UFC on ESPN 9 best bets, predictions: Woodley over Burns, Dern to submit Cifers

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·4 min read

LAS VEGAS — Stylistically, there are many similarities between Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns. They’re both black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, have good wrestling and have become accomplished strikers.

Burns, though, is a far more dangerous grappler than Woodley, who has the superior wrestling and should be able to control where the fight goes when they meet in the main event Saturday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) at UFC Apex.

Burns’ striking is developing, but Woodley has a distinct edge in power.

And, Woodley has a distinct edge in quality of opposition. And a distinct edge in physical strength. And an edge in quickness.

All signs point to a Woodley victory, though recent betting action at the MGM Grand Sports Book has gone on Burns. Woodley has been bet down from -185 to -175, with Burns now at +145.

That makes betting on Woodley to win a lot more tolerable. Burns is fantastic at jiu-jitsu and a victory via submission isn’t out of the question.

It’s hard to see Burns winning a decision, though, and even harder to see him by knockout, even though he finished Demian Maia in March his last time out.

Maia, though, doesn’t have nearly the striking technique, the quickness or the power that Woodley possesses.

The question confronting anyone wanting to play Woodley is what to make of his last outing, when he was drubbed by Kamaru Usman in a welterweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena in the main event of UFC 235 on March 2, 2019.

Woodley looked lethargic throughout the bout, and at 38, he’s on the upper end of the age spectrum. There is an adage in the fight game that has held up well over time that notes that an older fighter can lose it overnight.

Knowing that, when you think of playing Woodley, you have to make the determination whether the performance versus Usman was a one-off or the start of the inevitable decline that 99.99 percent of fighters face.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 29: (L-R) Opponents Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns of Brazil face off during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on May 29, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
(L-R) Opponents Tyron Woodley and Gilbert Burns face off during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on Friday in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

My sense is that circumstances led Woodley to be off on that night and that he’s not on the decline. He trains like a maniac and is at the forefront of advanced training techniques. Video of him working out makes him look very similar to the guy who made four successful title defenses before losing to Usman.

Burns certainly will be at his best for the fight. He’s been calling out a big name and in the former champion, this is as big as it gets short of a title shot.

As a bettor, you can be sure what you’re going to get from Burns, but there is at least a little doubt about what Woodley may bring.

Woodley wins this fight, in my opinion. It’s largely going to be a kickboxing match and Woodley should have an edge based on his power and faster hands. He’ll also mix in a few takedown attempts to keep Burns off-balance.

A Woodley play at anything under 9-5 is recommended. At -175, it’s under that mark now and I’d lay the $175 with the goal of winning $100.

If the trend sees bettors playing Burns, go heavier on Woodley if it drops to -150 or less.

Also, try a smaller play on Woodley at +250 to win by decision. Putting $50 down would net a $125 profit.

Three other bets I’d recommend:

In the Mackenzie Dern-Hannah Cifers bout, “won’t go the distance” is -250, while “will go the distance” is +180. I’ll take won’t go and lay the $250 with the hope of making a $100 profit. I figure Dern should get a submission here.

I like Blagoy Ivanov to beat Augusto Sakai at -110, so I’ll lay $110 with the hope of making a $100 profit.

And finally, I’ll lay $100 on fight won’t start Round 3 at +165 in the Roosevelt Roberts-Brok Weaver bout. That will bring me a $165 profit.

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