The UFC heads to Atlanta on Saturday for the first time since 2012 for UFC 201, and although the event is relatively light in terms of star power, there’s plenty of intriguing wagering options for bettors to take advantage of.
Here’s our breakdown and picks for UFC 201’s main card:
Robbie Lawler vs Tyron Woodley
There is no fighter in the UFC that puts on a more exciting fight than Robbie Lawler. ‘Ruthless’ is a high output fighter that relies on cutting off the Octagon and keeping his opponent’s back against the cage. His striking style is predominantly based within boxing — though he has started to incorporate kicks and the occasional flying knee more often. He likes to press the action and control the pace, however, Lawler’s most devastating punches generally come when he counters, as his counter right hook can pretty much knock anyone out.
Though Lawler has gained fame as a striker, he was a wrestler during the early days of his career. He only rarely uses his wrestling offensively anymore, but he has become an incredibly good defender. If you need proof of Lawler’s defensive wrestling abilities, watch his second bout with Johny Hendricks where he stuffed one of the best wrestlers in the world 12 of 17 times.
Tyron Woodley has not stepped foot inside the Octagon since January 2015, as he has been waiting for his title shot. ‘The Chosen One’ has some of the best wrestling in the welterweight division, as he was a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and trains at Roufusport alongside Ben Askren.
In the early days of Woodley’s career, he was largely a lay-and-pray type of fighter, but he has developed some serious power in his hands. Four of his past five victories have come via KO/TKO — including two first-round knockouts. At range, it’s Woodley’s overhand right that is the most lethal, but he has an extremely underrated dirty boxing skill set that suffocates opponents as well.
Due to his time away from the Octagon, many are overlooking Woodley, but he is a legitimate threat to Lawler. However, Lawler’s takedown defense is more than good enough to stifle Woodley’s advances and ‘Ruthless’ has a chin of steel that likely won’t see him get hit with a flash KO.
Prediction: Robbie Lawler
Rose Namajunas vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Rose Namajunas is one of the best strawweight fighters on the planet and she is just 24 years old. ‘Thug’ has grown by leaps and bounds during her short MMA career, especially in the striking game. Namajunas has developed into a technical marvel when standing, as her fantastic movement and knowledge of reach is a thing of beauty. She has the innate knowledge of the fight game to know the exact position she needs to set to land her strikes at the very edge of her reach.
Namajunas has largely been known for her grappling throughout her young career. She has a black belt in taekwondo and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which has made her lethal when she can get her opponent on the cage and to the mat. When she can gain top control Namajunas fluidly moves past guard while throwing strikes to create openings to angle for a submission — with a particular affinity for taking the back.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz is a striker first with over a decade of experience in both Krav Maga and Muay Thai. It’s her speed and movement that make her difficult for anyone to fight, as she is constantly circling to find the best angle to attack. It’s not just all foot speed for Kowalkiewicz either, as she can throw a flurry of punches at an amazing rate.
Kowalkiewicz is strong and her movement makes taking her down difficult. She has a 95 percent takedown defense in her two UFC bouts — both of which were against strong grapplers. However, she doesn’t offer too much on the mat and can struggle if on the bottom.
This is an exciting bout that will likely determine the next contender for Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s strawweight title. This fight is extremely close in the standup game, though I lean towards Kowalkiewicz as she throws with more volume than Namajunas. But, Namajunas has a huge advantage on the ground in this one. I imagine that Namajunas is able to get the takedown and score points or lock in a submission.
Prediction: Rose Namajunas
Matt Brown vs Jake Ellenberger
Matt Brown excels when he can make a fight gritty. He has power in all of his limbs and has an incredibly strong chin. When you couple his aggressive fight style with his cardio, he is just as likely to be chucking in the final 30 seconds as the first. Long and short, Brown wants to be in a war. However, he lacks defense on the feet, as he puts offense above protecting himself when striking.
Grappling isn’t Brown’s strong suit. He has done a good job at improving that area in the past several years but is still nothing more than average. Ten of his 14 career losses have come via submission — though he has only been subbed once since February 2012 and that was against Demian Maia.
Jake Ellenberger likes to sprawl-and-brawl. He has an extensive background in wrestling but uses that to keep a fight standing so he can throw bombs. ‘The Juggernaut’ has developed in the standup game, as he has started to show the ability to throw punches in bunches in recent fights.
