UFC 258 Betting Pick: Julian Marquez vs Maki Pitolo

This fight could be a really fun one but I have a feeling that Julian Marquez isn’t going to come out and fight recklessly.

That would be a massive mistake against Coconut Bombz, a crisp pocket boxer with big legs and solid power. Maki Pitolo hails from Hawaii and before you ask, yes he is now training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

I think maybe Brad Tavares was one of the first and probably drawn to his Polynesian brother, Ray Sefo being one of the kickboxing coaches. I like to give myself some of the credit for Brad joining up with his current team and not at Syndicate MMA.

We had open sparring every Saturday and we were so lucky to get to train with UFC fighters and on Saturdays, we could go a couple of rounds with them, even those who weren’t members of the gym.

Well, when I first got there in 2013, Brad Tavares was testing out the different gyms in town to see where he wanted to stay and he lit me up so badly that he must have thought these guys are terrible.

He was hitting me fast but not hard and I am very thankful to this day because as they say, there are levels to this stuff. Ever since Brad landed on the 9th Isle of Hawaii in the desert, more of his Kona brothers joined him.

Punahele Soriano was the most recent cannonball off the cliff to make a splash in the UFC when he TKO’ed the overconfident Dusko Todorovic. We were on the latter and I apologize for that.

Maki Pitolo isn’t the same level of prospect as Puna but he is just about as dangerous, maybe even more so because people see his 1-3 UFC record and they underestimate him. We did that after his fight with Callan Potter, a scrap that made Maki look terrible, when we took him to beat Charles Byrd.

UFC 250 - Charles Byrd vs Maki Pitolo

Then, Byrd comes out there and looks like the absolute worst version of himself and it was easily the best Maki Pitolo we have ever seen. As I did tape for this fight and was reminded of that stinging loss, I remembered that Byrd retired immediately after that fight.

Maki’s betting odds got north of (+160) for that fight. I know barely anything about Charles Byrd but the conspiracy theorist in me can’t help but think he threw that one after betting the house on himself.

For a guy in a situation like his who never got a big payday in the sport, it would not have been a bad idea. Then again, maybe Maki is not that good of a fighter, and Byrd was already mentally checked out thinking retirement.

One thing before we get to the pick. Write this down and never erase it!

If a fighter ever speaks about the “R” word in or out of context, do not bet on them. Maybe you don’t bet on the other fighter and maybe you do but if they are talking retirement, then that means one foot is out the door.

At the highest level of fighting, even the elites, world champions, cannot afford to be thinking about moving on.

BetOnline has the best betting odds for this fight for both sides. Let’s take a look at what lines we have and make a prediction to win from there.

Julian Marquez (-160) vs Maki Pitolo (+140)

The money has come in on Maki Pitolo! I honestly didn’t see that coming. Maybe it’s because I trained not always with, because he is huge but beside him for years. He is a hilarious guy and also really intelligent.

He likes to joke around in his interviews, podcast, and social media but when he gets into the Octagon, the man is a bull. And not predicta-bull either. Julian is calculated and prefers to fight one step ahead of his opponents.

The Cuban Missile Crisis came to Las Vegas and started training with us and immediately upon watching how he trained and fought, I knew he was on his way to the big show. He surprised the majority of the mixed martial arts community when he TKO’ed the extremely highly touted Phil Hawes on the Contender Series.

Next up for Julian was another heavy hitting athletic striker, Darren The Dentist Stewart. Marquez took care of business against the Brit with a guillotine choke halfway through the 2nd round.

Then, it was Alessio di Chirico and I picked Julian to win that one and it was pretty even until Julian tore a major muscle in his back literally off the bone. You would have never known, though, from watching the fight as Marquez showed true grit to fight to a split decision loss.

After that, it has been a string of injuries that has kept Julian away from competitive Octagon action. It has been 30 months, in fact, since Marquez has fought. You’re starting to see why the betting line moved in the favor of Maki Pitolo.

Please Note:

Marquez opened at (-185) and some are projecting the current line to return to this number so I wouldn’t wait before you make your play. I am going with Marquez here. It has been a long layoff for him but I think he is on another level than Pitolo.

Maki is underrated but at this point, so is Julian. He is a very big guy for the weight class and Maki has made 170 before. There is a 4 inch differential in height as well.

What I really love for Marquez is that he has left Las Vegas and came back home to the Kansas City, Missouri area. He got his start with mastermind fighter/coach James Krause and I think this was the best move he could have made to come back.

I think he feels most comfortable there and it will show on Saturday night. If Julian didn’t have the layoff, the betting line would be nearing 3 to 1 or more. We only need to say he wins this fight 2 out of 3 times to make a strong play and I feel confident in that.

He has defeated better fighters and he will be Maki’s best opponent to date.

My Pick
Julian Marquez

In Conclusion

It is great to see both Julian Marquez returning to action after an extremely frustrating 30 months on the shelf, and also Maki Pitolo getting another opportunity in a winnable fight after just a 1-3 start.

The Hawaiian does have power in his hands but I don’t think they are dynamite by any means but the man is technical with his hands. It is the other areas of mixed martial arts where Pitolo begins to struggle, at least at this level.

He showed that he can mix in some offensive wrestling into his game but I don’t think he will be taking down the bigger man in Marquez who also has wrestling abilities even if he doesn’t always put them on display.

What can get Julian in trouble in this fight is if he just gets too fight happy in there. He loves to scrap and it’s been a while since he was able to do it in a competition so maybe he tests Maki’s chin.

I don’t recommend that. Hawaiians are known to have coconut jaws as well so…

In his first fight back after the longest break of his career against a dangerous opponent, I think Julian Marquez will listen intently to the instructions from James Krause in his corner. I think Marquez takes 7 out of 10 scraps with Coconut Bombz and the books say otherwise.

If the initial money would have come in on him and pushed his odds up to (-200) or (-220) then I would not have made this play but the money came in on Maki so we got the line we wanted.

Good luck this weekend! Bet responsibly and give yourself and your nerves a break and go at least a couple of fights without any action.

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.