UFC 221 Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions
Just one major UFC card in February and it’s Saturday night from Perth Arena in Australia (fight is Sunday Down Under) as Luke Rockhold takes on fill-in challenger Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight belt. It’s the only title fight on the card. Per usual, the main card will start at 10 p.m. ET and on pay-per-view. The prelims are on Fox Sports 1. Here’s a look at the main fights. The UFC made its debut in Australia with UFC 110 in February 2010. The company’s first card in Western Australia, will be its 12th in the country. Let’s take a look the top UFC 221 betting odds for this Saturday.
UFC 221 Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions
Luke Rockhold (16-3) vs. Yoel Romero (12-2)
UFC 221 Betting Odds: Rockhold (+135) / Romero (-160)
The Cuban Romero is the No. 1 contender in the middleweight division and the American Rockhold the No. 2. Rockhold is -140 at Mybookie.ag with Romero at +120 and an over/under of 1.5 rounds. So who is the champion? Australian Robert Whittaker, but he was forced to pull out against Rockhold due to injury – the main reason the card is in Australia was because of Whittaker.
“I’ve gone into many fights injured,” Whittaker said this week. “I went into the Yoel Romero fight with a torn MCL, I went into multiple fights with broken hands, and that’s never deterred me. And during my prep and my camp, I did my hamstring — I did blow my hamstring out — but I was willing to work around it. So we just worked around it, threw it on the wall, no explosive sort of stuff, and then I got an abscess infection. That absolutely knocked me out of the park.”
While he was previously able to train around his hamstring injury, the infection ended up leaving “The Reaper” bedridden for several weeks, and Whittaker believes the weakening of his immune system may have led to his ensuing battle with chickenpox as well. Chickenpox in adults can be very serious, even fatal.
When Was the Last Time Robert Whittaker Fought?
Whittaker last fought in July, beating Romero by unanimous decision. He hasn’t faced Rockhold. Georges St-Pierre won the middleweight title last year over Michael Bisping at UFC 217 but vacated it because he couldn’t defend it in due time due to his own health concerns. Whittaker then won the interim belt vs. Romero.
A former UFC champion, Rockhold is coming off a TKO win over David Branch in September. Rockhold lost his title to Bisping at UFC 199 in June 2016. In terms of striking differential (the difference between significant strikes landed per minute and significant strikes absorbed per minute) Rockhold has a substantial advantage over Romero. His striking differential in the UFC is plus-2.50, while Romero’s is currently plus-0.77.
However, during his UFC career, Romero has scored six knockdowns at a rate of 0.78 knockdown per 15 minutes. Rockhold only has two knockdowns through eight-career UFC fights. In addition, he has been on the receiving end of three knockdowns.
Mark Hunt (13-11) vs. Curtis Blaydes (8-1)
UFC 221 Betting Odds: Hunt (+135) / Blaydes (-160)
It’s a heavyweight bout with New Zealand’s Hunt ranked No. 5 in the division and Blaydes No. 9. However, Blaydes is a -160 favorite and Hunt +135. Hunt was recently cleared to return to competition. Citing “medical concerns,” Hunt was pulled from November’s UFC Fight Night 121 headliner in Sydney, a decision was made after Hunt admitted to memory loss and slurred speech in a piece he wrote for PlayersVoice.com.au titled, “If I die fighting, that’s fine.”
Hunt, already with one lawsuit against the UFC, threatened another in the wake of the promotion’s decision to pull him from UFC Sydney. He called UFC President Dana White a “bald-headed prick” in a scathing Instagram post. Hunt claimed this suspension was punishment for the civil lawsuit he filed against the company, White and Brock Lesnar regarding Lesnar’s failed test at UFC 200. Hunt’s last fight took place in May at UFC Fight Night 110, where he defeated Derrick Lewis via TKO in a slugfest “Fight of the Night.”
After suffering a TKO loss to top contender Francis Ngannou in his promotional debut, Blaydes, a 26-year-old former collegiate wrestler, has since won four consecutive fights. Three of the wins – over Cody East, Adam Milstead and Oleksiy Oliynyk – came via knockout. Blaydes has finished seven of his eight career wins by knockout or technical knockout.
Tai Tuivasa (8-0) vs. Cyril Asker (9-3)
UFC 221 Betting Odds: Tuivasa (-290) / Asker (-235)
The Aussie Tuivasa is a -290 favorite against the Frenchman Asker. Tuivasa made a big splash in his UFC debut, finishing Rashad Coulter with a devastating flying knee at 4:35 of the first round in November. The Aussie-Samoan has won all six of his career fights by knockout and none have come out of the first round. He also hasn’t really fought anyone of note yet.
Asker is coming off a second-round submission win over Yaozong Hu at UFC Shanghai in November. He has gone 2-2 thus far in the UFC and is a former Extreme Fighting Championship (South Africa) heavyweight champion.
Jake Matthews vs. Li Jingliang
UFC 221 Betting Odds: Matthews (165+) / Jingliang (-190)
It’s a welterweight bout with the Aussie Matthews a +165 underdog and China’s Lee at -190. Matthews got back on track in November when he returned to welterweight after fighting at lightweight for the first seven bouts of his UFC tenure. He had lost his final two at lightweight but beat Bojan Velickovic by split decision back at welterweight at UFC Fight Night 121. The victory was his first since a “Fight of the Night” submission of Johnny Case in March 2016.
Matthews is confident he can bring the Xinjiang native down: “100 percent. I feel much better at welterweight, and I know my last fight was a bit lack luster, but with a two-fight losing streak and my first fight at welterweight there were a few nerves there. It was a must win but I definitely feel like all the pressure has been lifted now, so hopefully I go out there and let loose.”
Jingliang won his fourth straight fight with a first-round TKO of Zak Ottow in November at UFC Fight Night 122 in his home country of China. The bout was his first appearance in a UFC co-main event, and he picked up his second straight $50,000 fight-night bonus.
UFC 221 Expert Betting Predictions
Romero beats Rockhold by KO/TKO but it will last at least two rounds. Take Blaydes over the past-his prime Hunt, Tuivasa to remain unbeaten and Matthews to lose to Jingliang.