Brian Ortega says his two losses in title fights have shown him what it takes to become a champion, and he intends to show what he’s learned Saturday when he faces fellow featherweight contender Yair Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Fight Night. The battle of top-five contenders with title implications will highlight the main card (2 p.m. ET) from UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y. The second-ranked Ortega has seen his only UFC defeats come to current champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champ Max Holloway, both in title fights. Ortega says he still plans on wearing the belt before he retires, but to earn a third title shot he must get past the dangerous and third-ranked Rodriguez, who could secure his first title bid with a victory.
Caesars Sportsbook lists Ortega as a -160 favorite (risk $160 to win $100), while Rodriguez is a +140 underdog in the latest UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Rodriguez odds. In the co-main event, women’s strawweight contenders take the spotlight when Amanda Lemos (-335) meets Michelle Waterson (+275). Before locking in any UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Rodriguez picks, make sure you check out the MMA picks and betting advice from SportsLine combat expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to help understand and dissect the X’s and O’s of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000.
Just last month at UFC 275, Gombas swept the board with his main-card picks and the five-fight sweep included telling SportsLine members to back Jake Matthews (+125) against Andre Fialho (-145) in a matchup of welterweight prospects. Matthews dominated from the outset and scored a second-round stoppage to provide Gombas’ backers with another easy winner. Anyone who has followed Gombas already has seen massive returns.
Now, with UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Rodriguez in sight, Gombas has studied the card from every angle and released his top MMA picks. Those picks are only available at SportsLine.
UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Rodriguez preview
Ortega (15-2-1) was widely viewed as a future champion upon joining the UFC eight years ago, and he delivered on the potential by starting his UFC stint with a seven-fight unbeaten streak. He ascended to the top of the UFC rankings, but came up short in title bids against Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway, who are responsible for his two losses in the promotion.
Although his December 2018 loss to Holloway was lopsided, Ortega came close to unseating Volkanovski last September at UFC 266. The wild back-and-forth affair saw both combatants come close to a finish on numerous occasions, and the challenger appeared to have a fight-ending choke hold on the champion on at least two occasions. But Volkanovski survived and won a unanimous decision.
The memorable war won Fight of the Year from numerous media outlets and Ortega saw his stock rise higher than it likely did behind any of his victories. The 31-year-old Los Angeles native will likely lock up a rematch with Volkanovski should he get past Rodriguez, though doing so won’t be an easy task.
Rodriguez (13-3-1) has been near the top of the UFC rankings for much of his eight-year tenure with the promotion. But a slew of injuries has led to numerous long breaks in between fights, and his mild-mannered disposition has contributed to somewhat limited recognition among MMA media and fans.
Even so, the 29-year-old Mexican fighter showed all his tools in a five-round classic main event against Holloway last November. The former champion won a narrow decision, but Rodriguez’s performance was enough to keep him in the title picture. You can only see who to pick at UFC Fight Night here.
UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Yair predictions
We’ll share one of Gombas’ UFC Fight Night predictions here: He is backing Muslim Salikhov (-165) to notch a victory against Li Jingliang (+145) in a clash of welterweight prospects on the main card.
Jingliang (18-7) is an eight-year UFC veteran who has gone 10-5 in 15 appearances with the promotion while facing mostly upper-tier competition. The versatile 34-year-old Chinese fighter was climbing the rankings behind a stretch in which he went 8-2 but took a step back in his last fight with a first-round stoppage loss to rising star Khamzat Chimaev, who has since reached No. 3 in the rankings. Jingliang now sits at No. 14.
Salikhov (18-2) is a powerful prospect who has reeled off five consecutive victories following a loss in his UFC debut, but the 38-year-old Russian fighter will be taking a step up in competition against a ranked opponent on the main card.
“I expect Salikhov and Jingliang to engage in a competitive striking affair. Jingliang is a bit more of a traditional striker, whereas Salikhov is more creative with his attacks. I slightly lean with Salikhov but expect this fight to result in a relatively close decision,” Gombas told SportsLine. See who else to pick here.
How to make UFC Fight Night picks
Gombas also has strong picks for Ortega vs. Rodriguez and other fights on the UFC Fight Night card. He’s also backing a fighter who will “have a big power edge” to emerge with a dominant victory. Those UFC Fight Night picks are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Ortega vs. Rodriguez? And what other picks do you need to see? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on UFC Fight Night, all from the insider who’s up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.
UFC Fight Night odds, fight card
See full UFC Fight Night picks, predictions, best bets here
Brian Ortega (-160) vs. Yair Rodriguez (+140)
Amanda Lemos (-335) vs. Michelle Waterson (+275)
Muslim Salikhov (-165) vs. Li Jingliang (+145)
Su Mudaerji (-255) vs. Matt Schnell (+215)
Shane Burgos (-160) vs. Charles Jourdain (+140)
Miesha Tate (-210) vs. Lauren Murphy (+180)
Jack Shore (-170) vs. Ricky Simon (+150)
Punahele Soriano (-240) vs. Dalcha Lungiambula (+200)
Bill Algeo (-185) vs. Herbert Burns (+165)
Dustin Jacoby (-120) vs. Da Un Jung (+100)
Dwight Grant (-140) vs. Dustin Stoltzfus (+120)
Abubakar Nurmagomedov (-150) vs. Phil Rowe (+130)
Emily Ducote (-140) vs. Jessica Penne (+120)