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UFC

Jul 24, 2020

UFC Fight Island 3 Picks, Odds, Predictions

Saturday’s ‘Fight Island 3’ card will be the fourth show in Abu Dhabi since July 11, and it’s the largest wth 15 fights.

The headliner will feature former middleweight champion, Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker, who is returning to the Octagon for the first time since losing his belt to Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya, to face Darren ‘The Gorilla’ Till.

UFC Fight Island 3
Betting Resources

  • Betting Odds: Money-Lines, Totals
  • Date: Saturday, July 25, 2020
  • Venue: UFC Fight Island
  • Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Expected Fights: 15
  • TV/Time: ESPN, ESPN+, 5:00 p.m. ET

Middleweight Bout
Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till

UFC Fight Island 3
Main Event
Betting Analysis

As of late Friday morning, FanDuel had top-ranked Whittaker (20-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) installed as a -134 ‘chalk’ vs. Till, who was a +114 underdog. The total was 4.5 rounds (‘under’ -144, ‘over’ +114).

The 29-year-old Whittaker has only fought twice in the last three years. After Georges St. Pierre vacated the middleweight belt after winning it from Michael Bisping, Whittaker won the strap with a unanimous-decision win (48-47, 48-47, 48-47) over Yoel Romero at UFC 213 on July 8 of 2017.

Romero was granted a rematch at UFC 225 vs. Whittaker, and another razor-close battle took place. Whittaker won a split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) at UFC 225 in a scrap that earned Fight of the Night honors and was a candidate for 2018 Fight of the Year. Since that June 9 slugfest, Whittaker pulled out the day of a title defense vs. Kelvin Gastelum in February of 2019 at UFC 234 to have hernia surgery.

When the Aussie recovered from surgery, he lost to Adesanya via second-round knockout at UFC 243 last October. Whittaker’s first fight since losing the belt was supposed to be against Jared Cannonier on March 7 at UFC 248 earlier this year. However, about seven weeks ahead of the contest, Whittaker withdrew for unknown reasons. He eventually revealed in April that he was suffering from burnout.

These developments obviously created questions about where Whittaker’s head is and if he still has the passion for the sport. As UFC President Dana White often says, “you have to be all in” to compete at a high level in his promotion.

Before the loss to Adesanya, Whittaker had won nine consecutive fights, including an 8-0 mark in the middleweight loop and hadn’t tasted defeat since suffering a first-round KO loss to Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson at UFC 170 on Feb. 22 of 2014. Whittaker’s notable victims included Jacare Souza, Romero (twice), Rafael Natal, Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares.

Till (18-2-1 MMA, 6-2-1 UFC), the 27-year-old Liverpool product who is ranked fifth, is fighting at middleweight for only the second time in his career. In his 185-pound debut vs. Gastelum at UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden in New York City last November, visa issues prevented him from arriving in NYC until Friday, only 24 hours ahead of the contest. Nevertheless, Till won a split decision.

The victory helped Till avoid a three-fight losing streak. He went 5-0-1 in six welterweight fights to start his UFC tenure, but Till missed weight twice during that span. In fact, he was five pounds over for a UD win over Jessin Ayari. Then in a main event vs. Thompson at UFC Liverpool in May of 2018, Till tipped the scales at 174.5 pounds (3.5 pounds over the 171-pound limit for welterweight non-title bouts).

Till’s weight wasn’t the only controversy in the UD win (49-46, 48-47, 49-46) over ‘Wonderboy’ in a lackluster contest. According to MMADecisions, 10 media members scored the fight 49-46 for Thompson, one had it 49-47 in favor of Thompson, another had it 49-48 for ‘Wonderboy’ and 10 other media members had it 48-47 for Thompson. Only three scorers from the media had it 48-47 for Till, so that’s a total of 22 out of 25 thinking ‘Wonderboy’ had prevailed.

Whatever the case, Till was given a title shot against then-welterweight kingpin Tyron Woodley at UFC 228. Woodley won by second-round submission (D’Arce Choke). Then in March of 2019, Till was booked to headline UFC London against Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal.

