Ilia Topuria

A fiery featherweight showdown takes place this Saturday, June 24, at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. No. 5 ranked Josh Emmett takes on the undefeated No. 9 Ilia Topuria in a contest that has title-shot implications written all over it.

Emmett, an experienced knockout artist, is hungry to return to the path of a second title shot, while Topuria, entering his first UFC main event, seeks to climb the ranks by outshining Emmett.

In addition to this main event, we’ve got a plethora of other predictions for the other fights at this event. You can find them all on our UFC predictions page. To keep yourself updated with exclusive fight predictions and betting tips, don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter. It’s like a jab and cross combo of fight insights right to your inbox.

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Catch all the action live on ABC and ESPN+ this Saturday night, with the main card starting at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT.

Betting Odds

Getting down to the nitty-gritty – the betting odds. Josh Emmett, tagged as the underdog, currently has odds of +250 on BetUS. This means if you bet $100 on Emmett and he wins, you’ll pocket a neat $250.

But standing across from him this weekend ise hot prospect Ilia Topuria, the favorite, at -350 on BetUS. That means you’ll need to stake $350 to win $100 if Topuria comes out on top.

  • Josh Emmett: +250 (BetUS)
  • Ilia Topuria: -350 (BetUS)

Whether you’re placing your faith and money on the experienced Emmett or the rising star Topuria, we’ve got you covered with in-depth analysis and expert staff predictions to help guide your choices. For the best odds and a tempting sign-up bonus, head over to BetUS via our special link to get a huge sign-up bonus. Good luck, fight fans!

Staff Picks

Braeden Arbour

This fight could go a lot of different ways. Josh Emmett should look to contest the fight on the feet. While he does have good wrestling and a scramble grapple style as expected from a team Alpha Male alumni, Topuria’s technical level of jiu-jitsu is a major advantage in terms of submission offense and defense. Emmett’s biggest assets on the mat are that statistically he gives up little to no control time on the bottom, and he always has the ability to latch on a neck in his back pocket. In his UFC career submissions have not materialized for Emmett but one would have to believe training out of Alpha Males, that guillotines are consistently drilled, and of his two submissions on his pro record, both are by choke, one by guillotine.

Ilia Topuria has a powerful jiu-jitsu game, he is good at staying safe from ground and pound by controlling posture with his guard and patiently working his way back to the feet. In top position, he has technical passing and the power he throws with translates to ground and pound well. In terms of submissions, triangles both with the arms and legs dominate his record, whether that be a head and arm choke, anaconda, traditional triangle, etc. The only outliers being a couple of guillotines earlier in his career.

Topuria is a very bold fighter with his forward pressure, he likes to stand fairly heavy in his stance and stalk his opponents. He is very good at using a sharp jab and right cross with little telegraph to maintain his momentum and draw out shots from his opponents in order to counter with heavier combinations. Watch for him to draw out the shot, slip, and rip to the body to bring the guard of his opponents low and finish his exchange with a high hook or overhand. The chess match here is whether or not Emmett can establish and control the exchanges with his jab or Topuria can get a read on it and bait Emmett to throw it when he wants him to. Emmett has a blistering fast jab, and carries power in every one of his weapons, if he can stick it through the middle he makes it very difficult for Topuria to find the body or a high hook especially if Emmett consistently catches him on the very end of his punch. Emmett also constantly goes back to the overhand right, and he is very good at weaving underneath shots to land it. Once his opponents respects the power coming from the right, Emmett will also switch stance to throw the overhand left, and has a nice combination going right feint, left to the body and lead overhand right from southpaw.

In general, expect fireworks from most of the striking exchanges, neither man lacks any speed, power or technical ability in terms of boxing and can hold up to about anyone in the division. Where I see a big advantage for Topuria is in his use of low kicks, as he has shown he needs very few to cause major damage and get a reaction. On the other hand, because Emmett is so dependent on weaving low and extending out on his jab and cross, he very often rolls all his weight onto his lead leg, in an obvious fashion. This has caused him considerable issues with good low kickers in the past, who time his jab with inside low kicks when he gets inside, and outside low kicks when he explodes forward with the cross. If Topuria can just a few low kicks early, it makes a huge difference, Emmett has the cardio to go a hard five rounds, but when compromised he tends to make more mistakes, tires himself out a bit more and we may even see him shoot on Topuria if he is hurt. I think a combination of low kicks, body work and eventual grappling exchanges can take Emmett out of his preferred game and get Topuria the win.

