weather icon Clear

Pros on Nurmagomedov, Joes on McGregor in UFC 229 title match

When Conor McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather in his August 2017 pro boxing debut, the betting public backed the brash UFC star in overwhelming fashion.

More than 90 percent of the tickets were on McGregor, who closed as a 4-1 underdog. But the vast majority of the money — including six $1 million wagers — was on Mayweather, who closed at the bargain price of minus 500 before winning by 10th-round TKO.

“Mayweather was the best bet I’ve seen in my 11 years out here,” Westgate sports book director John Murray said.

A similar scenario is shaping up at Las Vegas sports books for Saturday night’s UFC lightweight title fight between McGregor and reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at T-Mobile Arena.

Nurmagomedov (26-0-0), a Russian grappler, is a minus 160 favorite over McGregor, the popular plus 140 underdog from Ireland.

While the wagering handle is nowhere near Mayweather-McGregor — or Saul Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin, for that matter — the vast majority of tickets are on McGregor and most of the money is on Nurmagomedov.

“The books around town are definitely going to need Khabib to win. Conor’s so popular, I think the public is going to be all over him again,” Murray said. “But Conor’s capable of winning this fight. It’s not like it’s a slam dunk.”

Sharps on Nurmagomedov

That said, sharp bettors are on the favorite, just like they were on Mayweather.

“I’ve been a little surprised how much public money is coming in on Khabib, too. It hasn’t been just wiseguys betting Khabib,” Murray said. “But I still think when we get to Friday and Saturday the public will come in heavily on McGregor.”

A Westgate bettor placed a $20,000 wager on McGregor at plus 140 last weekend that moved the price to minus 155. But another bettor quickly wagered $10,000 on Nurmagomedov to move the odds back to minus 160.

The highest price was minus 170 but Murray said the true odds on Nurmagomedov are closer to 2-1.

“This isn’t McGregor-Mayweather where he has no chance of winning. Conor’s definitely live here and can knock him out with one punch,” he said. “But I do think Khabib should be a bigger favorite. He’s never lost a round in an MMA fight.

“He’s an incredible grappler. If the fight goes long, it will really be an advantage for Khabib. Conor’s going to try to end this thing early. That’s his only chance.”

Murray expects Nurmagomedov to prevail.

“I think Khabib will win,” he said. “He will drag him down and start unloading on him with the elbow.”

Handicapper backs bigger man

Handicapper Lou Finocchiaro (@GambLou) is usually an underdog bettor but is backing a rare favorite in this one in Nurmagomedov, who he sees winning a contrast in styles.

“Nurmagomedov’s striking will be more competitive than McGregor’s wrestling,” said Finocchiaro (GambLou.com). “Nurmagomedov will be able to eventually outclass McGregor and take him down to the mat. But he’s going to have to be very patient. He can’t just rush in because that’s what McGregor wants him to do.”

Even if McGregor (21-3) is able to find some early striking angles, Finocchiaro said the bigger Nurmagomedov should be able to absorb the blows.

“McGregor’s dynamic power was displayed in fights when he weighed 145 pounds. This fight is at 155 pounds,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult to have the same effect on a bigger man like Nurmagomedov that he’s had on previous fights.”

Finocchiaro noted that Nurmagomedov trains at a gym with bigger fighters, including former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and former UFC middleweight champ Luke Rockhold.

“And they’ve all commented on what a beast he is,” he said. “If he’s able to take them down and if he can absorb striking from those bigger, heavier men, I have an easier time thinking the only way Conor’s going to knock him out is through an accumulation of strikes and not just one punch.”

Leaning over

The total on the five-round fight is 2½ rounds and Finocchiaro leans to the over (plus 105).

“Conor’s trash talking, rather than getting to the Russian’s head, has put further fire to the gasoline that is motivation for this kid,” he said. “He’s said in a couple interviews that he’s going to make it slow and painful for McGregor, a guy he doesn’t really like.”

More betting: Follow all of our sports betting coverage online at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
Shevchenko says defending the UFC flyweight belt is her number one challenge
UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko claimed the vacant title when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 last December. She will put the belt on the line for the first time in Chicago, Ill., when she faces Jessica Eye at UFC 238 on June 8.
UFC title contender Jessica Eye says her move to Las Vegas gives her an edge
Ohio native Jessica Eye says she moved to Las Vegas to get an edge in performance ahead of facing UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 in Chicago, Ill., on June 8.
Greg Hardy, former NFL star, on MMA knockout
The former NFL star needed just 17 seconds to score a knockout on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series (Adam Hill/Review-Journal)
Marlon Moraes says Henry Cejudo will regret stepping up to bantamweight - VIDEO
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is coming up to the bantamweight division to battle Marlon Moraes for the vacant belt on June 8 at UFC 238. Moraes said Cejudo will regret going after a second title in a new division and added that he thinks his path will cross with former champion TJ Dillashaw in the future.
Paige VanZant details her arm injury, when she can return - VIDEO
UFC strawweight Paige VanZant was briefly linked to fight at UFC 236, but had to withdraw from the bout due to a broken arm. As a guest on the RJ Ringside Podcast, she detailed the injury and also spoke about joining the M-1 Global booth as a color commentator.
UFC 236 Press Conference Highlights
UFC 236 will feature a pair of interim title fights. In the main event, UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will face lightweight contender Dustin Poirier and middleweights Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum will collide in the co-main event. UFC 236 will take place in Atlanta, Ga., on Apr. 13.
Jon Jones retains light heavyweight belt at UFC 235 - VIDEO
Jon Jones retained the UFC light heavyweight belt when he earned a decision over Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235.
Kamaru Usman crowned new champ at UFC 235 — VIDEO
Kamaru Usman became the first African-born fighter to claim a UFC belt when he defeated Tyron Woodley to become the promotion's new welterweight champion.
UFC 235 Official Weigh-in Results - VIDEO
All 24 fighters competing at UFC 235 at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2 stepped on the scale prior for the official fight card weigh-ins. All four fighters competing in the title bouts slated for the event made weight.
UFC's Jones says he has no shame after recent drug test results are released - VIDEO
Though recent drug test results still show trace amounts of Turinabol in his system, UFC light heayvweight champion Jon Jones says he has no shame and is hiding nothing as he prepares for his UFC 235 title bout against Anthony Smith.
Anthony Smith stays level-headed prior to UFC 235 title fight - VIDEO
Despite UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being in the spotlight for drug test discrepancies and other outside the cage struggles, Anthony Smith says he is tuning out the noise and remaining focused on the challenge of beating the reigning champion in the cage.
UFC 235 Media Day Highlights
Highlights and staredowns from the top three fights on the UFC 235 fight card taking place at the T-Mobile Arena on March 2.
Sports Betting Spotlight Videos