Stipe Miocic makes first title defense as betting favorite at UFC 203

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Stipe Miocic is the betting favorite against challenger Alistair Overeem in the heavyweight title fight that will cap UFC 203, which is in the fighter’s hometown on Saturday.

The specter of losing the strap, and face, is a powerful motivator for Miocic heading into the showdown at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Saturday. Miocic is listed at odds of -145 for a victory in the five-round bout, with Overeem rating a good chance at +115.

It might be tougher to keep a title than earn it in the heavyweight division, but Miocic has evolved from freestyle wrestling background into a hybrid of grappler and disciplined boxer who keeps his guard up.

Overeem has potential to knock out almost any opponent, but the chances to land a massive strike could be farther and fewer between than usual against Miocic, who is a good striker in his own right. Miocic is also generally considered the stronger wrestler of the two.

Also on the main card, Fabricio Werdum, who lost the heavyweight title to Miocic at UFC 198 in May, is a -225 favorite against +175 underdog Travis Browne on the UFC 203 betting lines.

Werdum won a unanimous decision against Browne when they last tangled in April 2014 in spite of spotting him three inches in height. Losing in May should have been a prod for Werdum to brush up on his technique. Browne has split four TKO decisions since that bout 3½ years ago.

Former WWE champion CM Punk is a +300 underdog in his UFC debut against Mickey Gall, who is a -400 favorite entering their welterweight match. It has taken 21 months since the time he signed with UFC to get CM Punk into a ring, and it’s hard to imagine the UFC would give him an opponent whose style would pose problems.

Bantamweight contender Jimmie Rivera is listed at -125 against 37-year-old mainstay Urijah Faber, who is a slight underdog at -105. The 27-year-old Rivera is Faber’s junior by a decade. Over their careers, Faber has been more reliable at earning submissions and at defending against submission attempts. Rivera’s punching power and the fact that he’s on the way up whereas Faber has plateaued make him a tempting play.

Jessica Andrade is a -145 favorite against -115 underdog Joanne Calderwood in the women’s strawweight matchup that opens the UFC 203 main card. Andrade has the greater knockout capability, while Calderwood possesses more stamina.

Calderwood got a lesson in weathering an early onslaught in a 2015 fight against Cortney Casey when she was nearly dispatched early before eventually winning. Learning from that experience could come in handy against Andrade.

Odds lean toward Thompson against Woodley for Saturday’s UFC 209 card

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The odds for the rematch reflect popular consensus that Stephen Thompson outfought Tyronn Woodley when they first met for the UFC welterweight championship.

Thompson, the challenger, is the -160 betting favorite against +130 strap-holder Woodley in the co-main event for UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The two will meet for the second time in fewer than four months when they step into the Octagon at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday.

In their first fight, Thompson was able to dictate terms and Woodley often ceded control of the Octagon, which gave Thompson time and space to connect with kicks and strikes. One could theorize that three and a half months of analyzing that fight has helped Thompson figure out how to maintain that advantage while upgrading his defense.

That said, Woodley is stronger in cinches and at grappling – when he chooses to use those skills. His patience and strength could help him drag the fight out and pick spots to land his big overhand right.

Elsewhere, Khalid Nurmagomedov is a -190 favorite against +155 underdog Tony Ferguson, as they square off for the interim lightweight title in the co-main event.

Nurmagomedov’s 24-0 career record might give bettors pause about picking against him, but this is the first time he has ever faced a five-round bout and Ferguson might be the more tireless fighter. Ferguson, with his six-inch edge in reach, should have the advantage in stand-up situations.

Rashad Evans is the -230 favorite against +180 underdog Daniel Kelly on the UFC 209 betting lines in a matchup of mirror-image middleweights, as each relies on wearing down opponents. The bout is unlikely to end early and Kelly tends to get stronger as a match goes on as he gains a feel for his opponent’s tendencies.

It’s something of a toss-up, although some bettors might shy away from Evans in his debut at 185 pounds and go with Kelly strictly on betting value.

Alistair Overeem is listed at -145 against +115 slight underdog Mark Hunt in a heavyweight bout. Overeem, who will have something to prove after losing his last bout against Stipe Miocic in September, has a multi-faceted repertoire and can punish opponents when he gets them into clinches.

Hunt is a strong counter-puncher who comes into this matchup with greater knockout capability, but Overeem’s edge in grappling makes him a solid chalk pick.

And in a lightweight bout, Lando Vannata is a -270 favorite against +210 underdog David Teymur. Vannata is more of a striker, while Teymur, with his background in Muay Tuai, is more of a kickboxer.

A win would validate why Vannata thus far has made a rapid ascension through the lightweight division, but Teymur will get his chance to land some devastating kicks. He’s also a left-hander, which can sometimes be a difficult matchup. There is upset potential here.

Ronda Rousey slight favorite against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207

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Betting lines can be influenced by popularity, which is important to keep in mind when looking at the women’s bantamweight title bout between Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes that will be the culmination of UFC 207 on Friday in Las Vegas.

Rousey is the -140 betting favorite with Nunes nominally the underdog at +110, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Rousey is fighting for the first time since losing her title to Holly Holm in November 2015, while Nunes is making her first defense since her victory by submission against Miesha Tate in July.

Since she has been away for so long, Rousey is a bit of a blank slate, but during her title reign she had the knack for using her judo background to get a fight to the mat. That might give her a shot at nullifying some of Nunes’ punching power and forcing the champion, whose cardio is below-average, to burn energy getting out of clinches and back on her feet. Of the two, Nunes is the more powerful puncher.

Dominick Cruz is a -225 favorite on the UFC 207 odds in his bantamweight title defense bout against underdog Cody Garbrandt (+175). One case for the challenger is that Garbrandt, who is undefeated in the UFC, averages more significant strikes per minute than Cruz, and hits at a higher percentage. His quick-strike power gives him a chance to get the win, but the unknown variable is his stamina. Cruz has shown throughout his career than he can elude heavy punchers and allow his stamina to carry the day.

T.J. Dillashaw is listed at -240 in his bantamweight bout against John Lineker (+190). Dillashaw’s propensity to strike early and frequently, along with being sounder technically than Lineker, makes him the clear favorite. Lineker’s brawling style makes him entertaining to watch, but he’s not efficient in his striking and that can land a fighter in trouble if he is unable to land a knockout.

Dong Hyun Kim is a -145 favorite against Tarec Saffiedine (+115) in a welterweight match that was moved to the main card after Cain Velasquez was scratched from his showdown with Fabricio Werdum. Kim, who has won six of his seven fights with the lone defeat coming against Tyron Woodley, has been able to handle any opponent who is isn’t elite. Saffiedine has dropped two of his last three fights and, from a betting perspective, doesn’t offer great value as an underdog.

And in a late add to the main card, Ray Borg is a slight -135 betting favorite against Louis Smolka (+110) in a flyweight bout. Borg is the savvier grappler of the two whereas Smolka has greater reach and striking ability. Smolka’s defense might not be strong enough to prevent Borg from turning this into a fight that is contested mostly on the mat.