UFC 251 Betting Tips, Picks and Predictions

I was on a huge winning streak heading into November 2014, when the UFC decided to do their first-ever event in Mexico City. Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum headlined UFC 180 in the UFC’s first attempt to break into the Latin American market.

These days we consider how the local climate is likely to affect how fighters perform on every MMA event, but it was a different time back in 2014. Back then, the UFC held the vast majority of its events in the United States, and they only did a handful of international events per year.

My big winning streak came to an abrupt end at UFC 180 when I ran into one of the biggest losing nights of my life. I had made the fatal mistake of significantly underestimating the impact that the high altitude climate of Mexico City would have on the fighters.

These days, with the wisdom of seeing the UFC hold events all over the world and seeing how different climates can dramatically affect how fighters perform, it’s crazy to overlook the impact that the high altitude climate could have had. Unfortunately, I got caught off guard, but like anything, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes, and I’ll never make that same mistake again.

Now, 6 years later, as we gear up for UFC 251, we are confronted with a new set of external factors to weigh up that could have a devastating effect on the fighters competing at UFC Fight Island this July.

There are a lot of hot and humid areas of the world, but the Desert Air that you find in Abu Dhabi is something different. It’s difficult to describe just how bad it is, but the air is so humid that you can almost taste the water in the air. The air is so thick that it almost feels like you can reach out and grab it. It also doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is. The air is just as bad at 2 am as it is at 2 pm. It’s a very different thing to anything I’ve experienced anywhere else in the world.

The latest episode of embedded does a great job of highlighting just how bad it is over there. Big shout out to MMax for sharing this video in the Chat Room. I’ve time stamped the latest episode to the point at which Paige VanZant arrives at Fight Island. Pay attention to a couple of these details…

It’s night time, and Paige still says that it feels like she’s walking around in a steam room.
Notice the condensation on the windows of the coach as it pulls up to the venue.
As Paige continues to speak, notice the distortion from the lights in the background. This shows that condensation is actually forming on the camera lens while they’re trying to record.

The UFC has held events in every corner of the world and consequently recorded embedded videos in every corner of the world. They’ve done them in humid locations like São Paulo, Singapore, Florida, and New Mexico. Never have I seen condensation forming on the lens of a camera. The desert air is something different, and we need to take it seriously.

We also have some further information we can use from last September’s event in Abu Dhabi to give us some clues as to what the impact on fighters might be. Click here to read an article from ESPN MMA that contains some fantastic insight. Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

 

I couldn’t breathe properly. The heat really sapped my energy really quick – Don Madge

The UFC has done a great job of promoting Fight Island, and it was genius marketing to put an Octagon on the beach and let people believe that these fights would be taking place on the beach. Unfortunately, these fights are definitely not taking place on the beach for a few reasons…

    1. The glare from the sun is dangerous for fighters. Imagine being trapped against the cage while your opponent is attacking you, and you can’t see them properly because the sun is shining right in your eyes and blinding you.
    2. Fighters with light skin would have to wear sun cream in the extreme sunlight of Abu Dhabi. This would make grappling impossible because fighters would essentially be greased up. Even if you let the sun cream dry, it would become oily again when the fighters started to sweat.
    3. Canvass materials start to get very hot when you shine a light on them for a long period of time. To get around this, MMA promotions fit special lights to Arenas that don’t emit as much heat. In 2011 a smaller MMA promotion didn’t realize that you needed to use special lighting to stop this from happening and instead lit their MMA cage with the same lights that the venue used for rock concerts. The canvass ended up getting so hot that it tore the skin from the soles of the fighters’ feet. Imagine what direct sunlight would do to a Canvass on the beach. Click here to read about the incident.
    4. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see that there are nails pointing through the canvass of the Octagon on the beach.

I understand that over the years, we’ve seen promotions like Bodog fights hold MMA events outdoors, but the UFC can’t compromise the health and safety of their athletes in the same way that a promotion like Bodog fights could 10 years ago. Times have changed, and the UFC would face too much criticism.

