On Saturday, October 18th, the UFC will be live from Fight Island and on PPV for UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs Gatehje. The featured fight of the night is a lightweight title clash between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
The co-main event of the night is unofficially a #1 contender’s bout for the middleweight title as former champ Robert Whittaker takes on Jared Cannonier. Top 10 heavyweights will also be in action as Alexander Volkov takes on Walt Harris.
In total, the main card for UFC 254 is scheduled to have six fights with a special start time of 2PM ET on ESPN PPV.
UFC betting sites have released their odds for the full UFC 254 PPV portion of the event. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine the latest odds, identify potential value, and land a 1-2 combo on these predictions.
This is the third time that the Ankalaev vs Cutelaba rematch has been rescheduled. It was set to open up the PPV at UFC 252: Cormier vs Miocic, but was then pushed back two weeks later to UFC Vegas 8: Smith vs Rakic. Once again, it was cancelled and moved to this PPV.
Without writing a breakdown for the 3rd time in the past two months, you can check out those betting previews to get an idea of how we got here.
As for the fight itself, Magomed Ankalaev is predicting the same result from their controversial first fight in February, which was a TKO/KO:
“I wouldn’t say I feel a duty to do so, but I have to finish this. The result will be the same. I’m not sure how, but I will get the victory.”
For the third straight time, I am still picking Magomed Ankalaev to win this contest. I believe he’s the better overall fighter and certainly the more technical striker. His striking from a distance will be the difference maker in this bout as he racks up the points from the outside.
Eventually, he can set up knockout opportunities or takedowns on the desperately, overly aggressive Cutelaba who is more of a brawler than a boxer.
I see this fight going Over 1.5 rounds (-125), but still finishing inside the distance (-320). Lastly, the best value for this contest is Ankalaev winning inside the distance at -130 odds.
He will eventually score a TKO to win this bout. Hopefully the 11th ranked Ankalaev can get a Top 10 fight for his next trip into the octagon.
Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba –Ankalaev (-320)
Over 1.5 rounds (-125)
Fight ends inside the distance (-320)
Ankalaev wins inside the distance (-130)
Ankalaev wins via TKO/KO (+115)
Liliya Shakirova vs Lauren Murphy
Liliya Shakirova (+200)
Lauren Murphy (-240)
Over (-430)/Under (+345) 2.5 rounds
This bout was originally scheduled for Cynthia Calvillo to take on Lauren Murphy. Calvillo was forced to withdraw from the fight and Liliya Shakirova stepped up on one week’s notice.
Shakirova is making her UFC debut this weekend and enters the octagon on a three fight win streak. Her lone loss came in March 2018 via unanimous decision. She last fought one year ago and won via 2nd round TKO.
Four of her eight pro wins have come via stoppage with three by way of TKO/KO. She’s 4-1 when going the distance.
Murphy is also riding a three fight win streak into this weekend’s clash. She last competed in June and defeated Roxanne Modafferi via unanimous decision. Murphy has an octagon record of 5-4. Eight of her 13 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. She’s 5-4 when going the distance.
I have a hard time seeing Shakirova winning this fight. It’s a big step up in competition. Murphy is ranked 5th in the women’s flyweight division.
Shakirova has the wrestling chops to remain competitive, but her striking isn’t up to par with Murphy. Furthermore, Lauren has decent grappling skills to make this a difficult night for Liliya.
Combined, these two women have gone the distance in 14 of 26 pro fights. Murphy has gone the distance in seven of her nine UFC bouts. Shakirova has gone the distance in five of her last seven contests. Take the Over 2.5 rounds (-430) and for this fight to go the full 15 minutes (-405).
Once facing the judges, I believe Murphy will get the unanimous decision victory. Her striking will be the difference. This prop bet offers the best value at -135 odds.
Liliya Shakirova vs Lauren Murphy –Murphy (-240)
Over 2.5 rounds (-430)
Fight goes the distance (-405)
Murphy wins via decision (-135)
Phil Hawes vs Jacob Malkoun
Phil Hawes (-260)
Jacob Malkoun (+220)
Over (-135)/Under (+115) 1.5 rounds
This fight should probably be on the preliminary card. I would rather see Kenney vs Wood on the PPV lineup as they’re more of an elite prospect than either of these two competitors right now.
