Las Vegas will serve as the stage once again for one of the most exciting weeks in MMA as International Fight Week takes the spotlight. The featured event of this year’s International Fight Week, UFC 290, features a pair of world title fights on top of the card.
The main event features a unification bout between featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and interim champion Yair Rodriguez. Volkanovski is coming off his first loss in more than 20 fights after moving up to lightweight to face 155-pound champion Islam Makhachev. While he lost the fight by unanimous decision, Volkanovski put in a tremendous effort that showed he can compete blow-for-blow with the champ one division above.
While Volkanovski was off trying to conquer the lightweight division, the door was opened for Rodriguez to take on Josh Emmett for the interim belt. Rodriguez scored a triangle choke submission in the second round to win the title and line up a bout with Volkanovski.
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After a few rough events for our monthly Best Bets column, things got a bit back on track after going 3-2 at UFC 289. Our record for the year now stands at 18-16.
Let’s take a look at what we’ve identified as our choices for the best best on the UFC 290 pay-per-view main card.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook, subject to change.
Bo Nickal vs. Valentine Woodburn
Nickal opened as one of the biggest favorites in UFC history when Woodburn stepped in on late notice because Tresean Gore was forced out due to injury. Woodburn is undefeated at 7-0 and has faced some decent opponents but coming in with no time to prepare for one of the UFC’s top prospects ever is a tall task. Woodburn has good knockout power so it’s not out of the question for him to land a shot early that catches Nickal cold, but that would be a pure lottery ticket play. There’s no real value in Nickal winning as a -2800 favorite and any line on a quick finish isn’t likely to pay well. The odds simply aren’t good enough and there are too many unknown factors to recommend a play here.
Dan Hooker vs. Jalin Turner
Jalin Turner (-280) vs. Dan Hooker
This is a bit higher price than we usually play for favorites in our Best Bet column, but there are reasons it is the right play here. Hooker used to reliably wade through a lot of damage and incoming offense. He has not looked as durable in recent outings, however, and Turner is the wrong kind of fighter to face as your defensive resistance is wearing down. There are interesting lines on Turner by knockout and submission, but it’s hard to pin down exactly how a finish will present itself. Turner has never won by decision and has nine knockouts and four submissions, that may shade you toward a knockout win, but three of Turner’s submission wins have come in his five most recent fights as he’s put together a more complete game. Based on all that, take the safer play of the Turner moneyline, possibly as part of a parlay.
Robert Whittaker vs. Dricus du Plessis
Robert Whittaker via decision (+175)
I do think du Plessis is getting a little overlooked coming into this fight, but I can’t bring myself to throw money at him when Whittaker is simply the better fighter. The favored outcome by the odds is Whittaker via KO/TKO/DQ, but he hasn’t stopped anyone for eight consecutive fights, and du Plessis is a tough fighter who can make things ugly enough to hang around for the full length of a three-round right. Whittaker is likely to just pick du Plessis apart for 15 minutes and take the win on the cards and getting anywhere from +180 to +220 line on the decision is too juicy to pass up.
Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja
Over 3.5 rounds (-175)
Moreno and Pantoja are both dangerous fighters capable of finishing a fight. The stat that sticks out here is that they have a combined 11 losses with every single one coming by decision. Both men have fought a who’s who of UFC flyweights while not suffering a single stoppage loss. It’s possible that changes Saturday night, but it feels unlikely. You can get better odds by taking the fight to go the distance (currently -105), but you can also take over 3.5 rounds to give some padding and safety against a late stoppage. That feels like the play.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez
Fight to go the distance: No (-120)
Volkanovski isn’t a great finisher, but he does have the ability to overwhelm opponents, such as what he did against The Korean Zombie. Rodriguez is flashy and dangerous and the better “pure finisher” of the two. Where things may go south for Rodriguez is that, despite his cardio seeming to improve in recent outings, it’s hard to trust his gas tank to hold up for five full rounds against someone who can push the pace like Volkanovski. Given Rodriguez could score a stoppage and Volkanovski likely will wear Rodriguez down and then find a way to overwhelm for the finish, it makes sense to play the fight to not make it to the final bell.
Who wins UFC 290: Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez, and how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 290, all from the MMA expert who profited more than $6,200 in 2022, and find out.