So, where are these fights taking place?

The UFC posted this video last week that shows they’re building a brand new arena on Yas Island:

 

From the video, it looks like they are creating some kind of Air Craft Hangar type structure to house the fights. This could potentially make the conditions much worse for fighters because an arena like this could quite literally turn into a Sauna with nowhere for the air to escape.

The UFC has been coy on the topic of whether or not the Arena will have Air Conditioning. They’ve said that they’re installing Air Con, but haven’t said whether it’ll be working in time for Saturday or any of the other fights this month. Earlier this week, some journalists started to report that it will, but there’s been no official announcement from the UFC. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Arena will not have fully functioning Air Conditioning in time for this weekend for a few different reasons:

      1. Air Conditioning units for Arenas are very expensive, and this is only a temporary location for the UFC.
      2. They had longer to build the Arena that UFC 242 – Khabib vs Poirier took place last September and that Arena DID NOT have Air Conditioning installed. It’s also worth noting that it’s much hotter in Abu Dhabi in July than it is in September, so conditions this weekend at UFC 251 are likely to be much worse than conditions last September at UFC 242.
      3. This Arena has only been built in the last 2 months. It looks like it is still under construction. It’s not finished yet.
      4. You cannot just install an Air Conditioning unit, turn it on and it works. It takes 6 to 8 weeks for an Air Conditioning unit to be installed and become fully functional. This makes it extremely unlikely that we’ll have Air Conditioning in time for this weekend because the Arena was not built 6 to 8 weeks ago.

We also have to take into consideration the fact that fighters have experienced severe disruptions in their preparation for their fights at Yas Island. The current process for fighters involves something like this…

        1. Fighters are tested for Corona Virus in the country that they live in.
        2. If they test negative, they are then quarantined in a hotel in their country for 48 hours.
        3. They then fly to Abu Dhabi. This is a 10 to 15-hour flight from the United States and a 6 to 10-hour flight if you live in Europe.
        4. Fighters are then tested again for Corona Virus when they arrive at Yas Island.
        5. If fighters test negative for Corona Virus, they then go into quarantine in their hotel room for a further 36 to 48 hours.

This entire process is likely to cause major disruptions to fighter’s preparations. It makes it much harder to cut weight and much harder to train and eat properly in the weeks leading up to fight day. I am predicting that we see many fighters miss weight this month at Yas Island. Luckily the UFC is self-regulating these events, so I’m sure they’ll let a lot of these issues slide and try and cover them up as best they can.

So what does this mean for us?

I think you need to ask yourself whether you are betting on MMA to make money or whether you are betting on MMA to gamble and have fun. If you are betting on MMA to make money, I strongly recommend that you do not bet on heavy favorites on this card at the very least. You may even want to pass on this card completely. Once we see how the fighters react to the conditions on Saturday night, we’ll be in a much stronger position to make solid prefight betting decisions for the rest of the cards in July.

Making money from betting, investing, anything to do with money is a constant process of foraging for new information. Those with the best information and ability to interpret that information correctly often do best. It is our job to try and make the best decision possible with the information we have available. Right now, the conditions the fighters are going to be competing under are a huge unknown, and we can speculate all we want, but there’s no way to know how good or bad it’s going to be.

Maybe the UFC has managed to get a great Air Con system up and running, and the fights will look just like they would if they were taking place at Madison Square Garden. Or maybe the Arena will be a giant sweatbox with even the best-conditioned fighters looking flat after 5 minutes. Right now, it’s impossible to be sure either way, but both of these outcomes are possible. The latter is more likely, based on all the information we have available.

My advice would be to approach this weekend’s event with the mindset of foraging for new information. Let’s see how the fighters look, and then we can make better prefight betting decisions on the rest of the UFC events in July.

I know that people are excited about this event because it’s a great card, but try not to put your money in any unnecessary danger. I strongly recommend sticking to betting underdogs or fighters around even money on this card because we don’t know how the conditions are going to affect any individual fighter.

