With an undercard that would easily make up a great stand-alone event, UFC 205 is easily the most stacked event in the UFC’s history. They definitely went all-in for the first card at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, and bettors and casual fans alike will be tuned in well before the main-card portion of the event kicks off.
Featuring several top contenders and fighters with exciting highlight reels, here’s a look at each undercard fight along with my betting odds analysis:
Frankie Edgar (-340) vs Jeremy Stephens (+260)
Edgar is the biggest favorite on the undercard, and rightfully so. His quest to capture the featherweight title continued to elude him after a loss to Jose Aldo at UFC 200, but he is without a doubt the best fighter in the division’s history to never win the title. It’s hard to find many weaknesses in Edgar’s game. He’s never been finished in his career and is one of the sport’s most durable fighters, making a bet on Stephens not worth the risk.
Stephens’ standup game has come a long way throughout his 23 UFC fights, but he’ll likely be overly reliant on throwing heavy hands in an attempt to finish Edgar. Stephens lacks the technical striking of Edgar, meaning he’s very unlikely to outpoint him and there’s no evidence that suggests he’ll be the first man to finish Edgar.
Bettors should consider throwing Edgar on a parlay ticket, or with Stephens earning a reputation as a tough fighter to finish the past few years, bet Edgar to win by decision at -110.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (-305) vs Michael Johnson (+235)
If it weren’t for a number of nagging knee injuries, Nurmagomedov could very well be the UFC’s lightweight champion. Instead, he’ll face another one of the division’s top contenders with the Sportsbook likely to fall behind Tony Ferguson for a title shot. Khabib comes into UFC 205 without a loss and 23 straight wins, but has fought just once in close to 30 months.
The outcome of this fight could depend on which Michael Johnson shows up. The inconsistent fighter has looked like dynamite in some fights — see his most recent win over Dustin Poirier. But he has been overwhelmed in others — see last December’s loss to Nate Diaz. It’s expected to be Khabib’s grappling vs Johnson’s striking, and although we haven’t seen much evidence of Johnson lacking wrestling defense, he’s never fought a grappler the caliber of Nurmagomedov.
All that inactivity makes Khabib a risky wager at such a high price, but that undefeated record should erase any doubts bettors might have. Similar to the Edgar fight, Khabib is a great option for a parlay wager and also a good bet to win by decision at +120.
Rafael Natal (-160) vs Tim Boetsch (+130)
They might not be big names, but the stakes of this fight could be huge as the Sportsbook and loser could go in radically different directions. For Rafael Natal, a win could mean breaking into the top 10 in the middleweight division, whereas a loss would result in obscure undercard and free TV fights for the next year. A win probably won’t do much for Boetsch, as the 35-year-old has lost six of his last nine fights, but a loss could result in a pink slip.
In his last nine fights, Boetsch has been finished five times, while two of his three wins were by TKO. Natal tends to go to a decision more often than not as seven of his nine UFC wins went to the judges. He’s lost five times in the UFC, with three of those losses being as the favorite. Given Boetsch’s all-or-nothing approach, he’s worth a shot as an underdog, or if you see him really rising to the occasion in an effort to save his job, you can get him to win by T/KO at +300.
Vicente Luque (+125) vs Belal Muhammad (-145)
After suffering his first career loss in his UFC debut, Belal Muhammad bounced back with a TKO victory in September. He faces New Jersey native Vicente Luque, who enters the fight as a short-notice replacement, but he offers nice value as the underdog. Luque is flying under the radar coming into this fight as he’s now finished three straight opponents — two by choke, one by KO — and has two performance of the night bonuses during his brief time in the UFC.
There’s still a lot of unknowns with both fighters and we likely won’t know the impact of Luque’s short training camp until we see him in the Octagon. Muhammad is likely tabbed as the favorite due to Luque being a late replacement, and I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to justify a bet on him at -145.
Jim Miller (+125) vs Thiago Alves (-155)
This bout will be a catchweight bout, as Alves weighed in at 163. He surrenders 20% of his purse to Miller.
After being on the shelf for close to a year and a half, former welterweight title contender Thiago Alves makes his return to the Octagon, but this time in his debut as a lightweight. I found the drop in weight class a little suspicious considering he had a reputation for struggling to make weight at 170 lbs, so I checked out his Instagram to see what the new Alves looks like. Please note — I don’t make a habit of seeking out pictures of topless men on Instagram. A quick glance, however, shows that he’s dropped quite a bit of muscle mass, which will make the weight cut much more manageable.
After losing four of five fights and looking like he was on his last legs, Jim Miller is in the midst of a mini career resurgence after back-to-back wins. He’ll look to take this fight to the ground and either grind out a decision or land a submission, while Alves will try to end the fight with strikes. We’ve seen Alves struggle in the grappling department before, but that was at a different division.
Your best bet here is to see how the weigh-in goes for Alves. If he looks OK and reports indicate it went smoothly, he’s your man. He’ll likely be harder for Miller to control than a traditional lightweight. However, if the weight cut is ugly, jump all over that Miller underdog value.
Liz Carmouche (+150) vs Katlyn Chookagian (-170)
To open the event, Liz Carmouche will have the distinction of competing in the first women’s fight in UFC history and the first-ever UFC fight in New York City. She enters the fight coming off a win in April and will attempt to accomplish another first by being the first fighter to defeat the 8-0 Chookagian.
At 2-3 in the UFC, Carmouche has been unable to break through vs tougher competition. This was also apparent during her run in Strikeforce. So the question is, does Chookagian qualify as tougher competition? With that perfect record as a pro, along with a 7-0 amateur record, I’d lean toward YES, making her worth the bet as the favorite.
For analysis and predictions of each of the main-card fights, see Justin Hartling's article here.