It is doubly true to call UFC on ESPN 9 a return for the top mixed martial arts promotion in the world. The fight card, headlined by Tyron Woodley vs. Gilbert Burns, will be the first event in Las Vegas since UFC 248 all the way back on March 7. The fight card will be held at the UFC APEX training facility and takes place on Saturday May 30 on ESPN and ESPN+.
Betting odds have been posted in advance of this event for a while, as the UFC is actually going two weeks in between fight cards. Dana White has been adamant about getting his product out there as often as he can during the pandemic, but after three fight cards in the empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, he returns to Las Vegas for what should be a fine night of action.
We’ll pull our odds for the card from BetMGM Sportsbook, but encourage you to shop around for the best prices at places like BetRivers, DraftKings, PointsBet, William Hill, Sugarhouse, or any of the sportsbooks that we have reviewed. Every cent matters to your bottom line, so be sure to take the time to not only see which sportsbook may work best for you, but also to scan the odds on the betting apps or websites.
There are several good fights on the card, but people are definitely eager to see the return of Tyron Woodley. Woodley has not fought since losing his championship in the welterweight division to Kamaru Usman back at UFC 235 in March 2019. Ironically, he lost his title in Vegas and now returns to get on the comeback trail. Gilbert Burns is 11-3 in his UFC career and rides a five-fight winning streak into this one.
The championship rounds could come into play here with a total of 4.5. Burns has never had to go more than 15 minutes. Woodley, as both a champion and a contender, has gone past the third round before. Will that be the deciding factor here? It very well could be and we’ll have to se how Burns handles the potential fatigue against a smart, savvy, opportunistic fighter like Woodley.
Woodley should win the fight, as the -164 odds at BetMGM suggest, but Burns was certainly impressive in his first-round knockout of Demian Maia and impressive win over Gunnar Nelson last September on just about a six-week turnaround.
The lead-in to the main event is the lone heavyweight fight on the card featuring Blagoy Ivanov and Augusto Sakai. While these aren’t completely household names in the heavyweight division, this is an excellent contrast of styles. Ivanov is giving up quite a bit of size in this fight to the taller Sakai, but his ground game is among the best in the division. Sakai is more of a striker, but Ivanov has never been knocked out.
The -110 on both sides at BetMGM makes a ton of sense here, as this one feels every bit of a coin flip.
Not expected to be a coin flip is the first fight off a loss for Mackenzie Dern. Dern is a big -400 favorite as she comes back after losing to Amanda Ribas last October. That was Dern’s first fight following the birth of her daughter and came with a 17-month layoff. Dern will fight Hannah Cifers in the first match on the main card and is expected to get back in the win column. Dern has had issues missing weight in the past. She managed to make it for the fight against Ribas, but keep an eye on that here.
Those looking for action should love Gabriel Green and Daniel Rodriguez. Originally, Kevin Holland was going to come back on a quick turnaround after fighting on May 16 against Anthony Hernandez, but his body won’t allow it, as he withdrew with an injury. Holland beat Hernandez in just 39 seconds, so he felt ready to go, but Holland was not cleared to fight.
Instead, Green will make his UFC debut. He has nine wins, all via stoppage. Rodriguez has 11 wins, including one in the UFC. The 33-year-old has 10 career stoppage wins, including a submission win over Tim Means in a very impressive performance back in February. With the late change, that fight was not lined at time of writing, but we encourage you to check at your favorite sportsbook for the odds prior to the fight.
Big chalk is always scary, but Casey Kenney is -278 looking to bounce back from his first loss in 2.5 years. He takes on longtime UFC veteran Louis Smolka, who scored his first UFC knockout in over three years when he beat Rory MacDonald back in September. Kenney, who was the champion in LFA before jumping to UFC, may be viewed as too big of a favorite here against a more known commodity like Smolka, but has only been fighting at bantamweight for about a year and a half.
There are a lot of fights on the card with various levels of intrigue, but the last one we’ll highlight here is Antonina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian. This is a fascinating fight with Chookagian a +120 underdog in her second straight fight against a Shevchenko. Valentina Shevchenko knocked Chookagian out in her flyweight championship defense at UFC 247. Chookagian now fights Valentina’s older sister.
Common sense would suggest that Chookagian would have a modest advantage here going up against a fighter that should fight very similarly to her previous opponent. On the other hand, both Shevchenko sisters are very good and Chookagian, who has had her moments in the UFC, has been extremely inconsistent. That should bode well for the favorite.
UFC on ESPN 9, or UFC: Woodley vs. Burns if that’s how you prefer to reference it, will be on ESPN and ESPN+ on Saturday May 30. Check out our reviews on the best sports betting apps and sign up and join the fun for this weekend’s UFC card.