Malkoun is the training partner for Robert Whittaker and rides a four fight win streak into his octagon debut this weekend. He last fought one year ago and won via decision. Two of his four wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 2-0 when going the distance.
Hawes enters this weekend on a three fight win streak. He last competed in September and won via 1st round TKO on a DWCS appearance. That was the second time he’s competed on that show. He also was successful in his lone Bellator fight 16 months ago.
All eight of his pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. Hawes has never gone the distance in a pro fight.
This contest is closer than what the oddsmakers have it listed as. With that said, I still have to give the edge to Hawes. He’s fought tougher opponents and looks to have rebounded from his two losses from a few years ago.
I’m not sure how good Malkoun is right now or how good he can become. Being a training partner of a former world champ is beneficial, but it doesn’t mean he will win his octagon debut.
Play this fight safe by taking Hawes to win. Also, go with the Over 1.5 rounds (-135), which offers the best value in this cautious betting approach. I see this fight going into the 3rd round as both men are tough outs. Eventually, Hawes will pick up the win most likely via third round stoppage.
Phil Hawes vs Jacob Malkoun –Hawes (-260)
Over 1.5 rounds (-135)
Fight ends inside the distance (-245)
Hawes wins inside the distance (-130)
Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris
Alexander Volkov (-185)
Walt Harris (+160)
Over (+110)/Under (-130) 2.5 rounds
What PPV would be complete without a Top 10 heavyweight battle? That’s exactly what we have here with the 7th ranked Alexander Volkov taking on the 10th ranked Walt Harris. Both men are desperately looking for a win as they each are coming off a loss.
Harris had his three fight winning streak snapped in May when he lost to Overeem via 2nd round TKO. He’s now 6-7 all-time in the octagon.
It took him a few contests to get his footing in the UFC after starting out 1-2. Harris has gone 6-3 since his early days in the octagon and has become a Top 10 ranked heavyweight. All 13 of his pro wins have come via knockout. He’s 0-3 when going the distance in a fight.
Volkov has been a ranked heavyweight since joining the UFC in 2016. He started off 4-0, before going 1-2 in his last three fights. Volkov last fought in June and lost via unanimous decision to Curtis Blaydes.
In his two UFC losses, Volkov suffered a TKO/KO to Lewis with 10 seconds left. Blaydes outwrestled Volkov for 25 minutes.
In this bout, he won’t have to worry about being outwrestled by Harris as “The Big Ticket” will be looking to knockout Volkov and try to avoid going to the mat for a grappling contest.
>Both men believe that a victory on Saturday will put them right back on track at making a push for a title shot. However, the winner of this fight will most likely need two more victories before a title opportunity. That’s due to the logjam at the top of the division and because both men have already lost to the top ranked heavyweights.
Harris is a power striker with suspect cardio. Volkov is the more polished fighter with smooth striking skills and a bigger gas tank. I see this bout going into the latter portions of the fight and probably the full distance.
With that said, go with Over 2.5 rounds (+110). I believe both will do a good job avoiding an early knockout. There is some value with the fight going the distance at +130 odds.
I’m taking Volkov to win. His striking skills are better and he can take a punch. I expect the Russian to use his punches and leg kicks to set up takedowns and to effectively out-strike Harris from a distance.
I don’t see Volkov engaging in a firefight with Harris as he would most likely end up face first on the canvas. Instead, Volkov will take the smart approach and pick apart Harris from a distance. More than likely, Volkov will outpoint Harris and win via unanimous decision.
Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris –Volkov (-185)
Over 2.5 rounds (+110)
Fight goes the distance (+130)
Volkov wins via decision (+200)
Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier
Robert Whittaker (-105)
Jared Cannonier (-115)
Over (-105)/Under (-115) 2.5 rounds
I am shocked that Robert Whittaker comes into this contest as the underdog. One year ago, he lost the middleweight belt to Israel Adesanya. He then took time off due to health issues and finally came back in July where he won a five round war against Darren Till.
Whittaker looked refreshed and refocused, which is bad news for his opponents. He sports a 12-3 record in the UFC and has won 10 of his last 11 trips inside the octagon. 14 of his 21 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of TKO/KO. He’s 7-2 when going the distance.
