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UFC 224: Nunes vs Pennington Fight Odds and Winning Pick

Raquel Pennington(9-5) @ Amanda Nunes(15-4)

  • Where: Jeunesse Arena. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • When: May 12, 2018 7:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: Nunes (-900) vs Pennington (+550)

Ah, nostalgia! It was almost a year and a half ago when MSB was tasked with predicting a Women’s Bantamweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey. Most handicappers felt that Rousey would win (for the record, we argued that Nunes was the better bet). Nunes had previously lost to Cat Zingano in a match that some felt had demonstrated the former’s ceiling in big UFC bouts, despite the Brazilian’s having won 4 in a row and beaten Meisha Tate for the belt in Rowdy’s absence.

Meanwhile, Rousey’s challenge was heralded as a triumphant return to the Octagon. Her odds were (-140) to win back the Bantamweight belt.

The rest is history. Nunes waded confidently into Rousey’s range and peppered her with brutal punches, winning the bout in a stunning 48 seconds. The Lioness is still champion 17 months later.

Will it be any different against Raquel Pennington this Saturday night? Nunes hasn’t defended her belt since September of ’17, and she was extended a full 5 rounds in that fight. However, her opponent was Valentina Shevchenko, a martial artist who most would argue is of greater stature than Pennington. The latter’s odds of victory at UFC 224 are set at more than 5-to-1 at Bovada Sportsbook.

Why such a (perceived) mismatch on such a big card? Why, a replacement-fighter of course. UFC promotions are always subject to changes right up to the scheduled hour. The Year of the McGregor Bus Incident has taken that trend over the top. An executed-as-planned card would be the real shocker!

Nunes was originally going to fight Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg in a title-for-title scrap, but that was scuttled several weeks ago as Pennington stepped in.

Oh, and it’s a home field – or home cage – advantage for Lioness as the bout will be in front of a rabid throng at Jeunusse Arena in Rio. A PPV-worthy undercard will buoy the anticipation.

Read below for betting tips for 4 of the scheduled matches.

Amanda Nunes (-900) vs Raquel Pennington (+550)

Loyal MSB readers know we’re not fans of bets made at excruciatingly short odds. UFC 224 is no exception. Nunes has exceptional power and doesn’t fight too often for her own good, as many MMA fighters unfortunately do. In the cage, she keeps it simple and plays to her strengths. Arguably, she hasn’t made a strategic mistake in an Octagon since taking a grieving Zingano lightly almost 4 years ago.

But (-900) odds means that almost a thousand bucks in stake money must be gambled to win a single Benjamin. Nunes may go the rest of her career without ever winning 9 bouts in a row. Bad breaks and bad nights happen far too often in a very competitive sport.

If the champ is a bad bet, what about Pennington at (+550)?

The Coloradoan’s record in her first 10 fights would justify those odds – or even longer ones. With a .500 record, “Rocky” was known as a grappler with a tough chin who lost decisions. During a 2-and-4 slump, she tapped-out to Zingano while losing to Holly Holm, Leslie Smith and Jessica Andrade.

But the past few years have told a different story. Pennington choked-out Andrade in a 2015 rematch, won fights over Bethe Correia and Elizabeth Phillips, then defeated Meisha Tate in a memorable clash in New York City.

Her current form is something of a mystery as she has not entered the cage since that date in November ’16. But we’re liking the upset pick at (+550). If Pennington can whip Tate by unanimous decision, she could find a way to out-last Nunes in 4 or 5 tries.

If your book offers an Over/Under on the length of the fight, bet over (2 1/2) rounds unless the odds are prohibitive.

Wager on Raquel Pennington to upset Amanda Nunes in Rio de Janeiro and receive a sign-up reward from Bovada Sportsbook.

UFC 224 – The undercard in Rio

Mackenzie Dern (-250) vs Amanda Cooper (+195) 

Another intriguing distaff bout takes place at 11 PM EST as Dern brings her martial artist’s grappling skills and immense hype into the Octagon to face Cooper. The latter has only waged 6 professional fights and hasn’t come close to winning them all.

However, Amanda Cooper is a better boxer than Mackenzie Dern, who struggled to get past unheralded Ashley Yoder in her UFC debut.

Betting books shouldn’t allow anyone to gamble on Cooper-to-win and over total rounds because it’s almost like a correlated parlay. There’s a chance Dern will ground her opponent and win easily on the mat, but also a chance Cooper can dance and slug her way to a decision or knockout victory. Go with the underdog at a near 2-to-1 payoff.

John Lineker (-250) vs Brian Kelleher (+195) 

This striker vs grappler bout is much the same story as Dern vs Cooper, except the fighting styles of favorite vs underdog are reversed. Lineker looked a step slow in his loss to T.J. Dillashaw on the same night that Nunes knocked out Rousey. Yet he’s the favorite in this one, as handicappers don’t think Kelleher can overcome Lineker’s power.

Once again, it’s wise to play the percentages here. Lineker could find ways to stay on his feet, stalking and eventually busting-open the underdog mat-wrestling specialist. But it’s just as likely that Kelleher will score a quick take-down or 2 early and turn the match into a battle of speed and fluidity on the ground. Advantage goes to bettors picking the (+195) fighter here. It’s a near-coin toss result with a much better payoff on the ‘dog.

Karl Roberson (-150) vs Cezar Ferreira (+120) 

Good heavens, do any of the favorites have a chance in Rio? Karl Roberson does. The undefeated Middleweight is only at 1.5/1 odds-to-win largely because his veteran opponent Ferreira is considered a superior grappler. But that’s merely a betting opportunity for gamblers looking to cash-in on a continued winning streak.

Roberson has good length and excellent kick-boxing skills, and should be able to find a comfortable striking range against the 33-year-old Brazilian. What’s more, the visiting cage-fighter submitted Darren Stewart with a choke hold in his UFC debut, proving that he’s anything but a one-dimensional striker.

We’re liking the dynamic Roberson to win in the 2nd or 3rd round, quieting what should be a noisy crowd pulling for its own. All winning streaks must end eventually in MMA. But it won’t happen this time.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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