Don’t look for quick finish in Ilia Topuria-Josh Emmett battle

Josh Emmett has been one of the most consistent fighters in the UFC since he signed with the promotion and made his debut in 2016. He entered the promotion as a lightweight with a 9-0 mark. He dropped to featherweight after one bout, where he’s remained since.

He has been one of the promotion’s physically toughest fighters and a guy who has fought through all sorts of injuries. He tore his ACL in the opening minute of a 2020 fight with Shane Burgos and not only made it to the finish line, he won a unanimous decision in a Fight of the Night.

He faces Ilia Topuria on Saturday at VyStar Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, in the main event of UFC on ABC 5. And while it may be designed as a coming out party of sorts for Topuria, who is 13-0 with 12 finishes, Emmett is no easy guy to finish.

He was stopped by both Jeremy Stephens in 2018 and Yair Rodriguez earlier this year in an interim title fight at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia. Emmett conceded he was “s***ty” against Rodriguez, who dominated from the opening bell and finished him with a triangle choke in the fourth.

But there was plenty of controversy surrounding his loss to Stephens. He suffered facial fractures during the finishing sequences, when there appeared to be both an illegal knee to the head of a downed opponent as well as several illegal elbows.

Topuria is a well-rounded, fast-rising opponent whom I believe wins this fight. Though Topuria is 13-0 with 12 finishes, including nine of those in the first round, I don’t see him getting rid of Emmett early. Prior to facing Emmett, Calvin Kattar had finished 13 bouts. Dan Ige had finished nine and Burgos had finished 10. Emmett defeated them all.

That leads me to look at the over-under, which for this fight is 2.5 rounds. Under is the favorite, at -220, which over 2.5 rounds being a +180 underdog. I have great respect for Topuria and think he’s a burgeoning star. He’ll probably win and I’ll swallow hard and lay the -345 on him to take it. But I think this will be a long fight so I’ll take the +180 and bet it goes over 2.5 rounds.

I’ll also play Topuria to win by decision at +900, giving me three plays on the main event.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - MARCH 25: Maycee Barber poses for a portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at AT&T Center on March 25, 2023 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Maycee Barber is a +160 underdog in her fight Saturday in the co-main event of UFC on ABC 5 to Amanda Ribas. Ribas is a -190 favorite.. (Mike Roach/Getty Images)

Tough call on Ribas-Barber

Both Amanda Ribas and Maycee Barber have scored impressive wins since they’ve joined the UFC. Ribas has beaten Mackenzie Dern and Virna Jandiroba, while Barber has beaten Gillian Robertson and Jessica Eye. Both have proven somewhat inconsistent, though, as Ribas was defeated by Polyana Viana and Barber lost as a favorite against Roxanne Modafferi.

Ribas is a -190 favorite, with Barber at +160. The over-under in this three-round bout, which serves as the UFC on ABC 5 co-main event, is 2.5 rounds, with over a -195 favorite.

I was surprised that Ribas was favored by nearly 2-1, and had my own line set much lower. Thus, while I think Ribas will probably sneak out the win, I think there is very good value by playing Barber as a strong +160 underdog. I’ll also lay the -195 and bet the fight goes over 2.5 rounds. Barber hasn’t finished a fight since beating Robertson in 2019, while Ribas hasn’t had a finish since submitting Paige VanZant on July 12, 2020.

Robertson enticing as underdog to Ricci

Gillian Robertson is a +115 underdog in her fight Saturday with Tabatha Ricci. Ricci, “The Baby Shark,” is a +135 favorite.

I like Robertson outright here. She has seven submission victories in the UFC, which is the record for UFC women’s flyweights. She’s faced consistently solid opposition and it has helped develop her into a contender.

I’ll take the +135 on Robertson to win, and to make it more exciting, I’ll take Robertson at +350 to win by submission.