UFC 246 Best Bets
January 16, 2020
By Brian Edwards
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UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy Picks
The long-awaited return of Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor will arrive Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada at T-Mobile Center, where the former double-champ will take on the promotion’s all-time leader in career wins, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, in the UFC 246 main event.
McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) hasn’t tasted victory in the Octagon since winning the lightweight strap away from Eddie Alvarez with a second-round knockout at UFC 205 in New York City. That victory at Madison Square Garden came on Nov. 12 of 2016. Since then, Cerrone has made 11 walks to the Octagon, fighting seven times at welterweight and four times at lightweight.
This fight will be contested at 170 pounds, a division that McGregor has fought in only twice, splitting a pair of scraps with Nate Diaz. Cerrone went 6-4 in 10 welterweight bouts, recording all six of his victories with finishes, including three in the first round over Alex Oliveira, Yancy Medeiros and Mike ‘Platinum’ Perry.
Cerrone (36-13-1 MMA, UFC) also scored KO wins over Patrick Cote (the Canadian’s only KO loss in his 34-fight career), Rick Story and Matt Brown during his three-year run at welterweight from 2016-18.
McGregor went from the win over Alvarez to a boxing match against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., who won by 10th-round KO on Aug. 26 of 2017. The Irishman earned tens of millions of dollars – perhaps as much as $100M – in the loss to Mayweather.
McGregor naturally took some time off, enjoyed his greenbacks, partied his ass off and started a whiskey business (Proper No. Twelve) that continues to thrive. However, he lost his focus on fighting and brought shame to his name, family and all of Ireland with a series of egregious transgressions that aren’t all completely sorted out to this day.
(Just to name a few…) There was the infamous bus attack at Barclays Arena in Brooklyn that got him locked up in an New York City jail, his arrest in Miami for smashing an individual’s phone for taking a picture of him, the unfathomable blindside cheap shot of a punch to an elderly man (well, at least someone that looked 60 or more years of age) who had simply passed on the offer of a shot of McGregor’s whiskey.
On a more serious note, there are still a pair of pending sexual-assault investigations, one in Dublin and one in California. McGregor didn’t go into detail about those situations, but he told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani in a lengthy interview that “time” will bring out the “truth” and this his name will be cleared soon.
In McGregor’s only UFC fight since beating Alvarez, he took on Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight belt last year at UFC 229 in Vegas on Oct. 6. In recent weeks leading into this bout with Cerrone, McGregor has conceded that he didn’t train properly for the match, skipping multiple days in a row of training during camp and drinking heavily (even the week of the fight).
Whatever the case, Nurmagomedov was in control for most of the fight and finished it with a neck crank in the fourth round.
McGregor has said all the right things this week, mapping out a plan of fighting three times this year. He has mentioned a slew of potential opponents, including Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje, Jorge Masvidal and welterweight champ Kamaru Usman. There’s always the trilogy scrap left to complete with Nate Diaz, too.
Furthermore, he’s refrained from attacking his opponent mentally and verbally for the first time during his UFC career. In fact, McGregor paid homage to Cerrone’s career accomplishments at Wednesday’s presser. Although he eventually predicted a KO when pressed, he added, “There will be blood spilled, but it will not be bad blood.”
UFC 246 Betting Odds per DraftKings (NJ & PA only)
For bettors not interested in risking such an expensive price, McGregor can be backed in other markets to win by TKO/KO (-200), inside the distance (-245), in Round 1 (+200), Round 2 (+450), Round 3 (+625), Round 4 (+1225) and Round 5 (+1775).
Subject to Change
Conor McGregor -335
Donald Cerrone +260
UFC 246 Betting Odds per DraftKings (NJ & PA only)
My advice to those bullish on Cowboy is to be patient. As more of McGregor’s passionate fans arrive in Vegas over the next 48 hours, they’ll hammer ‘The Notorious’ with action and I suspect you’ll be able to back Cerrone for a return North of +300 by Saturday afternoon.
Subject to Change
Conor McGregor By KO, TKO or DQ -200
Conor McGregor By Decision +800
Conor McGregor By Submission +2500
Donald Cerrone By KO, TKO or DQ +750
Donald Cerrone By Decision +800
Donald Cerrone By Submission +550
Tie (Draw) +5000
McGregor and Cerrone have only two common opponents, Alvarez and Diaz. Both men defeated Alvarez, with Cerrone winning a unanimous decision (29-28 across) at UFC 178. Way back on Dec. 30 of 2011 at UFC 141, Diaz put a boxing clinic on Cerrone (although Cowboy was effective with a ton of leg kicks) in a UD victory (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
Diaz earned a second-round submission win over McGregor after taking the fight on short notice (less than two weeks) at UFC 196. In the rematch at UFC 202, McGregor won a majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47), although VegasInsider scored it 48-47 for Diaz and one could make the argument that the Dubliner was saved by the bell in both Rounds 2 and 3.