If you bet on a heavy favorite, you’re not going to be getting a good value deal because the percentage risk of them underperforming due to the heat and humidity makes it impossible to find value on these kinds of bets. It’s much easier to find value on underdogs and even money bets because if the climate is equally likely to have a negative effect on both fighters, you stand a chance of the fighter you bet being fine under the conditions, whereas their opponent may struggle badly. In this instance, you’re actually using the potential variance of the climate to add additional value to bets that are already risky.

For example:

Say you think Kamaru Usman has a great chance of winning this weekend…

His current odds of around 1.40 | -250 | 2/5, carry an implied probability of around 70%, which means you need to give him a better than 70% chance of winning to find any value.

Now you have to consider what the probability is that the climate will affect him much worse than it will Masvidal. This is, of course, impossible to predict, but the risk could be as high as 50%, based on the logic that it may or may not affect him badly. With Usman being a cardio machine and never giving us any reason to doubt his gas tank, perhaps 20% to 30% risk is more reasonable. The point I’m trying to make is, even if you cap Usman at 75% under regular circumstances, it’s tough to get value there when there’s a 20% – 30% chance that Usman doesn’t look the same fighting in the extreme heat and humidity of Abu Dhabi.

Of course, the same risks apply to Masvidal, but you’re getting a much better risk to reward ratio because his current odds of around 3.00 | +200 | 2/1 carry an implied probability of just 33%. In this instance, you can use the variance of how the climate will impact both fighters to your advantage.

Masvidal can present potentially “extra” value if he reacts better to the conditions that Usman does. Again, it’s impossible to be sure, but on an event with so many intangibles, you’re much better off having your money on the live underdogs than the big favorites.

The good news to come out of all of this is that all the events throughout July and August look fantastic for Live Betting. This is because fights that take place in these kinds of conditions are more likely to go the distance and have momentum swings because fighters get tired and sloppy early into matchups. This takes the “pop” out of their shots, making KOs less likely, and it also makes submissions less likely because guys are sweaty and difficult to trap in bad positions on the ground. The more fights that go the distance, the better chance I have of reading how they’re likely to play out Live.

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Fight Betting Tip Who I think will win Who I think is the better bet
Jorge Masvidal vs Kamaru Usman 3 units on Kamaru Usman to win at odds of 1.44 | -227 | 11/25 Usman to win Usman to win
Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway No bet Volkanovski Volkanovski
Jose Aldo vs Petr Yan No bet Yan Yan
Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas No bet Namajunas Andrade
Amanda Ribas vs Paige VanZant No bet Ribas Ribas
Jiri Prochazka vs Volkan Oezdemir No bet Oezdemir Prochazka
Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos vs Muslim Salikhov No bet Salikhov Salikhov
Danny Henry vs Makwan Amirkhani No bet Henry Henry
Leonardo Santos vs Roman Bogatov 3 units on Leonardo Santos to win at odds of 1.57 | -175 | 57/100 Santos to win Santos to win
Maxim Grishin vs Marcin Tybura 2 units on Maxim Grishin to win at odds of 1.91 | -110 | 91/100 Grishin to win Grishin to win
Raulian Paiva vs Zhalgas Zhumagulov No bet Paiva Paiva
Karol Rosa vs Vanessa Melo No bet Rosa Melo
Davey Grant vs Martin Day No bet Grant Grant

Marcin Tybura vs Maxim Grishin Betting Tip and Prediction

Before researching this fight, I didn’t know anything about Maxim Grishin. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found when I went back and watched his last few fights. Even if he loses to Marcin Tybura this, I feel pretty confident in saying that he’s going to be really good in the UFC.

Grishin is, of course, a risky bet because he’s stepping up on just over a week’s notice to fight Tybura at Heavyweight when he usually fights at Light Heavyweight, but Grishin’s gas tank looked really good in his past fights, and Tybura shouldn’t have much of a size advantage here. Tybura will probably weigh a bit more than Grishin, but what Grishin lacks in weight, he’ll more than makeup for in speed. Both guys are 6 ft 3, so it’s not like Tybura will be bigger or more physically imposing; he’s just softer whereas Grishin is leaner. This can be seen in their fighting styles where Tybura is very slow, and Grishin is very fast.

