UFC 251 Betting Pick: Leonardo Santos vs Roman Bogatov

This is going to be a good fight!

I’ll be honest with you guys.

You know I consider myself to be a longtime hardcore fan and student of the game but I had to refresh my memory on Leonardo Santos.

The man is undefeated in his UFC career with a knockout win over Kevin Lee and a submission over Tony Rocco Martin, two fighters who moved up to 170.

The Brazilian, Santos, coming off of his win over Lee in late 2015 waited almost a year before he fought again.

The injury bug hit Leo and it hit him hard.

After 3 years on the snide, he came back in June of 2019 with a one punch knockout over Stevie Ray in the first round.

Here we are more than a year later before he is getting his next opportunity.

Well, I shouldn’t say that. He is a very exciting high-level fighter and I’m sure the UFC has wanted to use him since then but the man just keeps fighting off injury after injury.

Sometimes, one leads to another and even the best athletes in the world can get caught in this vicious cycle.

The second half of Ken Griffey Jr’s career was like that.

Still the greatest swing of all-time.

I digress.

Santos is super dangerous on his feet as well as the mat.

He is the best fighter in the UFC’s lightweight division that you have never heard of.

And he’s 40!

Crazy stuff.

His opponent is an undefeated prospect coming out of mother Russia.

The MMA game of Roman Bogatov is reminiscent of that of Khabib’s.

Scary stuff but he will be dealing with a multiple time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world champion in Santos should he choose to take the fight to the ground.

BetOnline.AG has the betting odds for this fight.

Let’s take a look and see what kind of value we can find in the matchup between Brazil’s Leonardo Santos and Russia’s Roman Bogatov.

Leonardo Santos (-170) vs Roman Bogatov (+145)

I am not going to mess with the round total for this fight.

Both men seem to be very high level on the ground, the Russian with the wrestling base and the Brazilian with the Jiu Jitsu base.

There are positions on the mat where all those years of wrestling can be shut down.

Santos is as savvy as they come and could take the back of the Russian and get the tap in any of the rounds.

The Brazilian has shown quite a bit of power in his punches lately and Bogatov’s ground and pound is absolutely ferocious.

I just don’t have a solid read on whether this one is likely to go to the judges or not.

We are going to have to make a pick.

I told you guys all about Leo Santos. Roman Bogatov, his opponent, is a beast! These two both have an impressive background.

  • Santos is World champ in BJJ, long and tall with broad shoulders for the weight class, heavy hands, tons of experience.
  • Bogatov is 10-0 as a mauling-style fighter who rag dolls his opponents to the mat, secures very tight positioning on top, and rains down quite frightening punches and elbows from there.
  • He was the lightweight world champ at M-1 Global which is the #1 mixed martial arts promotion in Russia.

    UFC debutants do tend to underperform but without the fans in attendance and the fact that Roman is 30 and has already fought as a world champ on national tv in his home country, tell me his jitters probably won’t be that bad.

    We do know that fighters who are 10 years younger win 66% of the time.

    From the tape I saw, Bogatov is a better than average grappler. I think he can take Santos down and likely stay out of some submissions.

    Maybe he won’t be able to get the finish himself but style for style, I have to go with pressure wrestling and powerful ground and pound over the submission hunter.

    The age gap is on our side as well.

    And guess what?

    So are the odds.

    I think this fight is even and I might even edge Botatov so getting him at dog odds is pretty sweet.

    I heard this stat yesterday from a colleague and it sounds like a gem.

  • Since 2013, fighters with betting odds of (+150) to (+200) have won 57% of the time.
  • (+175) is the average of the two numbers, of course, and it denotes a 36% chance of winning.

Bogatov is just outside of that range at (+145).

Leo could reverse him on the ground and tap the hungry lion out but we have several factors in our favor plus I like the stylistic matchup.

My Pick
Roman Bogatov

In Conclusion

This is one of the more interesting fights on Saturday’s undercard.

There is no doubt there are plenty of matchups that are being overlooked.

It’s only natural when you have 3 world title fights and a rematch of a woman’s title fight on the main card.

That is where most of the attention is being paid but, in my opinion, that’s not where you are going to find the best value.

  • I give the undefeated Russian about a 55% chance to get the win this weekend over the aging Brazilian.
  • The sportsbooks are only giving the guy a 41% chance at (+145).

We have to jump on this one.

If we lose, it doesn’t mean we necessarily made the wrong call.

We are stating and accepting the fact that the other guy will win 4 or 5 if these two fight ten times.

Bogatov’s grappling just looked like it was extra clean to me. I’m not an expert grappler, though, but I think he is good enough to survive while on top of Santos.

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.