Bellator Betting: Patricio Pitbull vs. AJ McKee Steals UFC Spotlight

Posted on July 29, 2021 - Last Updated on September 14, 2021

MMA betting and the sport’s leading promotion, the UFC, are often synonymous. However, this is a great weekend to sample some Bellator betting.

On Saturday night, the top two domestic MMA promotions square off and fight for TV viewers’ eyeballs.

Out in Las Vegas, middleweights Uriah Hall (17-9) and Sean Strickland (23-3) meet in the UFC on ESPN 28 main event. It’s a perfectly solid scrap, even if it’s not the most marketable.

But if you were forced to watch just one fight this weekend, Bellator 263 on Showtime might be your jam.

After all, $1 million is on the line when featherweight champion Patricio Freire (32-4) meets undefeated challenger AJ McKee (17-0) in Inglewood, Calif.

Bellator betting: Pitbull vs. McKee

The UFC has a stranglehold on MMA’s top talent. However, Bellator has its fair share of highly ranked fighters. Freire (ranked No. 3) and McKee (No. 6), for example, are mixed among the UFC’s elite in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.

However, things never happen quickly in MMA, where fighters are lucky to get just 2-3 bouts per year. In fact, Bellator announced the initial field for this 16-man tournament field more than two years ago.

Those grand prix bouts were mixed among other Bellator fights through the past few years. And as the Bellator schedule played out, the tourney field of 16 ultimately diminished to just two.

Pitbull, a 34-year-old Brazilian, punched his ticket to the finale with style. Already the reigning 145-pound champ, he advanced in the tourney while simultaneously defending his belt three times. The wins came over Juan Archuleta (unanimous decision), Pedro Carvalho (knockout), and Emmanuel Sanchez (submission).

Meanwhile, McKee, the 26-year-old son of MMA trailblazer Antonio McKee, cruised through the tournament. His wins came over Georgi Karakhanyan (eight-second KO), Derek Campos (submission), and Darrion Caldwell (in a Submission of the Year).

Not surprisingly, oddsmakers at Virginia sportsbooks are torn on this matchup, which is a virtual pick’em. As of Thursday, small favorite Pitbull was available at -105 odds at BetMGM.

McKee was available at plus-money odds of +105 at William Hill.

DraftKings online sportsbook, meanwhile, had the total set at 3.5 rounds for the five-round fight. Over 3.5 was -106, and under 3.5 was -125.

What to expect with the perfect Bellator finale

When Bellator officials first announced the field for the featherweight grand prix, it was hard to ignore the obvious. If you looked at the brackets, you knew there was a chance for Pitbull vs. McKee.

However, in the wild world of MMA tournaments, things hardly ever go to plan. If something can go wrong, it almost always does.

This time, though, things were almost perfect as the top two tourney fighters carved out a path toward each other . And it’s led to one of the biggest fights in Bellator history. A cool $1 million check awaits the winner.

If you’re betting on this fight, do you go with age and experience (Pitbull)? Or do you go with youth and well-rounded athleticism (McKee)?

To many prognosticators, it’s a coin-flip scenario. If there’s a value at the current lines, it’s not glaringly obvious.

But one betting option that’s garnered a fair amount of attention is from William Hill. The VA sportsbook has a prop bet available for the fight: Will Pitbull vs. McKee go the distance? The odds:

  • No: -200
  • Yes: +150

In 49 career victories, the Bellator 263 headliners have combined for 35 stoppages: 17 knockouts and 18 submissions. And with five rounds instead of the standard three to trade leather on Saturday, these two featherweights will have ample opportunity to work.

Even with the juice of -200 odds (bet $20 to profit $10), the “No” bet is a popular one in MMA betting circles.

Hall vs. Strickland headlines UFC

Outside of the main event, the rest of the Bellator 263 fight card is pretty standard fare. Although Bellator events are notorious for fairly frequent mismatches, Saturday’s card has a lot of evenly matched bouts. That includes the featherweight co-main event of Mads Burnell (15-3) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-5).

At BetMGM, Burnell is -125, and Sanchez is +105.

However, if the UFC is still going to command your attention this weekend, you’ll see a handful of intriguing bouts on the UFC on ESPN 28 fight card. That includes the headliner between Sean Strickland (-225) and Uriah Hall (+180).

Both fighters have won four straight bouts. However, betting money has come in primarily on Strickland.

In the Saturday’s UFC co-headliner, bantamweight Kyung Ho Kang (17-8) takes on vet Rani Yahya (27-10-1). Kang (-135) is the favorite over +110 underdog Yayha.

Photo by Bellator
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Dann Stupp

Dann Stupp is a longtime sports journalist who’s written and edited for The Athletic, USA Today, ESPN, MLB.com and other outlets. He lives in Lexington, Virginia.

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