Finally, the wait for UFC 249 is over, and we will be treated to a live PPV event this weekend. Read ahead for my best picks and parlays on this much-anticipated event.

It’s time! Finally, those words will echo across our TV screens once again after the UFC has been event-less for weeks now. Initially set for April 18th with a very different card, the COVID-19 outbreak forced Dana White to postpone and adjust.

UFC 249 goes down on Saturday night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. Aside from the lack of fans, the event will run just like any other UFC PPV. With twelve fights on the card, which include ESPN prelims, matches will be running most of the day.

With all the catching up done, let’s do what I’ve been waiting to do for weeks and break down my best picks and parlays for UFC 249.

UFC 249 Betting Odds

Tony Ferguson (-200) vs. Justin Gaethje (+150)

Henry Cejudo (-220) vs. Dominick Cruz (+185)

Francis Ngannou (-285) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+230)

Calvin Kattar (-240) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+205)

Anthony Pettis (-150) vs. Donald Cerrone (+125)

Greg Hardy (-195) vs. Yorgan De Castro (+165)

Fabricio Werdum (-320) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+250)

Carla Esparza (-160) vs. Michelle Waterson (+135)

Jacare Souza (-125) vs. Uriah Hall (+105)

Vicente Luque (-280) vs. Niko Price (+230)

Bryce Mitchell (-165) vs. Charles Rosa (+140)

Ryan Spann (-420) vs. Sam Alvey (+330)

UFC 249 Picks

Henry Cejudo (15-2) vs Dominick Cruz (22-2)

The co-main event of this card sees former bantamweight titleholder Henry Cejudo going toe to toe against Dominick Cruz. Cejudo opened as a huge -285 favorite and has since been bet down to -220.

Dominick Cruz is an exciting underdog bet considering who he has beaten and his championship pedigree. Cruz was picked to replace Jose Aldo in this bout, seeing his first action in over three years. His last fight was back in 2016, losing to TJ Dillashaw for the Bantamweight title. It was Cruz’s first loss in almost ten years after getting submitted by Urijah Faber in 2007 at WEC 36.

It is an unusual situation as Cruz has been a commentator for years now, is not even ranked, and is being pushed into a title fight. Can he pull some veteran magic and regain his long lost bantamweight title?

He has a few things going for him that are tempting me.

First, he moves like nobody else in the division and might be the most unorthodox stand-up fighter in the UFC. No opponent would have an easy task trying to keep track of where he is moving and where he might be next. I don’t even think Cruz knows. He lets it flow and has frustrated countless opponents. Add to this his boxing skill, especially in the pocket, and it’s easy to see why Cruz has only lost two fights in his career. He was injured in the second one, by the way.

He also shines on defense, with a takedown defense of 83.33%, which means that for every ten attempts to take him down, you will be successful less than twice.

Now the big knock against Cruz is his long absence from the Octagon. He has not won a fight in almost five years and, at the age of 35, ain’t exactly a spring chicken. I am sure that he has kept in shape while behind the desk. But he will have to beat a two-division champ on short notice, and if his knee isn’t 100%, it might be a short night.

Cejudo, the current champ, is also a former freestyle wrestler who won gold at the Beijing Olympics. Accolades don’t get much bigger than that. He immediately went into professional MMA and has been very successful in the seven years since. His biggest wins have been his most recent and appears ready for another title defense.

At UFC 227, Cejudo did something many thought would never happen. He beat Dimitreous Johnson for the Flyweight Title after Mighty Mouse defended it 11 times and essentially forced him out of the company altogether.

He followed up that legendary win by beating Dillashaw to defend the title, showing his ability to win in multiple weight classes.

The advantage that Cejudo holds is his wrestling. He won a gold medal. Need I elaborate?

He has developed into an elite striker too with combinations and hand speed that rank him up with the best of them. So it’s not a great idea to try and stand with him. But you can also forget about taking him down too. Olympic champ remember. He spends less time on his back than almost anyone else, and his takedown defense is 90%. Cejudo also has elite conditioning and could go ten rounds if he had to on Saturday night.

The one big issue with Cejudo is his lack of submission skills or BJJ training. Sure, he can wrestle with the best. But wrestling camp doesn’t teach BJJ moves, and Cejudo has succeeded despite this shortcoming. He relies too much on his takedown defense, and if he does surrender a takedown, he might be in trouble versus Cruz.

So do I think that Cejudo can be beaten but a guy sitting out the last four years? Yes, I do. I think people forget just how incredible Cruz was, and taking those years off might have been just the rest his body needed. He appears to be healthy and in great shape, so what is stopping him? Sure, he will have some ring rust. But this guy is a veteran pro with this being his 25th fight. He knows what he’s doing, and I suspect the ring rust to be minimal.

I know I’m going against the grain here, but I like the underdog. Cejudo had a very tough time against Marlon Moraes last fight and almost got knocked out in the first round. I believe that was due to Cejudo’s relative inexperience in a stand-up battle and Moraes unorthodox approach. Cruz has an even more odd fighting style, and I think he is far more skilled than Moraes.

The other issue I have with Cejudo is his odd combination of size and speed. Or lack thereof. Cruz will be the bigger fighter but also probably quicker on his feet. Cejudo is surprisingly slow for his size, and this might hurt his chances of scoring a takedown.

I’m betting that Cejudo struggles again in the opening round, but Cruz does a lot more to capitalize early on and puts Cejudo in too deep a hole. So long as Cruz can stay off his back, keep away from the cage, and pick Cejudo apart, I see a real chance to hit a win here.

If that is the case, I predict that this fight goes the distance, which is currently -180 at DraftKings. A parlay on Cruz and a decision win would payout +352 and give you something to celebrate on Saturday night.

Speaking of DraftKings, they have a sweet offer to get you back into MMA betting. They are boosting the amount of your initial free bonus to $20, which you can use to play the MMA Million contest for free. They are also offering a 20% boost to all winning payouts that are offered on UFC 249. Pretty good deal if you have yet to try out DraftKings Online Sportsbook.

That’s it for us today and our UFC 249 picks, but hopefully, we will return with some more MMA PPV betting action sooner than later.