Though Ellenberger has all the tools to be a legit title contender he has never really been able to put it together. He has talked in the past about his confidence and how he can get in his own head which leads to inactivity in the Octagon.
This fight is harder to predict than you would think. Ellenberger should be able to win with his combination of striking power and wrestling acumen, but his mentality is a major concern. Ellenberger is just 1-5 in his past six fights, and though those losses have come against some of the best in the world, I question where his head is at. Brown won’t likely knock Ellenberger out, but grinding and pushing the pace for three rounds should secure him the victory.
Prediction: Matt Brown
Francisco Rivera vs Erik Perez
Francisco Rivera is a hard puncher who largely lives and dies by his boxing. He has some of the heaviest hands in the bantamweight division with eight of his 11 career victories coming via KO/TKO. More often than not, Rivera will just bite down on his mouthpiece and go for it — usually just winging punches.
‘Cisco’ is a brawler, but there is not much else to highlight about his style. He’s below average along the cage and on the mat. His style isn’t pretty and it’s predictable, but Rivera can knock anyone out at 135lbs.
Erik Perez has been quietly developing into one of the most exciting bantamweight prospects in the UFC – no thanks to an injury that sidelined him for nearly 17 months between his past two bouts. He has above average power for the division with two of his past four wins coming via KO/TKO, but it’s his submission game that is incredibly lethal. Seven of Perez’ 15 career victories have come via submission, with five of those coming via chokes.
One aspect of his game that has yet to fully catch up is his wrestling. Though he has been making strides in that department, he has been unable to really utilize his submission game within the UFC due to these issues.
Perez is able to punch with Rivera — though Rivera has the advantage in the power department — but it’s his ground game that should be the difference maker. There is no doubt that Perez has preferred to stand more as his career has progressed, but Rivera shouldn’t offer too much difficulty if the Monterrey, Mexico native can get this fight to the mat.
Prediction: Erick Perez
Ian McCall vs Justin Scoggins
Ian McCall is an incredibly well-rounded fighter. He wrestled in high school and uses it effectively — though traditionally more in a defensive manner. He’d rather keep the bout on the feet, which allows his movement and cardio to take over a fight. ‘Uncle Creepy’ is constantly moving when standing up and always trying to find the best angles to pop off a flurry before getting out of there.
We just don’t know how McCall is feeling mentally. He hasn’t fought in 18 months while openly speaking about how he just stopped everything MMA for several months in that span and had planned to retire. McCall has said that if he ‘breaks’ one more time that he is going to walk away from the sport.
Justin Scoggins has spent most of his life training in the art of karate, which – like most karate fighters – makes him extremely versatile on the feet. ’Tank’ actually spent the bulk of his years training with Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and you can see their similarities in the Octagon. His movement is difficult for opponents to deal with and his kicks are lethal.
In the early portion of his career, Scoggins relied largely on his striking but has shown more of his wrestling chops in the UFC. Scoggins’ two losses in the UFC were because of his ground game, but these were to his benefit. These losses have helped him grow in that aspect of the game and we’ve seen him become a better grappler because of them.
If McCall shows up in Atlanta at peak form he should take this win, but I’m far from convinced that will happen. Scoggins is younger and has a very difficult style of stand-up fighting to defend against.
Prediction: Justin Scoggins
Here’s the complete list of odds for UFC 201:
UFC 201: Lawler vs Woodley Betting Odds
Odds as of July 28 at Bodog
- Robbie Lawler -185
- Tyron Woodley +150
- Rose Namajunas -230
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz +180
- Matt Brown -315
- Jake Ellenberger +245
- Erik Perez -140
- Francisco Rivera -110
- Justin Scoggins -235
- Ian McCall +185
- Jorge Masvidal -235
- Ross Pearson +185
- Nikita Krylov -175
- Ed Herman +145
- Damian Grabowski +110
- Anthony Hamilton -140
- Wilson Reis -310
- Hector Sandoval +240
- Michael Graves -230
- Bojan Velickovic +180
- Fredy Serrano -130
- Ryan Benoit EVEN
- Damien Brown -120
- Cesar Arzamendia -110