- Final fight on UFC's "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi
- Whittaker-Till headline event at middleweight
- Brazilian legends clash for third and final time
- Gustafsson makes heavyweight debut
- Watch the entire event on ESPN and ESPN+
UFC on ESPN 14 on Saturday is the final of four events on Dana White’s “Fight Island” on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, and it features a high-stakes middleweight fight. Former champion Robert Whittaker steps back into the octagon to face Darren Till. The winner will be looking to position themselves ahead of September’s massive title fight between champion Israel Adesanya (who took the belt from Whittaker) and Paulo Costa. Two other fights that you should keep an eye on their UFC on ESPN 14 betting odds come from the larger divisions.
Brazilian legends Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio “Minotouro” Rogerio Nogueira meet for the third (and probably final) time in a light-heavyweight clash. Meanwhile, Alexander Gustafsson moves up to the heavyweight division to take on former champion Fabricio Werdum.
Where To Watch UFC on ESPN 14
- Prelims: ESPN and ESPN+ at 5:00 PM ET
- Main Card: ESPN and ESPN+ at 8:00 PM ET
Robert Whittaker (-135) vs. Darren Till (+105) – Middleweight
Whittaker (20-5) has been off since losing the belt to Adesayna by second-round KO in October. Till (18-2-1) earned a split-decision win over Kelvin Gastelum in November. That was his return to middleweight, where he started his MMA career. Many MMA fans knew Till as a welterweight. However, he has struggled with weight cuts. When he lost to then-champion Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal by submission and KO, respectively, Till decided to move back to his original weight class.
The sports betting odds for this fight started off relatively even (Whittaker at -120, Till at -110), but has since swung towards the former champ. Both men are strong in the stand-up game. However, Whittaker has the edge on the mat, where he talked about representing Australia at the Olympics at one point. Even though Till averages more takedowns per 15 minutes, Whittaker can really control him down there. And there is a lot riding on this fight if you look at the UFC rankings. Whittaker is ranked as the #1 contender, but #2 Costa is getting the next shot at Adesayna. Jared Cannonier has been injured since February, but he wants a crack at the title as well. His return match might just be against the winner of Whittaker-Till (Till is ranked fifth by the UFC). I’m taking the former champion to start making his way back towards another crack at the title.
UFC on ESPN Betting 14 Pick: Whittaker by Unanimous Decision
Mauricio Rua (-200) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (+160) – Light Heavyweight
This fight has nothing at all to do with rankings as Rua (26-11-1) is coming off the first draw of his storied MMA career as he drew Paul Craig in November. Nogueira (23-9) suffered a first-round KO at the hands of Ryan Spann in May 2019, and it was his fourth lost in his last six fights. Three of those losses have come by TKO or KO. The only loss where Nogueira wasn’t stopped came against Rua in August 2015 as “Shogun” won by unanimous decision.
It was the second win over Nogueira by Rua via unanimous decision; the first came in 2005 in the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal. MMA website Sherdog named that fight as their “Fight of the Year”. Nogueira has said that he is probably going to retire after this fight at 44 years old. He would like nothing than to go out on a high note against Rua, who isn’t the ruthless, swarming striker that soccer kicked his way through Pride, where he won the 2005 Grand Prix. Then, Rua used that style came to the UFC, where he was the 205-pound champion before the Jon Jones era. Both do like to stand and trade, and that is what Nogueira will want to do in his last fight. If he wants to win, Nogueira should look to take this to the mat, where he is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (his older brother, Antonio Rodrigo “Big Nog” Nogueira is a fifth-degree black belt in BJJ). However, Nogueira’s chin isn’t what it used to be and he might want to showcase his boxing skills, so we’re going with “Shogun” to finish the trilogy with a perfect record.
UFC on ESPN Betting 14 Pick: Rua by TKO/KO
Fabricio Werdum (+270) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (-360) – Heavyweight
Another Brazilian is featured in the top fights on Saturday as Werdum (23-9-1) has dropped two in a row after a split-decision loss to Aleksei Olenik in May. Gustafsson (18-6) has also lost two straight after a submission loss to Anthony Smith in June 2019. Gustafsson “retired” after that fight, but he has returned as a heavyweight after five losses in his last eight matches. However, look at those five losses at 205 pounds. Two were to champion Jones, and their first fight was probably the biggest test of Jones’ career to date. One was a split-decision loss to former light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, one was a TKO to heavy-hitting Anthony Johnson and then the loss to Smith. That isn’t a bad resume at all.
However, Gustafsson has a tough welcome to the heavyweight division through Werdum, a second-degree BJJ black belt who is arguably the best grappling heavyweight ever. Gustafsson has strong takedown defense and can also go to the mat if he has to. But he has to keep this fight standing as Werdum is an ace on the ground. However, Werdum can sometimes be lured into a striking battle, where he has improved over his career. However, Gustafsson has the edge there. Gustafsson has also claimed that he got the better of Werdum in sparring in 2012. Of course, Werdum claims the opposite. We’ll see who gets the last laugh on Saturday at “Fight Island”. Werdum seems to have lost a little in the conditioning department, and Gustafsson should be able to take advantage of that despite moving up a weight class himself.