As I mentioned earlier, all bets on this card are risky because we don’t know how each individual fighter is going to react to the climate in Abu Dhabi. I recommend watching my Livestream research session for this fight to decide for yourself if you’d like to bet Grishin this weekend:

Fighters who are stepping up on short notice to make their UFC debut often do not look good, but most of those guys are signed from low-level regional circuit promotions, and they’re often working a full-time job when the UFC gives them a call. They can’t afford to eat good, live good, or focus full time on their training. Grishin is different…

Maxim Grishin is an accomplished 30-7 MMA fighter who holds notable wins over tough opponents like Jordan Johnson, Trevor Prangley, Mario Miranda, Sokoudjou, and Alexander Volkov. He also hasn’t lost since he fought UFC Light Heavyweight, Magomed Ankalaev all the way back in 2016.

Grishin is your typical Russian fighter. He’s tough as nails, he has a good gas tank, and he’s pretty damn good everywhere. After watching a decent amount of footage on him, I honestly can’t find any major weaknesses in his skillset. He’s just really, really good.

I don’t usually like to bet on fighters taking a fight on short notice, but these are strange times, and we have to remember that Tybura’s also taking it on short notice. I accept he has more notice than Grishin, but Grishin’s never given us a reason to doubt his gas tank in his past fights.

One major reason why I like Grishin here is that he trains on a fight team that is bankrolled by the Chechen dictator, Ramzan Kadyrov. Most of the fighters that come out of this gym are legit as hell.

Grishin isn’t like most short notice UFC debutants who are probably working a minimum wage job and struggling to juggle the responsibilities of working full time and trying to be a professional athlete. Instead, this guy is driving nice cars, wearing designer clothes, hanging out with Chechen Dictators, and most probably in the gym every day training with some of the best fighters in Russia. I’d also guess that the lockdown in Chechenya isn’t as strict as it is in the United States, which means Grishin’s training may not have been disrupted at all.

 

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It’s impossible to know what kind of shape Grishin will be in for his fight against Tybura, but at roughly even money odds, we’re still getting a pretty good deal because there’s a really good chance that Grishin wins this fight by early knockout. Grishin’s gas tank isn’t going to matter if he can get Tybura out of there early. That’s why I see a decent amount of value on him here. I’m reasonably confident he can be at least competitive if the fight goes the distance, and I’m also reasonably confident he can knockout Tybura early.

Stylistically, Grishin has an advantage over Tybura almost everywhere. He’s a significantly better striker; he’s faster, more technical on the ground, better in the clinch, he literally ticks every box.

If this fight stays standing, I expect Grishin to dominate so long as he doesn’t gas out. The skill gap between him and Tybura is quite enormous. Tybura is incredibly slow and doesn’t carry much power in his hands. His Boxing is also quite low level. Grishin is fast, accurate, technical, and carries legit one-shot KO power in every strike. Grishin also has excellent leg kicks, a technique that Tybura is particularly susceptible to.

Grishin’s takedown defense isn’t bulletproof, but it is pretty good, and he’s extremely difficult to takedown against the cage. This is significant because Tybura works for most of his takedowns against the cage. What I really like about Grishin is that he never accepts being in a bad position for too long. If you take him down, he finds a way to pop back up to his feet very quickly.

Tybura should struggle to take Grishin down because all of Tybura’s takedown entries come from above hip height off trips. Grishin has shown in his fights against Jordan Johnson that he does a pretty good job of defending this particular type of takedown. In order to take Grishin down, you need to get in deep on his hips and legs, and that’s not easy to do for a big, stiff guy like Tybura who lacks the athleticism to drive in deep on his opponents.