In a Fight of the Night performance from both men, Till dropped Masvidal in Round 1, but ‘Gamebred’ recovered quickly. Then in Round 2, Masvidal’s ‘resurrection’ began with a highlight-reel KO from an audacios left hook that left the crowd silenced.

The loss prompted Till’s move to middleweight and with a win here in this spot against the division’s No. 1 ranked contender and former champion, Till has said all week that he’ll settle for nothing but a title shot next.

UFC Fight Island 3
Whittaker vs. Till Picks

I don’t have a strong feel here, but the guess is that Till’s in a better frame of mind. Both men are 6-foot with Till owning a once-inch reach advantage, although Whittaker has a once-inch edge in leg reach.

I think Whittaker is quicker, but Till has more power and can take a punch better. (His only loss by KO was a punch from Masvidal that would’ve slept anybody!) I think Till is now at his natural weight class and feeling better without needing to cut the extra 15 pounds. Let’s go with one unit on Till for a +114 payout.

Light Heavyweight Bout
Maurício Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

The co-main event features a pair of Brazilian legends completing their trilogy in the final fight of Antonio Rogerio ‘Little Nog’ Nogueira’s career. As of Friday, FanDuel had Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua listed as a -196 ‘chalk,’ with Nogueira at +164 on the comeback. The total was 1.5 rounds (‘over’ -142, ‘under’ +112).

The 38-year-old Rua has already beaten 44-year-old Nogueira twice via UDs. The first win came on June 26 of 2005 in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix quarterfinal. Then at UFC 190 in Rio on Aug. 1 of 2015, Rua won another UD (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in the Fight of the Night.

Rua is 4-1-1 in his last six fights dating back to 2015. There was a time where it was clear that Rua had taken too much damage in a short period of time, especially in his loss to Jon Jones at UFC 128 in 2011. Then later in 2011 at UFC 139, Rua rallied valliantly but still took a beating in a UD loss to Dan Henderson in what was one of my favorite fights in UFC history.

In 2014, Rua was KO’d by OSP and Henderson. However, Rua has only been KO’d once since December of 2014 (by Anthony Smith in July of 2018).

UFC Fight Island 3
Rua vs. Rogerio Nogueira Picks

‘Little Nog’ is 2-4 in his last six fights and hasn’t won a fight outside of Brazil since winning a UD over Rashad Evans in Las Vegas at UFC 156 on Feb. 2 of 2013. I like Shogun here, but the straight price is a tad too expensive. I will be including him in a parlay, though, that I’ll mention below.

Let’s go with one-half unit on the prop bet for Rua to win by TKO/KO for a +155 payout via FanDuel.

Heavyweight Bout
Fabrício Werdum vs. Alexander Gustafsson

Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson has challenged for the UFC’s light heavyweight title three times. He lost a narrow decision to Jones in what was the toughest fight of the longtime champ’s career. The Swede then lost a split decision to Daniel Cormier. In the rematch with Jones, Gustaffson lost by third-round KO.

After the second loss to Jones, Gustaffson lost to Smith by fourth-round submission at UFC Stockhold in front of racous crowd on his home turf. In what he admitted this week was just an emotional decision, he decided to leave his gloves in the Octagon and announce his retirement.

However, he’s back nearly 14 months after the loss to Smith and is moving up to make his heavyweight debut. Gustafsson tipped the scaled at 240 pounds Friday morning. He’ll face former heavyweight kingpin Fabricio Werdum, who weighed in at 242 pounds.

After being out two years due to a USADA suspension, Werdum returned and lost a split decision to Alexey Oleynik at UFC 249 in Jacksonville on May 9. Since losing his belt by first-round KO to Stipe Miocic at UFC 198, Werdum is 3-3 with wins over Travis Browne, Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura.

