UFC 261 Odds, Best Bets, Predictions, and Analysis

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UFC 261 will feature real fans?! That’s right, inside of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and the entire venue will be 100% full. Tickets sold out in record time and fighters will surely welcome back the energy that fans bring to a fight. Each fighter on the main card has been in the UFC for several years. In order to give UFC 261 best bets, we will go back and look at their past fights to predict the future on April 24th.

UFC 261 is loaded with three title fights which will be five rounds each. Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal rematch is the headliner of the card preceded by two women titles fights. Weili Zhang vs. Rose Namajunas is poised to be one of the most competitive women’s fights of all time.

Notes** method of victory prop betting is the best way to bet UFC. In many instances, you can take a big favorite using their most likely win condition to avoid laying big bets and opening yourself up to large inherent risk in the event of an unexpected loss. In these cases, you should do your research and find what that most likely win condition is.

Thankfully, you have me who is doing research for you. Lastly, all stats are provided by UFCStats.

UFC 261 Odds & Main Card Analysis

Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (+168) vs. Jimmy Crute (-210)

Budding UFC Light Heavyweight prospect Jimmy Crute will get his first taste of top-tier competition. He faces off against Anthony Smith who once fought Jon Jones for the title. Since then, Smith has fallen on hard times. He was annihilated by Glover Teixeira and was non-competitive against Aleksandar Rakic.

Jimmy Crute hits like a mac truck and has very solid ground technique. He submitted BJJ black-belt Paul Craig and submitted Michal Oleksiejczuk. Crute is a well-rounded fighter who will pose plenty of threats to Anthony Smith. Smith is trending down absorbing more shots than he lands. He absorbs 4.38 significant strikes per minute and lands 2.94 significant strikes per minute per UFCStats.

Crute has not had a fight hit the scorecards yet in the UFC. I projected Crute by knockout to hang around +150 but it appears we are getting more value than expected. Crute via knockout is currently +185 which is excellent value. Live bet note that if Smith gets out of the first round he could be a good live bet. Similar to Andrei Arlovski this past weekend when I got him +750 live after round one – he went on to win the fight by decision.

UFC 261 Best Bets: Jimmy Crute  +185 by knockout via DraftKings Sportsbook

Uriah Hall (-110) vs. Chris Weidman (-110)

The former Ultimate Fighter Champion Uriah Hall is back after knocking out the legend Anderson Silva. He faces off against the first man to defeat Silva in Chris Weidman. This is a very interesting stylistic matchup. Uriah Hall is a crazy athletic striker with a 79″ reach and very athletic striking. Chris Weidman and Hall have a bunch of shared past opponents which is extremely helpful to diagnose this fight.

I have not been overly impressed with Weidman recently. “The chin does not recover” is a famous UFC saying. This would be a good way of describing Weidman. He has lost 5 of 7 fights and struggles with high-level strikers. Urijah Hall is just that – a creative with deadly knockout power. Furthermore, Hall has solid takedown defense. Weidman is a takedown machine so that will be important for Hall’s success.

If this fight goes to decision, I will assume that Weidman landed takedowns and won. However, Weidman has been knocked down in 3 of his last 4. He might struggle to recover if he is hit hard by Hall. Most likely, Uriah Hall will win this fight via knockout but I want to see how the opening round starts off before I place my bet. My best recommendation would be to live bet it within the first few minutes to see how each fighter looks.

If placing a bet prefight, the only real options are Hall by knockout or Weidman by decision. Hall looks primed for a late-career run at the title. I’ll put my money on an early KO from Hall.

UFC 261 Best Bets: Hall by Knockout +200 via BetMGM Sportsbook *Live Betting note on Weidman after round one if round one is close

Valentina Shevchenko (-400) vs. Jessica Andrade (+300)

Call me crazy, but when looking at Valentina Shevchenko’s past competition – it is not overly impressive. Now, she has been absolutely dominant so far. However, I am fascinated to see this fight against Jessica Andrade. Jessica pushes the pace, will not be afraid of Valentina, and lands takedowns in bunches.  I haven’t seen Shevchenko legitimately tested by an aggressive fighter – most of her opponents have been passive.

Andrade’s aggressiveness is proven in the stats too. Andrade lands 6.38 significant strikes per minute and lands 3.11 takedowns per 15 minutes. This is extremely different than anything Shevchenko has dealt with in her recent fights. Valentina deserves to be a -400 favorite with the wild run she has been on. However, I think Andrade is a bigger stronger fighter who won’t be intimidated by Valentina.

It will surprise many, but I think Andrade is a live dog here. FanDuel Sportsbook has the method of victory props available for this fight. I would bet Andrade outright at +310 but her to win by decision is extremely tasty at +950. I am taking a stab on this one and tail at your own risk but you will not get a better value at a +950 (9.52% implied) bet.

UFC 261 Best Bets: Jessica Andrade via decision +950 via FanDuel Sportsbook

Weili Zhang (-192) vs. “Thug” Rose Namajunas (+154)

One of the most anticipated women’s title fights in UFC history is on this card and I can’t wait. Weili Zhang beat the brakes off of Joanna Jedrzejczk in this fight in March – despite it being a split decision. Joanna had a hematoma bursting off of her forehead (image here viewer discretion is extremely advised).

Overall, I see this as a tough matchup for Thug Rose. Zhang knocked out Jessica Andrade early in the first round. Furthermore, Andrade knocked out Rose via a brutal slam at UFC 237. I think Zhang is an incredibly tough matchup for Rose and I have a hard time seeing how Rose wins this fight. Zhang has excellent durability, knockout power, and a very solid ground game.

This is truly the best bet on the entire card. Zhang is an absolute monster and I think she is head’s shoulders better than any women in the weight class. I think she could win by KO which I would project around +220 but I think the price is excellent as is. Rose could survive the whole fight so I will bet Zhang on the moneyline. This could be the last time that we will get Zhang under -200 for a while.

UFC 261 Best Bets: Weili Zhang -190 via PointsBet Sportsbook

Kamaru Usman (-400) vs. Jorge Masvidal (+300)

Following the UFC on Fight Island main event last July at UFC 251. We have not seen Masvidal since that defeat that was mostly uncompetitive. Understandably, the real fight for Masvidal was not the fight but it was cutting 20 pounds in five days with no sauna. Not being able to cut out the water weight that quickly is a brutal situation for a fighter who badly needs to drop the water weight as quickly as possible. Masvidal was clearly compromised walking into the fight and was easily put away by Kamaru Usman.

Usman did show a chink in his armor against Gilbert Burns who almost knocked him out in the first round of their fight in February. Burns is not the striker that Masvidal is but Masvidal is also not the grappler that Burns is. Usman did not want to grapple with Burns whereas Usman will want to grapple with Masvidal.

Usman dominated Masvidal in their first fight and I don’t see that changing here. Anyone has a puncher’s chance – especially Jorge Masvidal. However, Usman is so skilled with his takedowns I see him landing multiple takedowns again in this one. Usman is the fighter that is improving rapidly and Burns was a bad matchup for him. Usman still won that fight with ease. We have seen Usman dominate Masvidal – because of that, there is little value on Usman. If betting Masvidal, you are betting knockout +460. I will be betting Usman and doing it live too. It is unlikely that Usman wins this fight via finish.

UFC 261 Best Bet: Kamaru Usman via decision +100 FanDuel Sportsbook

About the Author

Erich Richter

Erich is a New York-based freelance writer and gambling expert specializing in the sports industry. His work is featured in numerous publications. Erich is a diehard Mets, Giants, and Knicks fan (it’s been tough).

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