UFC 249 Betting Picks: Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson

Welcome to fight week!

I feel like we are out of the proverbial woods.

When California governor Gavin Newsome made sure UFC 249 was not going to happen in California, we were 10 days away from fight night.

As of Monday, we are just 5 days away from one of the biggest nights in the history of the UFC.

Should it have been cancelled, though? It was rumored to go down at the Tachi Palace which is on Native land. I didn’t think the Governor had jurisdiction but apparently, the rules change during a pandemic.

Ol’ Gavin is a trip.

He has closed all parks, beaches, and even hiking trails while releasing multiple convicted violent sexual predators from jail.

Maybe they are going to be guarding the mountain peaks or the beaches. I’m not sure of his plan.

This pandemic is turning into a filter for authoritarian leaders around the world.

You never know until you actually give someone a great deal of power whether or not they will abuse it.

The Chicago mayor has stated she will crash every party in the city if she has to.

I get it. People are congregating when they likely shouldn’t be according to the law but we need to keep the same watchful eye on big bro as they are keeping on us.

Whew, slippery slope, y’all.

I will stop there and I promise no more of that for a while.

If you’re fiending for some political content from a betting perspective, read this article on another possible Hillary Clinton run at the Presidency. There is some serious betting value there.

I can’t see poor Joe Biden presenting much of a challenge for the quick-witted Donald and they can easily anoint any candidate they please at the upcoming convention.

When I remind myself that there is a UFC this weekend followed by 2 more events in a total of 8 days, it is a little easier to forget about the coronavirus madness.

One of the first fights we will see is actually the only women’s fight on the card.

Two class-act veterans of the UFC, inaugural Women’s Strawweight World Champion Carla Esparza is the betting favorite over Michelle Waterson.

Carla won Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter which was one of my favorite seasons because of the level of competition within the house as well as the show essentially being a tournament for the title.

It was an excellent opportunity for the UFC to give a new crop of athletes and weight division some name power as well as the crowning a new champion.

This season was stacked! Former champ Rose Namajunas was a member of the cast along with future title challenger Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres, and Angela Hill.

Michelle was busy over at the women’s only organization, Invicta Fighting Championships.

This is a good matchup but, in my opinion, one of the more predictable fights on the card.

BetOnline.AG has the betting odds for us today.

Let’s get to our predictions and pick for the UFC 249 prelim between Carla “The Cookie Monster” Esparza vs Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson.

Carla Esparza (-157) vs Michelle Waterson (+137)

OVER 2.5 ROUNDS
-500
UNDER 2.5 ROUNDS
+375

Carla Esparza is a bettor’s dream.

There, I said it.

She really is.

Back when I was just a fan of mixed martial arts and wasn’t handicapping or betting on fights, I despised fighters like Carla.

She wasn’t a finisher and I believe if you want to call it a fight, you have to actively go for the finish.

If you’re slightly more of a competitor, you don’t mind sitting in your opponent’s guard landing meaningless punches until the referee stands you up or the round ends.

Take Georges St Pierre, for example. He fought nearly 5 years during his prime without finishing anyone.

Yet, many consider him as the best MMA fighter of all-time.

Anderson Silva, conversely, amassed a 16-0 record with 14 finishes during his lengthy title reign as UFC Middleweight World Champion.

88% finishing rate vs 11%.

Now, anytime someone asks you who the GOAT is, you can tell them with supreme confidence, Anderson Silva.

That being said:

If you’re a betting man, though, and that is your number one priority, then you need to hammer fighters like GSP and Carla Esparza.

Just look at what “The Cookie Monster” has been able to do in her UFC career.

She submitted future division champ Rose Namajunas to become the Strawweight title holder only to lose it in her first defense to Joanna Jerdjzyczyk.

Esparza could not get the elite Muay Thai striker to the mat and she essentially got the brakes beaten off of her for 9 minutes until the referee had seen enough.

She has since gone 5-3 with all of her wins coming by decision and one butt-kicking loss to an even more dominant wrestler Tatiana Suarez.

Carla’s fight with Claudia Gadelha, her stylistic twin, was razor close and could have gone either way.

She is still 32 and still in her prime.

Her opponent, Michelle Waterson, is 34 and the height and reach of the two athletes are similar.

Their fighting styles, though, are not so similar.

I really like Michelle Waterson not only because of her striking beauty but also the beauty of her striking.

The half Thai and half caucasian Waterson has always had the look. After graduating high school in Aurora, Colorado, she attended the University of Denver where she was working as a model.

Modeling is cool and all but it was in her college days when Michelle realized that she wanted to do more with her life than just smile for the camera.

She was a childhood martial artist and black belt in American Freestyle Karate.

This gave her the confidence she needed to chase her newfound dream of fighting.

Michelle became a ring girl for a small promotion in Colorado and her friend Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone got The Karate Hottie her first professional fight in February of 2007.

There were no amateur fights before this either.

Waterson later became the Invicta Atomweight World Champion at 105 pounds in early 2013.

The UFC was the next step. Michelle submitted her first two opponents only to tapout to Rose Namajunas in her next cage battle.

This is at a weight class higher than she was used to but Michelle is not small for Strawweight and she also gained quite a bit of muscle in her legs.

Her next 5 contests would end in a decision. She won three against the girls she probably should beat and in her most recent UFC appearance lost to Joanna.

That one was expected.

Waterson just hasn’t been able to get over that hump.

She is not great at anything so when she goes up against a submission, striking, or wrestling specialist, she usually falls a bit short.

I mentioned she had two decision losses in the UFC, one to Joanna and one to Tecia Torres.

The latter is the fight I want to highlight. Tecia’s game is the closest to Esparza’s of all her opponents.

Carla is longer and more technical than Torres but both are sound strikers who love to grind opponent’s down.

If Carla is able to get Michelle down to the mat a few times Saturday night, she should win a clear decision.

If she cannot, it’s not like Michelle’s striking is world-class so I think Esparza can hang with her in that realm.

Michelle can hang on the ground but the way fights are scored, that takedown and top control will almost always be scored more heavily than out-striking your opponent for the same amount of time.

I think Esparza wins 4 out of every 5 times these two women fight.

That puts her at 80% to win which is more than enough to pay the cheap juice of (-157).

That’s nearly a 20% edge in implied probability.

We will take her there but let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can find some more valuable betting odds.

(+100) for The Cookie Monster to win a decision?

Okay.

She is a takedown artist, not a submission artist.

Waterson is well-versed on the ground herself;  likely not enough to submit Carla but she should defend any submission attempts just fine.

My Picks
CARLA ESPARZA

In Conclusion

This fight appears to be one of the more cut and dry matchups on the fight card.

UFC 249 is not a bettor’s paradise as I love to get an edge on the sportsbooks with relatively unknown fighters.

UFC 249 is nothing but name power!

After cancelling more than an entire month’s worth of events, the UFC had several main cards to pick from as him and his matchmakers filled UFC 249 to the brim with superstars.

These two women are consummate professionals.

They don’t drop out of fights. They make weight, and they FIGHT.

Both are tough as heck.

In her UFC wins, Carla has taken her opponents down more than 4 times per contest.

Michelle hasn’t been taken down nearly as much as Esparza’s opponents but they didn’t possess the wrestling prowess of The Cookie Monster.

Carla grinds this one out.

Get your bets in for this one immediately.

The line has already begun to move in Esparza’s direction and I wouldn’t be shocked if she is a 2 to 1 favorite by fight time.

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.