Gaethje deserves a look for UFC 249

By Lou Finocchiaro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

Justin Gaethje
© Imagn

It’s back! 

The UFC resumes its business of MMA fighting on May 9, and with that, Insight the Octagon’s focus on deriving profits from UFC bouts returns refreshed and ready for battle.

The UFC 249 slate is steeped with diverse talent and competitive bouts. From women’s strawweight (115 pounds) to men’s heavyweight (265 pounds), this event is stacked with top-name fighters. It could be argued that all 12 matchups are worthy of main-card consideration.

Next week I’ll take an in-depth look at the main event, pitting Tony Ferguson -185 vs. Justin Gaethje + 165 in a lightweight elimination fight. (It is tagged as an interim title bout, but there is only one lightweight champion in MMA, Khabib Nurmagomedov).

The winner of this fight should be poised to fight Nurmagomedov for the real lightweight title this fall. But if Gaethje happens to win, I suspect Conor McGregor could arise as competition in that supposed title fight.

Let’s face it: Now, even more than before, the UFC is out to capitalize on any major promotion it can. So if it’s McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov — say, in Saudi Arabia — do not be surprised because the UFC’s return on investment could mean more than choosing the most worthy fighter.

Because this will be the only real actionable sporting event besides ponies and exotic overseas endeavors, I anticipate prices will be moving as we near the weigh-in May 8.

I’ve tracked the opening lines on the fights remaining from this originally scheduled slate and will continue to do so as I believe opportunities will exist to get the best of these prices the day of the fights. That’s when money will be coming in not only from eager MMA enthusiasts but from other bettors who are tired of chasing nags or betting ping-pong.

So for the most part I’ll lie in wait to obtain maximum value on my wagers unless something happens to prompt me otherwise — and something has!

Tony Ferguson -185

vs. Justin Gaethje + 165

Lightweight (155 pounds) Interim Title

Getting the best of the number is a pursuit all profitable players strive for, and I believe I have found enough inconsistency in the pricing of this main event that I’ll move now.

Gaethje + 165

Again, the full fight breakdown comes next week, but here is a brief explanation of why I choose to move now:

When this fight was scheduled for April 18, Ferguson opened -155. He was -170 by the time it was postponed. Many attribute -170 to the fact that Gaethje took the fight on short notice, with just two weeks to prepare. Ferguson reopened -175 several days ago.

Gaethje now has a full camp to prepare for Ferguson based on the new date. It’s my conviction that Gaethje has 4 1/2 rounds of cardio and profuse power instead of only maybe 2 1/2.

Ferguson deservedly gets credit for superior cardio, but he is 36. He has had to prepare for and mentally overcome missing his big-money fight with Nurmagomedov. And he has had to prep for Gaethje twice. So not only does Gaethje arrive off a full camp, but Ferguson could well be drained based on overpreparation.

Ferguson earned much respect from those who are easily impressed when he made weight for his April 18 bout while Gaethje was in the gym. 

The mental adjustments Ferguson has had to incur coupled with his brutal training regimen and topped by an aggressive weight cut just weeks ago tell me Ferguson will not be in an ideal spot May 9.

I believe some money may appear on Gaethje as we near the bout and that it’s quite possible this fight goes off much tighter than it’s currently priced. I handicap this bout Ferguson -120 on May 9.

For these reasons, I believe Gaethje + 165 might represent the best price we’ll see.

Next week I’ll provide further detail about this main event.

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