UFC 290 Predictions, Odds, Best Bets: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez are among the top picks to consider

It’s UFC International Fight Week and that means a big Saturday night pay-per-view event in Las Vegas. UFC 290 also features two world title fights.

The main event features a unification match between world featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and interim world champion Yair Rodriguez. Volkanovski suffers his first loss in more than 20 fights after moving up to lightweight to take on 155-pound champion Islam Makhachev. Despite losing the bout via unanimous decision, Volkanovski put on a tremendous performance that showed he could match the champion one division up, shot for shot.

While Volkanovski tried to conquer the lightweight division, Rodriguez was opened the door to face Josh Emmett for the interim belt. Rodriguez scored a triangle choke submission in the second round to win the title and set up a fight with Volkanovski.

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The other title match sees a rematch that was not previously at the title level. Flyweight Champion Brandon Moreno will face Alexandre Pantoja after Pantoja defeated Moreno in their first official fight of 2018. The two also met during their season of The Ultimate Fighter, which Pantoja also won by submission. Moreno is the clear favorite to complete the task this time on Saturday night.

The undercard also sees some up-and-coming prospects getting a shot at the spotlight. Middleweight contender Dricus du Plessis faces his toughest test yet as he takes on former champion Robert Whittaker in a special match. The winner will likely get the next shot at champion Israel Adesanya, which could lead to a vicious battle between du Plessis and “The Last Stylebender”. There could also be a rare trilogy fight between Adesanya and Whittaker where one fighter won the first two encounters.

After some difficult events in our monthly Best Bets column, things picked up a bit after the 3-2 at UFC 289. Our annual record is now 18:16.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve identified as our picks for best on the UFC 290 main pay-per-view card.

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook, subject to change.

Bo Nickal vs. Valentine Woodburn


Nickal was one of the biggest favorites in UFC history when Woodburn stepped in at short notice when Tresean Gore was injured. Woodburn is 7-0 unbeaten and faces some good opponents, but without the time to prepare for one of the UFC’s all-time all-time greats is a tall order. Woodburn has good knockout power so it’s not impossible that he could land an early shot that would catch Nickal cold, but that would be pure lottery play. There’s no real value in Nickal winning as a -2800 favorite and any line with a quick finish is unlikely to pay off. The odds just aren’t good enough and there are too many unknown factors to recommend a game here.

Dan Hooker vs. Jalin Turner

Jalin Turner (-280) vs. Dan Hooker

This is a slightly higher price than we normally play on the favorites in our Best Bet column, but there are reasons why it’s the right play here. Hooker reliably handled tons of damage and incoming attacks. However, he hasn’t seemed that tenacious in the last couple of games and Turner is the wrong type of fighter to face as his defenses are fading. There are interesting statements about gymnasts from knockouts and submissions, but it’s hard to say exactly how a finish will play out. Turner has never won by decision and has nine knockouts and four submissions, which could indicate a knockout win, but he has had three of Turner’s submission wins in his last five fights as he has put together a more complete game. Based on that, take the safer play of the Turner moneyline, possibly as part of a parlay.

Robert Whittaker vs. Dricus du Plessis

Robert Whittaker by decision (+175)

While I think you’re going to overlook Plessis a bit in this fight, I can’t bring myself to throw money at him when Whittaker is simply the better fighter. The odds-favored outcome is Whittaker via KO/TKO/DQ, but he hasn’t stopped anyone in eight straight fights, and du Plessis is a tough fighter who can make things ugly enough to last the full length of a three-round right . Whittaker will likely only take du Plessis apart for 15 minutes and secure the win, and landing anywhere between +180 and +220 on that decision is too juicy to pass up.

Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja

Over 3.5 laps (-175)

Moreno and Pantoja are both dangerous fighters that can end a fight. The stat that stands out here is that they have a total of 11 losses, with each one coming by decision. Both men have fought against the who’s who of the UFC flyweights and have not suffered a single loss in the process. It’s possible that will change on Saturday night, but it feels unlikely. You can get better odds by taking the fight at range (currently -105), but you can also take 3.5+ rounds to have some cushion and security against a late stoppage. This feels like the play.

Alexander Volkanovski vs. Yair Rodriguez

Fight for Distance: No (-120)

Volkanovski is not Great finisher, but he has the ability to overpower opponents such as he did against The Korean Zombie. Flashy and dangerous, Rodriguez is the better ‘pure finisher’ of the two. Things could go wrong for Rodriguez, however, because while his cardio has seemingly improved in recent games, it’s difficult to trust his gas tank to last five full laps against someone who can up the pace like Volkanovski. Given Rodriguez could Score a break and Volkanovski likely will If you wear Rodriguez down and then find a way to overwhelm him to the end, it makes sense to play the fight to avoid making it to the final bell.

Who will win UFC 290: Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez and how exactly does each fight end? For in-depth tips on every fight at UFC 290, all from the MMA expert who made more than $6,200 in 2022, visit SportsLine now and find out.

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