Conor McGregor’s return to the octagon has made UFC 246 one of the most hyped cards in recent memory. Although the main event isn’t necessarily all that important in terms of division rankings (at least not going in), Conor McGregor’s star power is all it takes to sell a fight.
UFC 246 isn’t all that deep in terms of established, big name talent outside of McGregor. This isn’t much of a surprise, considering that the UFC has traditionally done this for McGregor fights. The idea is to give younger, up and coming fighters a chance to establish themselves on a pay-per-view stage. So while UFC 246 may not seem all that appealing to the casual eye, we may look back at the card fondly in years to come.
As far as gambling goes, there are plenty of risky fights that will be too close to call. Holm vs. Pennington is intriguing either way but the uncertainty of it makes me wary. That said, there are three fights (main event included) that provide plenty of value as of December 30th.
Sodiq Yusuff (-152) vs. Andre Fili (+126)
When you talk about upcoming talent getting to show out a big stage, this is the bout that comes to mind. Fili has 13 UFC appearances under his belt, including bouts with tough opponents such as Yair Rodriguez, Michael Johnson and Max Holloway. Overall, Fili is 8-5 with the promotion and has been fighting professionally since 2009. While newer to the UFC, Sodiq Yusuff has had a-lot more success in a short period of time. He has won all three of his UFC appearances and his last five fights overall, with two of his UFC victories coming via TKO.
Both fighters head into this bout riding two fight win streaks and will hope to be cashing in on a huge victory. This one has potential Fight of the Night written all over it and projects to be a stand-up heavy battle.
The key to this fight will be the pace Yusuff sets and how Fili will adapt to it. Yusuff is a lightening fast starter and with the power he possesses, he could easily catch Fili early. However, Andre Fili has more experience in the later rounds and has gone to the cards in 6 of his last 7 fights.
That said, Andre Fili has never won three UFC bouts in a row and is 1-3 on PPV cards. This fight could be make or break for Fili to prove what he’s really got, but ultimately I think Yusuff will be able to do enough damage and secure a knockout by the end of the second round. Fili has a tendency to lunge into the pocket too often and has gotten caught this way before.
At -152, there’s a fair bit of money-line value here.
Grant Dawson (-200) vs. Chas Skelly (+164)
This bout between two wrestling heavy fighters features the up and coming Grant Dawson (14-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) vs. UFC veteran Chas Skelly (18-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC). Fights between two wrestlers generally devolve into stand-up battles which oftentimes effectively make them toss-ups. While Dawson’s UFC resume is much more sparse than Skelly’s, he has far more striking TKO’s throughout his career. Skelly only has two career TKO’s to his name with the last one coming in 2015.
Age is also a factor here. Dawson has the edge in being almost 9 years younger but that could also cost him in experience. Dawson has been able to secure submissions before round 3 in many of his fights up to this point where as Skelly has longer fights under his belt. That said, Skelly doesn’t go to the cards all that often himself. Dawson also has a slight edge in striking percentage with 46% to Skelly’s 41%. If the fight does come down to who has the better stand up, I think Dawson will be able to edge it out due to superior striking combined with age.
As for wrestling, Dawson has a very aggressive top game and has proven to be quite the submission specialist early in his career. Skelly obviously has far more wrestling experience and this will be Dawson’s big test, but I expect his wrestling to be superior as well.
The line could be a bit better here, but this bout is one of the more predictable ones with value. Grant Dawson could be one of the bigger UFC prospects in 2020 and it’s tough to see him going down to Chas Skelly.
Update: The bout between Chas Skelly and Grant Dawson due to a USADA issue on the part of Dawson
Conor McGregor TKO (-165)
The line for a McGregor TKO currently sits at (-165) on FanDuel, which is intriguing. It is certainly a more valuable bet than the moneyline (-270 for a McGregor victory) and has a reasonable chance of coming true.
Though McGregor hasn’t fought since his tap out to Khabib, he seems to have put his antics in the past. McGregor has said that his comeback is crucial to his legacy and that he doesn’t want to be known as a fighter who foolishly threw everything away. Is Welterweight more of a challenge for McGregor? It absolutely is and while Cowboy is certainly past his prime, this is far from an easy win.
However, there seems to be this idea that Conor McGregor is some washed up scrub and not one of the more prolific fighters in UFC history. It has become rather accepted that Conor McGregor simply drinks whiskey all the time and has no motivation to fight despite any real evidence. Outside of a few high profile incidents, there really haven’t been any reports of heavy drinking and partying regarding McGregor. There’s really no reason to believe that McGregor is washed up and if that’s the case, a TKO against a post peak Cowboy should be no issue.
UFC 246 is also make or break for McGregor where as Cowboy’s career is already more or less set in stone. This is simply an enormous thank you payday if we’re being real. This is McGregor’s night to shine, and the fact that a loss essentially ends McGregor as a contender will give the Irishman even more motivation to put on a show.