UFC 246 Best Bet - McGregor-Cowboy Prediction
The fact that the fight is at 170 is an advantage for Cerrone, who cuts much more weight than McGregor to get down to 155. However, the fact that Cerrone has promised the fans that he isn’t going to go for the takedown (he has an enormous advantage on the ground) is an advantage to McGregor, who has incredible timing and a powerful left hand, especially in the early stages of fights. Therefore, I see the fight playing out in one of two ways: McGregor will win by KO in the first or second round but if that doesn’t happen, Cerrone will prevail. The longer the fight goes, the advantage is with Cerrone, who has superior cardio and size. With that said, we’ll put one unit on ‘Cowboy' for the return in the +260 neighborhood.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone +260
Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis vs. Carlos Diego Ferriera
Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis (22-9 MMA, 9-8 UFC) returns to his natural weight class where he once wore UFC gold in the lightweight division. After a Fight of the Night loss to Tony Ferguson in an epic UFC 229 bloodbath, one in which Pettis’s life-long coach, Duke Roufus, wouldn’t let him go out for Round 3 due to a broken hand, Pettis pursued a style matchup he liked for his next bout.
The surprise was that it was at 170 pounds, a move up to welterweight where he’d never competed. Nevertheless, Pettis pulled into his ‘Showtime’ bag of tricks and sprang off the Octagon fence to put extra power behind a right hand that slept Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson by second-round KO.
Pettis decided to stay at welterweight for one more big-time bout, a showdown with Nate Diaz, who is also a natural 155er and was returning from a three-year layoff. It was a helluva fight, but the contest being held at 170 favored Diaz, the bigger and taller man who simply had too much cardio and size for Pettis, who lost a UD.
Now in this spot Saturday, Pettis returns to lightweight to take on Carlos Diego Ferriera (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) as a +200 underdog. Ferriera has won five fights in a row, but none of those victories came over any Top-10 lightweight opponents. This is an enormous step up in class for the 34-year-old Brazilian, who has lost both fights he’s been given against the division’s upper echelon.
Dustin Poirier finished Ferriera via first-round KO in 2015 and he also dropped a UD to Beneil Dariush at UFC 179.
UFC 246 Best Bet - Pettis-Ferriera Prediction
There’s plenty of gas left in the 32-year-old body of Pettis. His UFC record is misleading. Look at his defeats: Diaz, Ferguson, Poirier, Max Holloway (at 145 pounds), Edson Barboza, Eddie Alvarez, Rafael dos Anjos and Clay Guida. Other than Guida and Barboza, we’re talking about former UFC champions in Ferguson (albeit interim, but he can change that in April), Poirier (again interim), Holloway, Alvarez and Dos Anjos. Of course, I left out Diaz, but he’s fought for the 155-pound belt once and has a better resume than many former (and a few current) champions. Pettis’s wins have been spectacular – defeating two of the toughest guys on the roster in Jeremy Stephens and Joe Lauzon, finishing Cerrone by first-round KO in his home territory of Denver, submitting Benson Henderson in Round 1 to win the lightweight title before defending it with a second-round submission of Gilbert Melendez, the long-time former Strikeforce lightweight kingpin. There was also the submission of Charles Oliveira, one of the best submission specialists on the entire promotion’s roster. Finally, Pettis also owns scalps of veterans Michael Chiesa and Jim Miller, in addition to the KO of ‘Wonderboy.’ I’m surprised Pettis isn’t the short favorite and shocked he’s a lucrative underdog. Let’s take advantage with two units on Pettis at +210 odds.
Prediction: Anthony Pettis +210
UFC 246 - Bonus Best Bets and Predictions
-- Holly Holm for two units at a -135 price vs. Raquel Pennington, who lost a split decision to Holm at UFC 184 on Feb. 28 of 2015. However, we should note that that was Holm’s UFC debut when she was still early in her transition from boxing to MMA. Keep in mind that Holm’s only career losses are to current or former UFC champions in Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko, Germaine de Randamie, Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes. Pennington has lost two of her last three fights, with the only victory coming by split decision over Irene Aldana.
-- Let’s go with prop bet for the heavyweight clash between Maurice Green and Aleksei Oleinik to end in Round 1 for 1.5 units.
-- Maycee Barber, the 21-year-old rising star who is 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the UFC, takes on 37-year-old Roxanne Modafferi. We like one unit on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds for a +105 payout. Let’s also add one-half unit on Barber to win in Round 1 for a +165 return. --Our last play is one-half unit on Tim Elliott for a +125 payout vs. Askar Askarov.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards