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UFC 231: Holloway vs Ortega Odds and Picks

The UFC is heading north of the border as the Octagon sets up shop at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, December 8. The featherweight title is on the line as Max “Blessed” Holloway takes on Brian “T-City” Ortega. The current champ, Holloway, is a -105 favorite with the challenger, Ortega, coming back at -125. Also on the card, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (+265) fights Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (-350) for the women’s flyweight belt. I have a breakdown and pick for each fight on the UFC 231 main card.

Shark Bites
  • Max Holloway is on a 12-fight winning streak.
  • Brian Ortega is undefeated with a perfect 14-0 record.
  • Max Holloway averages 6.2 significant strikes per minute.

Holloway vs Ortega Fight Center

Scott Hastings’ 2018 Prediction Record To Date
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Odds Analysis

I think the oddsmakers are a little wary of Max Holloway’s weight cut and that’s why we see him as not a huge favorite. Holloway and Ortega were supposed to do battle at UFC 226, but during the weight cut, Blessed displayed some very scary concussion-like symptoms that forced him off the card. This is the first time we have seen the champion in over a year, since he defended his belt at UFC 218 against Jose Aldo.

Meanwhile, Ortega has run through every obstacle that the UFC has put in front of him, finishing all seven of his fights in the Octagon, including a first-round submission over Mike de la Torre that was later overturned to a no contest as T-City tested positive for a banned substance. Similar to the champ, Ortega has only fought once since last December, earning a first-round knockout over Frankie Edgar at UFC 222.

Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega - Featherweight Championship

Holloway (-105) is a brawler who moves forward looking to get into wild exchanges with his opponent. Blessed is very accurate and has a tremendous output, averaging 6.2 significant strikes per minute and outstriking each of his last 12 foes by double digits. You have to go back to 2013 to find Holloway’s last defeat, when he fell by a unanimous decision to Conor McGregor. Since then, the 27-year-old has rattled off 12 straight victories with only two of those going to the judges’ scorecards. Not only does the Hawaii native throw his hands a lot, but he also does a terrific job avoiding his opponent’s attacks, as he absorbs just 3.9 significant strikes per minute.

Ortega (-125) has a terrific champion’s mentality in the sense that he has the ability to win when his back is up against the wall. Four of T-City’s seven career UFC victories have come in the third round when he’s been outstruck and, in three of those cases, taken down multiple times. But in each of those fights, the 27-year-old was able to find a way to earn the victory, ending two of them by knockout and two by submission. The California native has yet to have a fight go to the scorecards inside the UFC. Ortega’s stats aren’t overly sexy as he has been outstruck in each of his fights inside the Octagon and has been taken down 10 times while only landing one takedown himself, however, he has a killer mentality that has allowed him to have a perfect record.

This is an extremely interesting fight. On paper, Holloway should blow Ortega out of the water. However, the eyes tell a different story as no matter how down and out T-City appears to be, he figures out a way to sink in a guillotine choke or land a well-placed strike that ends with his hand being raised. Neither fighter has been very active over the last year so I don’t see “ring rust” being much of an issue for either guy. The big question for me is how will this weight cut go for Max.

Prediction: Max Holloway (-105) via decision

Holloway vs Ortega Fight Center

Valentina Shevchenko vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk – Women’s Flyweight Championship

Shevchenko (-350) is finally getting her shot to fight for the flyweight title after she was denied that opportunity at UFC 228 when then-champion Nicco Montano was hospitalized before the weigh-ins; she was stripped of her belt shortly after. Bullet is a refined striker focusing on Muay Thai, in which she excels in using her knees and elbows in close range. The 30-year-old has two losses in the UFC, both by narrow decisions to current bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, the most recent bout being a split decision at UFC 215. Shevchenko is a remarkable counter-striker and has a fantastic ability to plant her front foot and dare her opponents to engage with her as she will throw violent strikes if you get in her range.

Jedrzejczyk (+265) is making her flyweight debut in the UFC after terrorizing the strawweight division for the better part of three years. The Poland native had a perfect 8-0 record inside the Octagon, including five title defenses, ahead of her UFC 217 fight with Rose Namajunas. Jedrzejczyk lost that fight and the subsequent rematch five months later at UFC 223, but she did get back in the win column with an impressive decision victory over Tecia Torres in July. Like her counterpart, the 31-year-old is a Muay Thai striker but is more of an aggressive technician and she lands 6.44 significant strikes per minute, while only absorbing 2.67 significant strikes per minute.

Jedrzejczyk and Shevchenko have fought three times in Muay Thai with Bullet earning the victory each time, but they haven’t met in 10 years and this is the Octagon. Shevchenko is bigger than Jedrzejczyk and that may be a factor with power, but the speed advantage may be in Joanna’s favor. It’s hard to see a way that a younger fighter who has three wins over an older (by one year) fighter is going to end up losing.

Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko (-350) via decision

Shevchenko vs Jedrzejczyk Fight Center

Gunnar Nelson vs Alex Oliveira

Nelson (-150) is returning to the Octagon for the first time since his first-round knockout loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio in July of 2017, the first knockout defeat in his career. Gunni has tremendous submission skills and 12 of his 16 professional wins have come in that manner, including six of his seven wins inside the Octagon. The 30-year-old is constantly looking to move forward to get his hands on his opponent to drag them to the mat, however, his offensive skills in the standup department are almost non-existent. When the fight is standing, he uses good head movement to avoid strikes and open up his opportunity to rush forward and look for the takedown, which he achieves 62 percent of the time.

Oliveira (+120) has a good ability switching stances and has wild, explosive kicks. Cowboy has very good movement and he baits his opponents into engaging with him, which is a dangerous game to play as 12 of his 19 professional wins have come by knockout. If the Brazil native feels any pressure standing with his opponents, he will take the fight to the mat as he averages 3.45 takedowns per 15 minutes, but this may not be a wise decision against Nelson. Oliveira is extremely aggressive both in standup and on the ground, always moving and looking for a finish. On the floor, he sometimes gets in trouble with all his movements and trying to advance his position. Additionally, with his wild striking, he will often be off balance, which leads to him being taken down, and he defends just 57 percent of his opponent’s takedown attempts.

If Nelson wants to win this fight, I think he will have to slow-play it, dragging Oliveira into deeper rounds where his cardio wears out due to his aggressiveness earlier in the fight. If Cowboy can be a little more patient in the standup, he should be able to pick Gunni apart and even put him away. This is the third fight this year for Oliveira, while we haven’t seen Nelson in a year and a half and there could be some rust there, especially because he got knocked out in his last fight.

Prediction: Alex Oliveira (+120) via knockout

Nelson vs Oliveira Fight Center

Hakeem Dawodu vs Kyle Bochniak

Dawodu (-170) has a good fight IQ with an ability to read and dissect his opponents. The Canadian has solid kicks and is fantastic at judging distances, being able to stand and trade with his opponents, and landing 4.98 significant strikes per minute while absorbing just 1.6 significant strikes per minute. Mean has no plans to take the fight to the mat as six of his eight career wins have come via knockout and his lone loss was by submission. This is just the third fight inside the Octagon for the 27-year-old, whose debut wasn’t a good one as he was rocked by a nice right hand from Danny Henry that led into a guillotine choke in a fight that lasted just 39 seconds.

Bochniak (+140) is a brawler who is on a win-one, lose-one streak through his five fights inside the UFC with his most recent fight being a decision loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov. Each of Crash’s fights in the Octagon has gone to the scorecards and he has finished just four of his 11 career fights overall, two by submission and two by knockout. The 31-year-old is constantly moving in and out of his foe’s range, hoping that they will engage with him and he will bite down on his mouthguard and start swinging. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have real knockout power, but his chin has been up to the test in every fight he’s been in as he’s never been slept.

Bochniak is one tough guy, having been roughed up in a couple of his fights, but his movement remains solid and he’s always willing to get in a phone booth and start throwing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him seek a takedown as he averages one takedown per three-round fight. However, Dawodu hasn’t been taken down in his two UFC fights and he is definitely willing to stand and trade with Bochniak, and I think his leg kicks may be the difference maker.

Prediction: Hakeem Dawodu (-170) via decision

Dawodu vs Bochniak Fight Center

Thiago Santos vs Jimi Manuwa

Santos (-200) has true knockout power and is making his second appearance in the light heavyweight division. He makes his opponents pay when they are in kicking range as he has devastating power in his legs as was on full display with his spinning heel kick knockout over Jack Marshman in 2017. De Lima Marreta has finished 13 of his 19 professional wins by knockout, but has also found himself being knocked out in half of his six professional losses. The Brazil native had a rather pedestrian performance against Kevin Holland at UFC 227, seemingly confused by the pressure and awkwardness that was put on him in that bout.

Manuwa (+160) likes to take the center of the Octagon and impose his will on his opponent. The England native has a lightning-quick jab and typically follows it up with a thundering leg kick or a wild right hand. Of Poster Boy’s 17 career victories, 15 have come by knockout, while three of his four professional losses have also come in this manner. The 38-year-old is on his first-ever two-fight losing slide, having been knocked out by Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 214 and losing by decision to Jan Blachowicz in March of this year. Manuwa’s losses have come against killers in the light heavyweight division. Apart from the Blachowicz loss earlier this year and Oezdemir at UFC 214, the other two were against Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson.

If Santos can keep the fight on the outside and work his kicks, Manuwa is in deep trouble. Although his kicks are decent, they don’t have the thunder Santos’ do. However, if Poster Boy can get on the inside at punching distance, I think the fight moves in his favor as that’s what David Branch did to de Lima Marreta and he knocked him out in the first round. If the fight drags on into the second or third round, I give the advantage to Santos.

Prediction: Thiago Santos (-200) via knockout

Santos vs Manuwa Fight Center

Here’s a look at all the odds for UFC 231: Holloway vs Ortega:

UFC 231: Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega
  • Max Holloway -105
  • Brian Ortega -125
Odds as of December 7 at Bovada
  • Valentina Shevchenko -350
  • Joanna Jedrzejczyk +265
  • Gunnar Nelson -150
  • Alex Oliveira +120
  • Hakeem Dawodu -170
  • Kyle Bochniak +140
  • Thiago Santos -200
  • Jimi Manuwa +160
  • Claudia Gadelha -350
  • Nina Ansaroff +265
  • Katlyn Chookagian -210
  • Jessica Eye +170
  • Eryk Anders -110
  • Elias Theodorou -120
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier -120
  • Gilbert Burns -110
  • Aleksandar Rakic -650
  • Devin Clark +425
  • Brad Katona -190
  • Matthew Lopez +155
  • Chad Laprise -400
  • Dhiego Lima +300
  • Diego Ferreira -360
  • Jesse Ronson +270