Everybody will have access to this weekend’s UFC card, even if you use rabbit ears on an old tube TV. That’s because it will be the first fight card on ABC and the main card begins at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday January 16 from the shiny, new Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
There are expected to be 2,000 fans in attendance on Fight Island for this one that is headlined by Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. This will be the first UFC event on network TV since December 2018 and when Fox used to have the broadcast rights. Now ABC/ESPN holds all of the broadcast rights.
Our buddies at BetMGM Sportsbook have odds up for the first card of 2021 and we’ll use those to take a look at some of the key bouts and some of the best betting options for UFC on ABC 1.
We’ll go ahead and start with that main event between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. Holloway is the -165 favorite per BetMGM with +140 on the comeback for the underdog in Kattar. This will be Holloway’s first non-title fight since June 4, 2016, which is a remarkable statistic. Holloway lost back-to-back fights to Alexander Volkanovski, including a controversial split-decision loss last time out at UFC 251.
This is the biggest opportunity Kattar has seen in his career. It’s crazy to think he’s actually three years old than Holloway, but he’s finally getting a long-awaited opportunity. Kattar’s striking power is what makes him a live underdog here, but spotlight fights are a new frontier for him. They are not for Holloway.
Another wagering angle here to consider, depending on how long this fight goes, is that Kattar has never been asked to go more than 15 minutes. Holloway is used to the “championship rounds” and those last 10 minutes can be extremely taxing.
Given that the total on the fight is 3.5 with the over at -200, it sure looks as though Rounds 4 and 5 could come into play. Holloway should be able to outlast Kattar if that ends up the case. Holloway by decision is +125. The fight is -175 to go the distance.
Kattar is live, but the context clues in the line suggest we’re most likely to see Holloway by decision and Kattar’s inexperience with those later rounds may end up a huge determining factor.
Fight fans will certainly know the names Matt Brown and Carlos Condit. Condit is the -165 favorite in the lead-in to the main event. It would be wrong to refer to these two as over-the-hill fighters, but Brown is 40 and Condit is 36, but he is much older in fight years. Condit has lost eight of his last 11 fights. Brown has dropped most of his recent fights as well and just got knocked out in May for the third time in his career.
It’s a fight based on name recognition and one that makes sense for an ABC card, but it may not be the best betting option. The underdog Brown at +140 is live, simply because I wouldn’t bet Condit as a big favorite.
Joaquin Buckley is in a great spot on this card. He’s -275 against Alessio Di Chirico, so we’re paying a big price, but this is a fight set up for Buckley to get another impressive win and to grow his brand in front of a large audience. Di Chirico is just 3-5 in the UFC and has dropped three straight fights. Buckley is a highlight machine and a great parlay piece for those betting on this card.
As far as who to pair with Buckley, Ramazan Emeev takes on David Zawada on the undercard. Emeev is -275 with +210 on the other side. It is interesting that the Buckley/Di Chirico fight is -275 and +225, while this one is -275 and +210. That would suggest some protection with the underdog Zawada, but Emeev had a much more impressive path to UFC, including a stint as the M-1 champ. Zawada is only 1-2 in his UFC scraps.
Maybe the best fight of the night, aside from the main event, is Tom Breese against Omari Akhmedov. Breese is the -155 favorite, but this is probably my favorite underdog opportunity on the card. Breese is more of a knockout guy and Akhmedov is more of a patient fighter and we’ve seen that have an influence on the UFC betting odds in the past.
Akhmedov has gone the distance in each of his last seven fights. Breese is liable to get frustrated with his inability to finish the challenger. Akhmedov is off of his first loss in more than four years, so we should get a max effort here.
There are a lot of great things happening at BetMGM right now. New users in Iowa can sign up this week and get $100 in free bets based on Luka Garza scoring a point for the Hawkeyes. Those in Iowa or in other states serviced by BetMGM, like New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, or Tennessee, can bet $1 and win $100 in free bets when the first touchdown is scored in the Divisional Round.
And, as always, a Welcome Bonus awaits when you sign up at BetMGM! Enjoy the fights!