The only risk factors that I can see with this bet is that Grishin might look terrible fighting under this climate and might also look terrible taking the fight on short notice. Having said that, it’s also possible that Tybura might look terrible fighting in this climate and at short notice. On top of that, it might not even matter if Grishin comes into this fight in bad shape because Tybura’s striking defense is poor, he’s super slow, and Grishin has a good chance of knocking him out early.

At roughly even money, it’s easy to find value here. On a full camp, I’d be huge on Grishin, but at short notice, it’s easy for me to give him at least a 60% chance of winning. Hopefully, he comes through for us.

Reasons for betting on Maxim Grishin

  • From a technical point of view, Grishin has an advantage over Tybura almost everywhere.
  • Max Grishin’s gas tank looked pretty good in his past fights.
  • Max Grishin is much faster than Marcin Tybura.
  • Maxim Grishin has legit 1 shot KO power in his hands.
  • Max Grishin is a very technical striker. He’s fast, accurate and throws a wide range of strikes.
  • Maxim Grishin is very experienced with a Pro MMA record of 30-7. He hasn’t lost in 4 years since losing to UFC Light Heavyweight, Magomed Ankalaev.
  • Maxim Grishin has reasonably good takedown defense for the kinds of takedowns that Tybura likes to shoot.
  • Grishin does a great job of quickly working back to his feet when he gets taken down.
  • Marcin Tybura has very bad striking defense.
  • Marcin Tybura is very suspectible to getting knocked out and Grishin will be one of the most dangerous strikers that he has fought.
  • Marcin Tybura is taking this fight on short notice.
  • Marcin Tybura is very susceptible to leg kicks. Grishin has excellent leg kicks.

Risk Factors with betting on Maxim Grishin

  • Max Grishin is taking this fight on about two weeks notice.
  • We don’t know how Grishin will react to the heat and humidity of Abu Dhabi.
  • Tybura is likely to weigh 15 to 20 pounds more than Grishin. Grishin usually fights at Light Heavyweight, but both guys are 6 ft 3.
  • Marcin Tybura has a heavy top game.
  • Grishin’s takedown defense isn’t bulletproof.
  • Grishin might suffer from Octagon jitters and underperform.
  • Marcin Tybura is very tough and he has a great gas tank for a Heavyweight.

My Betting Tip

Maxim Grishin to win

Recommended Stake

2 Units

[2% of your bankroll]

Odds

Decimal = 1.93
Moneyline = -107
Fractional = 93/100

52%

Implied Probability

The bookies believe that Maxim Grishin has a 52% chance of beating Marcin Tybura based on their current odds.

60%

Our Probability

I believe that Maxim Grishin has a 60% chance of beating Marcin Tybura based on my extensive research and analysis.

Jorge Masvidal vs Kamaru Usman Betting Tip and Prediction

In Gambling, all we can do is try to make the best decision possible with the information we have available. We haven’t seen Jorge Masvidal grapple since he fought Demian Maia back in 2017, but based on that performance, his chances of beating Kamaru Usman are slim.

I recommend checking out my livestream on this fight for more in depth insight on why I believe Usman is a good bet this weekend:

When Jorge Masvidal fought Demian Maia back in 2017, it was clear that Maia was very tired after round 1, and yet he still managed to mount Masvidal on more than one occasion, get to his back multiple times and take him down off a couple of weak single legs. It’s possible that Masvidal may have improved his grappling a lot since then, but it’s probably not going to be enough to deal with what Usman is bringing to the table. Usman’s MMA grappling is several levels above Demian Maia’s because Maia has the technique and physicality to cause you big problems for 1 round, but Usman has the technique and physicality to cause you big problems for 5 rounds.

Kamaru Usman is, in my opinion, the best MMA grappler on the planet right now. I think he’s even better than Khabib. The difference between Usman and Khabib is that Usman is just as physically imposing in the 25th minute of a fight as he is in the 1st, whereas Khabib slows down a bit as the rounds tick by. Khabib relies on his opponents, slowing down with him due to his crushing pressure, whereas Usman just keeps coming. If anything, he gets better as the fight goes on.

