How to bet UFC 223
Reed Kuhn

ESPN INSIDER



It's sure been an interesting 48 hours in the UFC world, but we finally have a card set for tonight's action. Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight Al Iaquinta in the main event now, after Max Hollway was pulled from the fight. Rose Namajunas will fight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the women's strawweight title.Let's examine the betting lines for the top fights in UFC 223 and see where the value lies.


<strike></strike>Lightweight championship: No. 2 Khabib Nurmagomedov (-750) vs. No. 11 Al Iaquinta (+525)

<offer style="box-sizing: border-box;"></offer>Let's just all accept that the matchmaking shuffle for UFC 223 has been the most unique and complicated ever. Here we are with a potential New York-flavored Rocky story brewing, as Iaquinta jumps from the bottom of the heap after weigh-ins to take on one of the division's most feared contenders as a massive underdog. Hollywood would love it. But when the plot lines and matchmaking are done, two guys are still getting locked in a cage, and MMA never lacks in a return to harsh reality.The numbers show us that Iaquinta has better takedown defense than any of the potential challengers before him (Tony Ferguson, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis and Paul Felder), and that makes this more interesting than a pure striker facing Nurmagomedov in a lopsided stylistic battle. Iaquinta has wrestling chops, but has mostly won with his hands. His boxing shows precise accuracy and above average power, with seven knockdowns scored to date. He knows how to be aggressive, but also tends to brawl.Yet when it comes to position control, Iaquinta is still part of the undifferentiated pack. His clinch control is low, and that could be where Nurmagomedov takes advantage to force the fight to the mat. Once on the ground, the submission threat of Iaquinta is not at the level of Ferguson, or even Pettis for that matter. So for the bulk of the fight, Nurmagomedov will have a clear path to control and round-winning positions.The key question will be if Iaquinta, unlike all of those before him, has the dual ability to defend takedowns while also delivering damage with strikes. He'd have to do better than Michael Johnson and Rafael dos Anjos, each of whom has strong striking combined with a grappling base, but were dominated by Nurmagomedov.

Insider recommends: The numbers still bring us back to the reality that Nurmagomedov is a justified heavy favorite. Lines flirted with Khabib at -470, and that was an easy play. As the the price for Khabib drifts further upward, he's still parlay material on the assumption he doesn't get clipped early by an aggressive Iaquinta while his confidence his high. We expect Nurmagomedov to close the distance and turn the fight into his bread and butter, controlling after contact for the win, whether it's on the cards or eventually by a submission or back control TKO. Current odds don't offer much bonus for a TKO prop bet hedge on Iaquinta.

Strawweight championship: champion Rose Namajunas (-125) vs. No. 1 Joanna Jedrzejczyk (+105)


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In their previous title matchup, the seemingly invincible Jedrzejczyk was an enormous favorite over challenger Namajunas. It's hard to imagine the lightning power of Namajunas striking twice. The strawweight division is not defined by one punch knockdowns, and not even the feared striking of Jedrzejczyk boasts more than a single knockdown in UFC action to date.
However, what Jedrzejczyk lacked in power she made up for in pace, accuracy and stamina. She has outpaced her opponents by 80 percent on volume and generally gotten the better of exchanges along the way. Her five-round fights may have been close at times early, but she pressed the pace into championship rounds, wilting her opponents under the onslaught.The finishing strengths of Namajunas are somewhat mitigated by Jedrzejczyk's takedown defense and ability to stand in the pocket. This fight will be a fresh start for Jedrzejczyk to tighten up her defense -- despite her lack of ground threat -- and get back to her high-volume technical striking control to win rounds. If she hasn't tightened up, we could be in for a repeat knockout at some point over five long rounds of trading leather.
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Insider recommends: We understand how the market is conflicted, as this matchup really could go either way. Jedrzejczyk is capable of forcing a trilogy through a close decision, largely won in the later rounds, while Namajunas is still capable of the flashy inside-the-distance win. Surprisingly, the numbers still favor Jedrzejczyk ever so slightly, despite the recent loss. We definitely would have gone for Namajunas at opening prices of +160, but the lines haven't held given the visibility of the matchup. Namajunas support evened out the odds, so on fight night take either fighter at plus money, but be willing to pass at pick 'em prices. It all points to a fun and compelling rematch.

Odds and ends

Want to make the under card a little more interesting? Submission savvy veteran Joe Lauzon takes on Chris Gruetzemacher in matchup of contrasting experience. "Gritz" has lost his past two fights by submission, and we're bullish on Lauzon bringing a smart game plan to get a win at a reasonable price of -150, plus money for the finish.If you're looking for a parlay total to pair with Nurmagomedov, consider the Over 2.5 rounds for Evan Dunham vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier at -320. They've collectively hit the over on 2.5 rounds in 10 of their past 11 fights.
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