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UFC 249 looms as only show in town

By Lou Finocchiaro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

UFC 249 is scheduled for April 18 with the location reportedly an Indian casino in California. Hopefully, by next week, we will have the site confirmed, as it is material in handicapping fights.

Next week I’ll break down the main event for UFC 249 in detail. This will be for the interim (a tag the UFC uses whenever it helps the organization) lightweight title, which anyone who follows the UFC knows is rightly controlled by its top pound-for-pound fighter, Khabib Nurmagomedov.  

The main event and the other 11 scheduled bouts represent a tremendous opportunity for the UFC. As the only live major sporting production in several weeks, it is sure to attract new fans to the UFC while providing a gambling outlet for the many bettors who thirst for action.

The UFC is aware of the opportunity, so make no mistake that the delivery of this production is without question meticulously calculated. From April 18 to a date unknown, the UFC will be the only show in professional sports gaming besides Russian table tennis and Taiwan basketball.

In the main event, Justin Gaethje steps in for Nurmagomedov, who is locked in Russia after he and Dana White thought the fight would be held outside the U.S. But everything changed quickly from a couple of weeks ago, and in his zeal to make an event happen April 18, White inserted Gaethje, who was willing, able and in the States to oppose the already scheduled Tony Ferguson.

Prices on each fight were just being posted Tuesday, and for several days until the weigh-ins, bettors will be firing. Most of the action on these fights usually takes place after the weigh-ins, generally the Friday morning before the event. Seasoned bookmakers will tell you that most of the wagering is done the day the fights go off.

So in this most unusual scenario with a void of anything to wager on, it’s important that early movement on these bouts be monitored with caution. I believe real value for some of these fighters will come late next week after every form of bettor, savvy and square, has played into the opening lines.

My approach for UFC 249 will be to practice patience early and allow action players to manipulate a major sports market that is much less sophisticated than most others — and really not quite major either. By fight day I expect discernible value to be available on a handful of these bouts. Unless something unusual occurs, that’s when I’ll invest.

Here are thoughts on a couple of these matchups.

Tony Ferguson -165 vs. Justin Gaethje + 145 (lightweight, 155 pounds), main event

I am at a loss to understand why Ferguson would accept this fight. I see absolutely no upside for him but tremendous risk as far as earning the lightweight title over Nurmagomedov and cementing his legacy as an all-time great lightweight. Much more on this next week.

Rose Namajunas -220 vs. Jessica Andrade + 190 (women’s strawweight, 115 pounds)

This is a rematch from last summer, when Namajunas went off as a -125 favorite. She was controlling the fight until Andrade picked her up and slammed her on her head to earn the title she has since lost. Andrade comes in off the loss of her championship, and Namajunas enters off her loss of the belt to Andrade. Great matchmaking. Live dog?

Calvin Kattar -240 vs. Jeremy Stephens + 200

This fight is one I’m watching. Kattar is an accomplished striker and should be favored against a gritty, forward-plowing power striker in Stephens. Kattar opened -155, which I believe to be an accurate depiction of this bout. Kattar is now -240, so we’ll sit back and monitor this number knowing there is absolutely a price where Stephens becomes a buy.

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