Prime Picks: UFC 240 ‘Holloway vs. Edgar’

By Jay Pettry Jul 26, 2019

The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 240 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

The Octagon returns to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Saturday night for UFC 240. Twelve fights have been scheduled for this event, with the sportsbooks offering odds on all of them. Below are our top plays in the UFC 240 edition of Prime Picks.

Max Holloway (-360)

The main event of the evening is a featherweight title fight between champion Holloway and former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar. While Holloway sits as a prohibitive favorite, it is for good reason -- both for why Holloway may excel and why Edgar may struggle.

Holloway has not been defeated at 145 pounds since dropping a decision to Conor McGregor in 2013, and at featherweight Edgar has only lost to Jose Aldo twice while suffering a knockout at the hands of Brian Ortega. Throughout Edgar's career, he has only been beaten by fighters that challenged for a UFC title or were champions themselves. Holloway competed at UFC 236 in April, losing a "Fight of the Night"-earning decision that could have been a "Fight of the Year" candidate were it not for the instant classic that proceeded it between Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum. Meanwhile, Edgar's last outing came at UFC Fight Night 128 in April 2018, with this inactive period of 15 months the longest of his career.

Holloway rarely gives up the takedown, as the Hawaiian has only been put on his back a combined four times in his last 12 outings. Of those four, two came to Brian Ortega while the other to Dustin Poirier, and before then we have to look all the way back to Holloway's one-sided performance over Clay Collard in 2014 as Collard grounded him one time in the opening stanza. "Blessed's" takedown defense rate of 83 percent is actually somewhat misleading as his defensive wrestling game has grown leaps and bounds since the multiple takedowns landed by the likes of McGregor and Dennis Bermudez years ago. These days, even if you get Holloway on his back, you more than likely will not have him down for long.

Despite being known as a wrestling threat, Edgar only holds a takedown accuracy rate of 33 percent. Do not be surprised at this number, as throughout his UFC career, Edgar has attempted to take down his opponent over 200 times, averaging almost eight-and-a-half attempts each fight. For Edgar and his chain-wrestling, it might not be the first, second or even third attempt that lands, but when he does finally score one, he makes it count. When he faced Yair Rodriguez, his lone takedown in the first round led to some overwhelming top control and very effective ground-and-pound; in the second round, Edgar only needed to get Rodriguez down once more to force the doctor to intervene. Edgar's best course of action to beat Holloway will likely hinge on his offensive wrestling and ability to control where the fight takes place, against a long, rangy pressure-boxer.

This is Holloway's fight to lose, so even as a massive -360 favorite it could be worth putting money down on the man from Hawaii. Edgar is an incredibly tough out, with the knockout to Ortega the only time the New Jersey native has been finished, but a prop bet of Holloway winning inside the distance at -165 could also be enticing as well. Holloway's ability to drag fighters into deep water and turn up his pressure to force a stoppage has served him well in all four of his featherweight title fights. Look for Holloway to either pick up a relatively dominant decision or a late stoppage in this one.

Geoff Neal (-345)

Another favorite on the card worth paying attention to is Geoff Neal, who burst on to the scene with a contract-winning knockout of Chase Waldon at Dana White's Contender Series in 2017. From there, Neal has won all three of his Octagon appearances, including a head kick knockout of the ultra-durable Frank Camacho and most recently a decision over the equally durable Belal Muhammad in January. He and his opponent Niko Price will likely go power for power in this contest, as both men largely prefer to separate their opponent from consciousness with strikes.

None of Price's eight previous UFC outings have reached the third round, while Neal went to the judges for the first time in eight fights against Muhammad. The Floridian will hold the slightest of reach and height advantages at one inch apiece, but his inclination to stand in the pocket and trade recklessly can be a double-edged sword against someone more technically sound like Neal. Price's chin held up against Tim Means before he landed a thunderous right counter that put out "The Dirty Bird," but up until that point Price was getting outworked. While "Handz of Steel" may be surprised by Price's power, as long as he can stay composed and not get lured into a wild striking exchange, he can come out with a win. Let us be clear — this fight could end violently in favor of each man, but the patience and tactical awareness advantages lie with the betting favorite Neal.

Arman Tsarukyan (-200)

A relative unknown leading up to his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 149 in April against Islam Makhachev, Tsarukyan and his foe put on a show across three hard-fought rounds. The two were nearly even in terms of significant strikes landed, and while Makhachev likely earned the nod due to his superior grappling, Tsarukyan matched him most of the bout with his defensive wrestling game and scrambles. The fight was one of the best-case scenarios for Tsarukyan, pushing a top-15 ranked fighter to his limit in their "Fight of the Night"-winning scrap. Debuting fighters can make a name for themselves even in a loss with the right performance, and Tsarukyan did just that. In his second time under the UFC lights he will face a far less daunting opponent, as Olivier Aubin-Mercier has fallen on hard times over the last year.

Although losses to highly-touted prospect Alexander Hernandez and Brazilian grappler-turned-striker Gilbert Burns are nothing to look down on, the way in which he was defeated showed the audience that the Canadian might have hit his competitive ceiling. Whether it was in the grappling or striking realm, both Hernandez and Burns beat him decisively, earning just one round on three scorecards across those two fights. While Tsarukyan may not be quite at the level of those two aforementioned fighters, he showed he has the wrestling chops to be a thorn in many fighters' sides. At his core, Aubin-Mercier is a grappler, and if he cannot establish a clear advantage early on it will be a long 15 minutes for the Tristar Gym product. As a -200 favorite, Tsarukyan should pick up a win and be on the outside looking in at the top-15 of the division and could also be a solid addition in a parlay.

Sung Woo Choi (+100)

As a very mild underdog pick, Choi has the ability to upset Gavin Tucker in what could be a thrilling featherweight battle. While Choi lost his Octagon debut in April by getting steamrolled by the unbeaten Movsar Evloev, the last time we saw Tucker inside the cage was in September 2017. In that UFC 217 bout between Tucker and Rick Glenn, Tucker lost a one-sided drubbing that should have been stopped by referee Kyle Cardinal long before it reached the scorecards. In that final round, Glenn delivered a beating so badly that one judge gave an incredibly rare 10-7 score. To quote Joe Rogan from that bout, "This is the stuff of nightmares for Tucker … he's gonna be thinking about this kind of a beating for a long time." How a fighter comes back from their first loss — and a nasty one at that — is very telling, as some never quite seem the same again.

Tucker was originally slated to return to active competition at UFC Fight Night 138 last October, but an injury forced him to withdraw from that contest. As such, this layoff of nearly 22 months is one of the longest in Tucker's career, although Choi has only fought twice in that same span. While Tucker will give up four inches of height to his opponent, it is the eight-inch reach advantage for Choi that will prove most significant. As a striker with a majority of his wins coming by way of knockout, the Korean should bounce back from his first decision loss by beating the home country fighter Tucker. While Evloev was able to get Choi down in all three rounds, Tucker does not possess those same skills and generally prefers to blitz his foe and engage in wild exchanges instead. With Choi at +100, the odds are close as Tucker currently sits as a -120 favorite, but money steadily coming in on Choi has shifted Tucker from a -215 favorite to what the line shows now. Advertisement
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