UFC 231 predictions -- Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega: Fight card, expert picks, odds, lines

We sometimes tend to get caught up in hyperbole by saying that a fight could be one of the biggest its division has ever seen, but that is very well the case on Saturday at UFC 231. Max Holloway is set to make his return to the Octagon to defend his featherweight championship against undefeated Brian Ortega is one of the biggest bouts the 145-pound division has ever had the pleasure of hosting. 

Holloway has been scheduled to fight three times so far in 2018, but for multiple reasons, is still yet to enter the Octagon. Holloway stepped in on a week's notice to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in April when a freak injury forced Tony Ferguson out of action. But while attempting to cut weight, the New York State Athletic Commission stepped in and told him it would be unhealthy to continue his cut.

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Then, Holloway was scheduled to take on Ortega at UFC 226 in the co-main event for the featherweight title. But after an interview with Michael Bisping where Holloway was noticeably slurring his words, UFC made the call to pull him with what was described at the time as concussion-like symptoms.

Now, just five months later, the two are expected to settle this in Canada, but questions still remain about Holloway's health. Meanwhile, UFC will have its first two women's flyweight title bout when Valentina Shevchenko takes on former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the co-main event.

Here's a look at the full card from Toronto with the latest odds from Westgate.

UFC 231 odds

FavoriteUnderdogWeightclass

Brian Ortega -115

Max Holloway (c) -105

Featherweight title

Valentina Shevchenko -330

Joanna Jedrzejczyk +260

Women's flyweight title

Thiago Santos -200

Jimi Manuwa +170

Light heavyweight

Gunnar Nelson -120

Alex Oliveira -100

Welterweight

Hakeem Dawodu -180

Kyle Bochniak +150

Featherweight

Claudia Gadelha -330

Nina Ansaroff +260

Women's strawweight

Katlyn Chookagian -200

Jessica Eye +170

Women's flyweight

Eryk Anders -125

Elias Theodorou -100

Middleweight

Olivier Aubin-Mercier -135Gilbert Burns +115Lightweight
Aleksandar Rakic -600
Devin Clark +425 Light heavyweight
Brad Katona -170Matthew Lopez +145Bantamweight
Chad Laprise -400Dheigo Lima +300Welterweight
Diego Ferreira -340Jesse Ronson +280
Lightweight

With a big card on tap, our experts took a crack at picking each of the main card fights. Here are your pick makers: Brian Campbell (combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Michael Mormile (producer), Jack Jorgensen (editor) and Brandon Wise (editor). 

UFC 231 predictions        

FightCampbellMormileCocaJorgensenWise

Holloway (c) vs. Ortega

Ortega

OrtegaHollowayOrtegaHolloway
Shevchenko vs. JerdzejczykShevchenkoShevchenkoShevchenkoShevchenko Shevchenko
Manuwa vs. SantosManuwaSantosManuwaManuwaManuwa
Oliveira vs. NelsonOliveiraNelsonNelsonNelsonOliveira
Dawodu vs. BochniakBochniakDawoduDawoduDawoduBochniak
Overall (2018) 31-28-0 33-26-0 31-28-0 29-30-0 35-24-0

Campbell on why Ortega will win: If all things were equal, Holloway-Ortega is the kind of fight between two pound-for-pound rated fighters in their absolute primes that likely would threaten for instant classic or fight-of-the-year contention. All things likely aren't equal, however; not after the kind of difficult year both physically and mentally that Holloway has had. From twice being forced to pull out of fights to a severe battle with depression and a medical diagnosis that was inconclusive at best, it's hard to imagine Holloway will be 100 percent on Saturday. If he's not, Ortega is just too dangerous as a finisher and on too red-hot of a roll to slow down. For as great as Holloway is, we feel like we already know his ceiling. The same can't exactly be said for Ortega and that's a scary proposition.

Wise on why Holloway will win: I went back and forth on this pick four times over. In the end, if Holloway makes it into the Octagon on Saturday night, it's tough to pick against him and his incredible run. Holloway's speed and strike avoidance has been a huge key to success for the featherweight champion and he will need it again on Saturday to prevent Ortega from getting this fight to the ground. This ends in a controversial decision that delivers a tremendous rematch build in 2019.

Jorgensen on why Shevchenko will win: Ultimately, as much as some may not want to hear this, I believe the crowning of a new women's flyweight champion on Saturday night will fall into the hands of the judges after five rounds. We know the damage Joanna is capable of when she begins to push forward, although that can sometimes work to her detriment. As much as I've been a noted fan of the former strawweight champion, it will work against her again with the flyweight title on the line. Shevchenko will be able to keep Jedrzejczyk at bay when she does attempt to lunge forward with strikes, and will utilize her counter-striking to earn enough points with the judges to capture the gold that's eluded her during her UFC run. Bullet via unanimous decision. 

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