UFC 249 best bets: Francis Ngannou by KO, Michelle Waterson a live dog and more

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

Best bet on the board?

The MGM Grand Sports Book in Las Vegas has Francis Ngannou at -125 to win by knockout and -265 simply to win his fight vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

In a battle of two of the hardest punchers ever in the UFC, Rozenstruik is +370 to win by KO and +215 to win period.

If you like Ngannou by KO, there are appealing rounds odds. Ngannou is +150 to win in Round 1, which means by either KO, submission or disqualification. He’s +475 in Round 2 and +900 in Round 3.

If you want to play the underdog, you’ll get huge plus money in every round on Rozenstruik, who clearly has the power to knock Ngannou out (not saying he’ll do it).

MGM Grand has Rozenstruik at +600 to win in Round 1, +950 to win in Round 2 and +1500 to win in Round 3.

I’ll take a flier and bet $100 on Ngannou at +900 in Round 3 as well as $100 on Rozenstruik at +1500 in Round 3. If Ngannou wins in the third, I’d get a profit of $800, while if Rozenstruik finishes him in the third, I’d earn a $1,400 profit.

‘Karate Hottie’ looks good as underdog

Carla Esparza is a former champion and is coming off an impressive Fight of the Night victory over Alexa Grasso. Perhaps as a result of that victory, the MGM Grand has Esparza as a -155 favorite vs. Michelle Waterson. Waterson is +130.

I thought Esparza may be a 6-5 favorite at best in the fight, so when you can get Waterson as an underdog in this situation, you should take it. 

Michelle Waterson kicks Joanna Jedrzejczyk in their women's strawweight bout during UFC Fight Night at Amalie Arena on Oct. 12, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Waterson is coming off a tough loss to ex-champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a bout in which she absorbed a lot of punishment. Waterson is the superior striker, but the threat of the takedown from Esparza can even that out.

But Waterson has a 57 percent takedown defense and she connects with more than 1.1 significant strikes per minute more than Esparza, according to FightMetric.

Given that, I’d lay $50 on Waterson at +130 with the hope of making a profit of $65.

Kattar favored in intriguing fight

The match between Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar is one of the many at UFC 249 that have led me to say that on paper, this is the best card the UFC has put on in a long while.

The Stephens-Kattar fight figures to be fireworks, because both are aggressive and each is hit frequently. Kattar has a serious edge in significant strikes landed per minute (5.12 to 3.09), but he also is hit much more frequently (6.36 to 2.98).

Kattar, who is coming off a decision loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov, is a -250 favorite. Stephens is +200.

I expect Kattar to win the fight, but Stephens is as tough as they come, and so the fight should go the distance. But instead of laying $250 to bet on Kattar to win, I’d play $100 on Kattar to win by decision at +120. A win there would make a profit of $120.

‘Triple-C’ rides again

At another place and time, I’d have picked Dominick Cruz to defeat Henry Cejudo for the bantamweight title and not thought twice about it. But I can’t do that now, not with the way Cejudo has performed and how long Cruz has been sidelined.

Cejudo is a -225 favorite, with Cruz at +180. 

Cruz has fought just once in more than five years. In that span, Cejudo has won both the UFC flyweight and bantamweight belts and established himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

He’s a strong, physical fighter with a great wrestling base, incredible cardio and an ability to adjust when he needs to do so.

I hate to play really large favorites, but I like Cejudo in this case and so I’d lay the $225 hoping to make a profit of $100.

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