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Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov odds, pick and prediction: An early bet for UFC 251

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov Odds & Picks

  • Zaleski odds+100 [BET NOW]
  • Salikhov odds-124 [BET NOW]
  • Over/Under2.5 (-115 / -115) [BET NOW]
  • Venue: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
  • Time: Saturday at 9 p.m. ET
  • Channel: ESPN/ESPN+

Odds as of Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

This undercard clash between two exciting, but unranked welterweights has “Fight of the Night” potential, even on a loaded UFC 251 card headlined by three championship bouts.

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The nicknames for Zaleski – “Capoeira” – and Salikhov – “King of Kung Fu” – says a lot about the unorthodox striking battle that you can expect to see on Saturday.

Both men have a bevy of MMA highlights, with Salikhov recording 12 of his 16 career wins by knockout, while Zaleski has earned a stoppage in 17 of his 22 career victories.

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Salikhov has won each of his past three fights after dropping his UFC debut in 2017, while Zaleski has an 8-2 record inside the octagon – winning seven of his previous eight bouts since losing his own UFC debut in 2015.

Since both men are in their mid-thirties, the winner of this fight seems likely to move up to face ranked competition, while the loser could end up as a gatekeeper for young and upcoming talent.

A lot is at stake – as both fighters could alter their fate for good on Saturday. Which side offers betting value in what appears to be a close matchup

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos Odds History

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov Odds

Zaleski initially opened as a +165 (implied 37.7%) underdog for this bout, but his odds have moved towards even money (+100, implied 50%) as of writing:

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov Odds
((Graph via Best Fight Odds))

Zaleski took money as an underdog, before his loss to Li Jingliang, but otherwise, the betting market has had a mixed opinion before his fights. The betting line has moved towards the Brazilian’s side in five of his UFC bouts, and moved against him in the other five.

Based upon more recent line movement, the odds appear to be shifting back towards the favorite.

Muslim Salikhov Odds History

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov Odds

Salikhov took money before his UFC debut, which he lost, and the betting market has sided against him since, but he won all three of those bouts, including two wins by knockout.

Fighters making their UFC debut win just 43% of the time against UFC veterans, and Garcia — a dominant wrestler — was able to take down Salikhov three times before pulling a submission back in 2017.

Tale of the Tape

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Muslim Salikhov Odds

Despite the submission loss in his UFC debut, Salikhov has shown sturdy takedown defense (72%), and dos Santos — though he has top control — isn’t particularly adept at getting the fight to the ground (0.65 takedowns per 15 minutes; 20% takedown accuracy).

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Zaleski is the more active striker (+1.25 strikes per minute) with a 3-inch reach advantage, but Salikhov is both more efficient (+7% accuracy, +9% defense) and technical, both offensively and defensively; and the two men have a similar strike differential (+1.04 vs. +0.95).

Stylistically, the matchup plays in favor of the Russian — a veteran of 199 professional kickboxing fights (185-13-1) and five-time Wushu Sanda world champion — who has only been victimized by a superior wrestler to date in the UFC. If this remains a stand-up battle, Salikhov should be able to counter and pick his spots the longer than the fight wears on.

Zaleski dos Santos vs. Salikhov Betting Pick

Crowdsourced Projection: Salikhov (67%)

The consensus projection makes Salikhov a -203 favorite (implied 67%), which represents an 11.4% edge compared to listed odds at -125 (implied 55.6%).

Nealy 60% of predictions siding with Salikhov are also taking him to win by KO/TKO, which would make those fair odds roughly +150 (implied 40%). He is +188 to win by KO/TKO in the market, but I would prefer to bet on his moneyline.

If Zaleski can withstand the power shots from Salikhov, he has the output to win on the cards — something that the crowd expects 55% of the time if he wins — or 18% of the time overall; implied odds of +450. But his decision odds are just +250 in the betting market.

He was tentative in his most recent win by decision, after returning from a knockout loss, where he only out-struck his opponent 62-57 while absorbing 50% of strike attempts to the head.

Salikhov will undoubtedly test that questionable striking defense, and he is coming off of a dominant 30-26 decision victory, where his output increased substantially in the middle and late rounds.

He is the better technician, with more substantial power, and I feel that Zaleski’s volume will only lead to an increased opportunity to get countered against a very relaxed striker.

The Brazilian’s best bet is to win on volume if he can merely withstand Salikhov’s power, or try to get the fight to the mat – but I’m not sure if that is what he wants to do – and even if he wants to, I’m not confident if he can against Salikhov – who has excellent footwork and more room to work in a 30-foot cage on Fight Island than we have become accustomed to in the 25-foot Octagon at UFC Apex.

I’ll take the superior technician, and the man more likely to find a finish in what should be an exciting striker’s duel.

Pick: Muslim Salikhov -125 (1 unit)

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