The former champ feels that he has the better overall skillset and should come away with a hard fought victory on Fight Island:
“He’s a hard dude. I’m not sleeping on his skill set. He can beat me. I could lose, but I don’t think I will. I’m certainly respecting his skill set. He’s very tough, he’s very powerful, and he’s resilient. He doesn’t go away but honestly, I just think I’m better across the board. I can take this fight wherever I want it to go. I can lead this dance. I think I can sting him, I can knock him out.”
Cannonier’s rise to the top of the middleweight division has been an interesting one. He started off his career as a heavyweight and eventually worked his way down two weight classes. Since moving to middleweight he’s gone 3-0 with three knockouts.
In the light heavyweight division, Cannonier lost three of his last four fights including two in a row to Blackhowicz and Reyes. Those two men fought for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title last month.
As for Cannonier, his body transformation has been remarkable. Even more impressive is that he’s kept his heavyweight punching power. This is definitely something Whittaker has to be concerned about because one clean shot could end the fight.
11 of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of TKO/KO. “The Killa Gorilla” is 2-2 when going the distance.
With that said, I do believe that Whittaker will win. If you look at Cannonier’s last three losses, they were all to better overall strikers and that’s exactly what Whittaker is.
The former champ has the power to knockout an opponent and the skills to pick his opponents apart. He will apply the latter strategy, keep Cannonier off-balanced and strike from a distance. At that range, Whittaker’s hand speed and technical striking skills will be too much for Cannonier to overcome.
I’m taking Whittaker to win via unanimous decision. I don’t see Cannonier being stopped in this contest. So, take the Over 2.5 rounds (-105) as well.
Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier –Whittaker (-105)
Over 2.5 rounds (-105)
Fight goes the distance (+110)
Whittaker wins via decision (+215)
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje
Khabib Nurmagomedov (-335)
Justin Gaethje (+275)
Over (-132)/Under (+104) 2.5 rounds
The main event on this packed UFC 254 fight card has a lot of buzz and hype heading into the weekend. In fact, UFC President Dana White says that the projections for this PPV could make it the biggest fight of all-time. He’s saying that this fight could surpass that Nurmagomedov vs McGregor circus from two years ago.
From a matchup standpoint, the interim lightweight champ Justin Gaethje presents the biggest challenge for Nurmagomedov to date. Gaethje has the striking advantage, knockout power and a wrestling background.
Plus, all you have to do is go back and watch Gaethje’s masterful performance against Tony Ferguson to see just how scary he can be inside the octagon. He finished off the boogey man and now looks to end Khabib’s undefeated record.
Gaethje has won four straight fights all via TKO/KO. Over that span, he’s beaten Vick, Barboza, Cerrone and the previously mentioned Ferguson. 19 of his 22 pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 2-0 when going the distance.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the pound for pound best fighters in all of MMA. He’s often listed one spot below Jon Jones, which is hard to argue against. Yet, if Khabib can win on Saturday and in his next bout afterwards, he would most likely retire 30-0 and one of the greatest of all-time.
However, before we can crown him as a GOAT, he’s going to have to get past his toughest challenge to date. This is a feat that Khabib is confident in accomplishing, but at the same time he’s acknowledged his opponent’s skills.
Nurmagomedov is a mauler inside that cage. He closes the distance and uses his elite grappling skills to takedown his opponents, suffocates them, and then rains down punches or finds the submission. It’s a strategy that nobody has been able to overcome as of yet.
18 of his 28 pro wins have come via stoppage with 10 by way of submission. He’s 10-0 when going the distance.
My favorite wager for this fight is the Over 2.5 rounds (-132). I don’t see either man getting stopped before the championship rounds. Although I see a good chance at this bout going the distance, the safe play is that it will end before the full 25 minutes has elapsed (-205).
With that said, until someone beats Khabib, you have to stick with the champ. Gaethje is the one man who has a shot at pulling off the upset, but it’s not something I would put my money on. I will root for it, but not bet on it.
I see Nurmagomedov wearing down Gaethje until he finds a chokehold in the 4th or 5th round and wins this fight via submission.
Nurmagomedov vs Gaethje –Nurmagomedov (-335)
Over 2.5 rounds (-132)
Fight ends inside the distance (-205)
Nurmagomedov wins inside the distance (-120)
Nurmagomedov wins via submission (+165)
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed “King of the Blog” in his first year with the site. …