UFC 296 picks, predictions: Colby Covington vs. Leon Edwards, Paddy Pimblett vs. Tony Ferguson
UFC 296, the final card of the year, takes place Saturday in Las Vegas beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET with the early prelims.
Two title fights are set for UFC 296, a massive spot for challenger Colby Covington, who has a chance to win the title off of champion Leon Edwards.
Edwards is coming off two victories over Kamaru Usman, giving Covington the next shot at gold.
Things got a little testy and ugly at the press conference this week, so expect Covington to use those foul words to his advantage, hoping for an uber-aggressive Edwards on Saturday night.
Below, we break down and make picks for four pivotal UFC 296 fights.
UFC 296 picks and predictions
Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington
Usman fought both of these guys twice and had some interesting comments on the matchup to former fighter and current commentator Daniel Cormier.
Colby Covington is not going to stop trying to get that takedown, Usman said to Cormier. “Colby Covington doesnt care. You saw him when he fought Robbie Lawler. Hes going to shoot repeatedly and then hes going to put the pressure on you, and hes going to strike and strike and strike. The first one might not hurt you. The second one might not hurt you. But maybe the 18th one might be the one to hurt you.
Covington’s pace is really unbelievable, and something I expect to be on Edwards later in the fight. But we have to get there first, and Edwards is surely going to be hunting for that knockout in the first two rounds.
We saw Edwards take Usman’s back in their first title fight, something that could be a struggle for Covington to avoid in Round 1.
If Covington survives Round 1 and doesn’t land a takedown, he will be in the +230 range but every bit as live as he is normally.
Enter Covington live after Round 1, but not for a penny less than +230. He can and should win rounds three, four, and five at a high clip.
But Covington wins in over 2.5 rounds at +165, which isn’t a tasty enough price. You’ll be able to do better live and get more information.
Opponents Alexandre Pantoja of Brazil and Brandon Royval face off. Zuffa LLC via Getty Images### Brandon Royval vs. Alexandre Pantoja
MMA bettors might not like this angle, but it’s one backed by overall numbers rather than the matchup. Face value, these two fighters are some of the best at finishing their opponents, true kill-or-be-killed mentality.
Of course, Alexandre Pantoja to win by submission is the widely expected outcome at +120, but I’m going contrarian viewpoint.
Flyweight fights go the distance 54.3 percent of the time, according to FightMatrix.com, and despite the matchup featuring bonafide finishers, that’s too much to ignore.
Royval only has one decision in his seven UFC fights; meanwhile, Pantoja’s fights end inside the distance roughly half the time.
But in title fights, everything is magnified.
Take into account that the grappling could actually cancel out between these two submission threats, and you have a very interesting bet on goes the distance.
Fight goes the distance at +380 on FanDuel is a tremendous long shot bet for this weekend’s title fight, and take a stab on Royval by decision +1000 on DraftKings as well.
Fair value is +700 on that one.
Tony Ferguson vs. Paddy Pimblett
Tony Ferguson has David Goggins in his corner, but honestly, no one should care.
Ferguson is a shell of himself, and Paddy Pimblett is in his athletic prime.
In the future, we should all look forward to betting against Pimblett as a big favorite, but Ferguson doesn’t possess the necessary amount of power needed to stop the Pimblett hype train.
Pimblett is the better striker and, frankly, better grappler here.
Grab Pimblett to win inside the distance at +110 on BetRivers, and target his moneyline for any parlays you’re eyeing up this weekend.
Look for Brian Kelleher to use that classic guillotine to his advantage Saturday. Zuffa LLC via Getty Images### Get the lowdown on the Best USA Sports Betting Sites and Apps
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Brian Kelleher vs. Cody Garbrandt
We all love Cody “No Love” Garbrandt, but he’s just not the same fighter he used to be.
His durability against heavy-hitting strikes is non-existent, and Brian “Boom” Kelleher is still as dangerous as they come.
Garbrandt may look to grapple here, but that could prove foolish if he gets hit by something hard.
This is where Kelleher’s guillotine choke, which is world-class, comes into perspective.
I see Garbrandt getting hit by a hard strike from Kelleher, wildly shooting in for a takedown, and getting submitted by a guillotine choke shortly after.
Grab Kelleher at the moneyline +170 but also by submission at +950 on BetRivers as an excellent prop bet for UFC 296.
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