If Kamaru Usman comes into this fight with a grappling heavy gameplan, which the majority of his past performances suggest that he will, this becomes a very difficult fight for Jorge Masvidal.

If the fight stays standing, Usman will be in big trouble because he has bad striking defense. Masvidal has a huge advantage over Usman when it comes to striking.

This is a very easy stylistic matchup for Usman because, based on past performances, Masvidal does not have the defensive wrestling to prevent Usman from driving him into the cage, getting to the body lock and wet blanketing him for 25 minutes.

Masvidal’s only realistic chance of winning this fight is to knock Usman out, but that won’t be easy because Usman’s never been KO’d in his 17 fight career. It’s also worth noting that Masvidal’s not really a KO artist, he’s more of a volume striker. Sure he has some big highlight reel KOs on his record like you’d expect any fighter to have with almost 50 pro fights, but he doesn’t really possess that 1 shot KO power that usually generates flash KOs. Go back through his record and you’ll see a lot of his past fights have gone the distance.

As long as nothing crazy happens, Usman should win this fight quite easily, so long as he doesn’t try and win a Kickboxing mate. It’s possible he will. Fighters sometimes make crazy choices in matchups and try to prove a point, but Usman is a smart guy. It’s unlikely that he’ll make that mistake. Remember that there’s risk with every bet. There are no safe bets.

Reasons for betting on Kamaru Usman

  • Kamaru Usman will have a decent size advantage over Jorge Masvidal. Usman is a huge Welterweight, whereas Masvidal used to fight at Lightweight.
  • Kamaru Usman will have a 4 inch reach advantage over Masvidal. This will make it easier for him to get to the body lock in the clinch.
  • Kamaru Usman is an extremely high level MMA grappler.
  • Kamaru Usman has an amazing chin. He’s never been KO’d in his entire 17 fight career.
  • Jorge Masvidal will become significantly less dangerous with each round that ticks by as Usman’s grappling starts to wear on him and tires his arms out. Masvidal will slowly lose that “pop” in his shots.
  • Kamaru Usman does an incredible job of using bodylock back control to control his opponents in the clinch and take them down. Masvidal gives up his back a lot when defending takedowns.
  • Masvidal likes to scramble like crazy when defending takedowns, but against a guy like Usman this often just gives him opportunities to establish new dominant positions.
  • Kamaru Usman has incredible cardio. He gets better as the fight goes on.
  • Jorge Masvidal is stepping up to take this fight on just 6 days notice. I understand he’s probably been training in preparation for this, but who knows if he’s in actual fight shape.
  • Jorge Masvidal’s takedown defense looked pretty bad the last time we saw him grapple against Demian Maia.
  • Kamaru Usman is a significantly better grappler than Jorge Masvidal.

Risk Factors with betting on Kamaru Usman

  • Kamaru Usman has very bad striking defense.
  • Usman has switched camps from Sanford MMA to Trevor Wittman’s gym in Denver Colorado.
  • Jorge Masvidal is tough as nails. He’s always trying to win. He’s always dangerous.
  • Jorge Masvidal has a big advantage over Kamaru Usman when it comes to striking.
  • Kamaru Usman didn’t try to take Colby down in his last fight. Perhaps his ego will get the better of him and he’ll try to stand and strike with Masvidal. This could get him into a lot of trouble.
  • We don’t know how the long travelling and lengthy quarantine is going to effect the fighters.
  • Kamaru Usman has chronic injuries in his knees.

My Betting Tip

Kamaru Usman to win

Recommended Stake

3 Units

[3% of your bankroll]

Odds

Decimal = 1.44
Moneyline = -227
Fractional = 11/25

69%

Implied Probability

The bookies believe that Kamaru Usman has a 69% chance of beating Jorge Masvidal based on their current odds.

75%

Our Probability

I believe that Kamaru Usman has a 75% chance of beating Jorge Masvidal based on my extensive research and analysis.

Allsopp
I'm a Professional Gambler from the UK. I specialize in betting on MMA. I've got 1 kid, a Shih Tzu and I've been making money from gambling for around 8 years now.