UFC Fight Island 3
Werdum vs. Gustafsson Picks

With FanDuel listing Gustafsson as an enormous -375 favorite, the play on the side seems to be Werdum at +300 or pass. Werdum looked rusty in Round 1 vs. Oleynik, but then he came on strong late in Round 2 and in the third and final frame. Werdum is right there with Frank Mir as the two best submission specialists in UFC heavyweight history, so the +800 payout at FanDuel for the prop on Werdum to win by submission certainly caught my eye. However, with a fresh Gustafsson still only 33, I feel like the most likely outcome is Gustafsson to win a decision over the 42-year-old Werdum.

The smart move is to pass, but I like to gamble so let’s put one-half unit on Gustafsson to win by decision for a +170 payout (FanDuel).

UFC Fight Island 3
Bonus Picks

-- Former women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza has won three straight fights. I think she wrestles her way to victory over Marina Rodriguez as a +152 underdog, so let’s put one unit on Esparza.

-- I like two units on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds at a -128 price for the light-heavyweight showdown between Paul Craig and Gadzhimurad Antigulov. Craig has seen only one of his 17 career fights go to the judges’ scorecards. He owns 11 wins by submission and one by KO, and Craig has been KO’d three times and submitted once. Antigulov has seen all four of his UFC fights end in the first round. In fact, 23 of his 26 career scraps have ended in the opening frame. Antigulov has 15 wins by submission and four by KO. He’s been KO’d four times and submitted twice.

-- If the price for all of Jake Collier’s 15 career fights was 1.5 rounds, the ‘under’ would own a 10-5 record. Collier (11-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) has five wins by KO and three by submission. His four losses have come via a pair of KO defeats, one submission setback and one decision loss. His heavyweight opponent Tom Aspinall (7-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has five wins by KO and two by submission on his resume. Only two of his nine fights have made it to Round 2 and none have seen a third stanza. Let’s go with two units on ‘under’ 1.5 rounds for a +120 return (FanDuel).

-- The biggest ‘chalk’ on the card is undefeated Khamzat Chimaev, who won his UFC debut last Wednesday with a second-round submission of middleweight John Phillips. Chimaev took the fight on short notice and fought up a division from his normal welterweight class. He’s taking on Rhys McKee as a -1350 favorite at FanDuel. Poor McKee! What a disastrous matchup for his promotional debut. Give me two units on the prop for Chimaev to win in Round 1 at a -125 price from DraftKings.

-- I also like a three-fight parlay for one unit (+159 return) with Chiamev (-1350), Alex Oliveira (-168) and Rua (-196). The VI parlay calculator tells me that’ll net a +159 return (+158.76 to be exact).

B.E.’s Bonus
Octagon Nuggets

-- All 15 fights will be on ESPN starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

-- Whittaker was the 2017 Fighter of the Year. He has bagged seven career fight-night bonuses, including four for FOTN and three for POTN.

-- Twenty-nine of 30 fighters made weight, with Francisco Trinaldo being the lone exception. For the first time in his 22-fight UFC tenure, Trinaldo missed weight when he tipped the scales at 160 pounds. That’s four pounds over the 156-pound maximum for lightweight non-title fights. He’ll forfeit 30 percent of his purse to his opponent, Jai Herbert.

-- Since Irene Aldana tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, her main-event showdown vs. Holly Holm as next Saturday’s headliner at the UFC APEX facility has been scrapped. The new main event is unbeaten rising star Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Derek Brunson in a middleweight class. Due to the short notice, it’ll still be a three-round affair despite its elevation to the headliner.

-- Memo to UFC, Dana White, Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby: Matt Brown vs. Carlos Condit has to happen before either legendary welterweight retires. Let’s make that happen – pronto!

-- Speaking of ‘The Immortal,’ check out Brown’s Instagram or Twitter timelines. His six-year-old nephew recently saved his baby sister’s life by protecting her from an attacking dog. Brown’s nephew was hospitalized for weeks, but is on the mend now. There’s something about the DNA in that Brown family that has toughness written all over it.

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