years. And so that adds additional uncertainty to any quantitative view. But we still have their career stats to compare, and on paper Cain's striking is clearly technically superior, while his wrestling is absolutely dominant. Both men have poor head strike defense, however, Cain appears to be slightly worse for the wear having taken more career shots and being four years older.

Heavyweights tend to play to trends, and Ngannou has certainly been consistent. He either wins with an early finish, or gets stalled and loses a decision. In fact, he's never won a decision in his career, a testament to what he's capable of when he actually mounts an offense. The same trend should be in effect here: he either knocks out Velasquez, or Ngannou gets stifled by the vastly superior wrestler and gases on the way to losing a decision or getting finished late.

If leather flies, Ngannou's range, power and resiliency could overtake Velasquez's division-best pace and output. But that "if" could be fleeting. While Ngannou has literally never landed a takedown in UFC action, Velasquez brings solid wrestling credentials to the Octagon. In terms of how often each fighter is in a dominant position when the fight hit's the ground, it doesn't get any more extreme than Velasquez controlling 97 percent of those minutes, compared to just 2 percent for Ngannou. While Ngannou's takedown defense is slightly above average, Velasquez's persistence could make that moot.
E+ recommends: The numbers liked Ngannou when he reached +240, but heavy recent action eroded most of that value, as his new price runs just +145. Ngannou is now only a small lean on paper, and that excludes the uncertainty of focusing primarily on Cain's most recent data that excludes some of his best work. We could see Velasquez supporters show up closer to fight time to push the odds further apart. Only play the upset if it exceeds +200, and that also includes the TKO prop, though it will only add a little upside to his moneyline. Otherwise, just pass on taking sides, and wait for the heavyweight division's dust to settle. We could easily get reminded of why Cain was a champion if he is fresh and injury free.

One upside of the currently close odds is that the "Inside the Distance" price has come down. Despite being an expensive -690 (down from over -800), it makes a logical parlay booster for the bargain hunters out there. If Ngannou doesn't get the early finish, that means we're seeing the resurgence of Cardio Cain, who is capable of dominating any fight (at sea level, anyway). Velasquez is a more dangerous grappler than Stipe Miocic, who couldn't quite get the finish against Ngannou. Velasquez will have more finishing potential, should he survive the early onslaught, and in either scenario the fight should not go to the cards.
Odds and ends

Overall, the odds for the card are very close, with fewer big betting favorites than most previous cards. That means there should be several mild underdogs that will come through for an upset. On that front, consider bantamweight Aljamain Sterling, who brings superior grappling against striker Jimmie Rivera.

Or for conservative options and parlay fodder, try Cynthia Calvillo and Vicente Luque. Each will cost more than three-to-one odds, but appear to be among the safer favorites.