Pick: Ilia Topuria to win (-350)

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Michael Pounders

Ilia Topuria has been tapped as the next title challenger and likely belt holder of the 145 division for a few years. Volkanovski will likely have something to say about that statement; but, given the age gap, it is possible to see Topuria hold the belt even without slaying the king.

Topuria has all the makings of a champion. He has the lightning-fast hand speed of a much smaller fighter but the thundering power of a much larger one. He has high level and relentless wrestling with a violent and fight-ending top game. Lastly, Topuria has the submission ability of a truly elite jiu-jitsu practitioner. Basically, the Spaniard’s game is nearly flawless.

The only three questions, small ones at that, which surround his game are his defense when attacking, his strength of schedule, and his cardio. Until he fought up a weight class England, Topuria’s chin was never really tested because he was finishing fighters before they even had a chance to hurt him. But, when hunting the finish against Herbert, Topuria ate a killer head kick that nearly knocked him out cold. The positive in that fight is we learned Topuria has a real chin and a heart to rally- he eventually won via finish yet again.

But, slightly concerningly, Topuria showed he can sometimes ignore defense when he’s going all out for the finish. His strength of schedule, which is not up to him, is lacking a big name. Topuria hasn’t really been tested, in large part because of his dominance, but the lack of a notable challenger poses questions. Lastly, while Topuria’s skillset has passed every test, we have not seen his cardio tested and don’t have any data to support his gas tank. Regardless of those questions, Topuria has passed every test he’s faced and done so in truly impressive fashion.

Emmett has the spirit of a junkyard dog fighter with the skillset of a top 5 ranked UFC fighter in one of the best divisions in MMA. He has cracking power, a deadly calf kick, accredited wrestling, excellent cardio, and is nearly impossible to finish. When fighting Emmett, opponents know they will have to go through hell if they hope to get a win; sometimes, like in his fight with Kattar, opponents will go through hell and still not get the win. The gaps in Emmett’s game, small as they are, come when he faces a highly technical fighter and/or a strong and skilled wrestler. Emmett’s power results in a lower output and he can be tagged if an opponent can put a pace on him. They have to be careful when doing so, though, because Emmett has a chin to withstand punishment and the power to counter with real heat. He also has struggled against strong wrestlers who can counter his overhand right’s and shoot on his hips while they’re exposed. Again, caution is key because Emmett has a knack for timing his counter shots, especially an uppercut, when opponents shoot takedowns. Emmett has only lost 3 times in his career and has proven he can initiate and win a war with some of the best in the world.

I kept the breakdown of the fighters shorter because there is a lot to discuss when it comes to finding a way to attack this line. You’ll see a commonality that the lines, money line, and prop, are all over the place presenting interesting plus money opportunities. Firstly, the money line is significantly wider than many expected. Topuria is sitting in the -350 which gives him a whopping 77% implied win probability. That is enormous considering Emmett’s power, experience, and Topuria’s less-than-stellar strength of schedule. Topuria’s best win was a finish over Bryce Mitchell who fought with the flu.

Nevertheless, Topuria is a monster who many, myself included, expect to challenge for the belt soon. But, an implied win percentage of 77% is outlandish. Therefore, I think the value is on Emmett’s money line. I do expect Topuria to win the fight (just not at 77% level of confidence) so to bet Topuria we have to dig into props. The rounds are set at 1.5 which, given Emmett’s power and age coupled with Topuria’s lethal complete game and propensity to find finishes early, seems reasonable. However, I expect Topuria to fight more cautiously given his near-knockout loss to Herbert in England and that he’s facing, by far and away, the most prolific striker of his career. That, plus the last 4 of Emmett’s fights have gone beyond 1.5 rounds (3 of which the full distance) has me looking at o1.5 (-115) as a strong bet as well.

When considering value, implied probability, and the skillsets of these fighters, my favorite bet on the board is for the 77% win percentage favorite- Topuria- to go the full 25 minutes with a fighter who has only been finished twice in his entire career. Topuria to win by decision is a +900, which implies it only has a 10% chance of hitting. I know both men are dangerous but I handicap a decision as a real possibility and expect Topuria to win. In short, I think Topuria by decision has a much higher chance of hitting than 10%. The handicap of this decision win is on the back of Emmett’s toughness, Emmett’s power threat, Topuria’s recent chin rocking, and Topuria’s elite wrestling game. I expect Topuria to take this challenge seriously, fight more cautiously to avoid a cracking right hand from Emmett that could derail his title hopes, and instead wrestle early and often. It will likely have several close calls but I like Topuria to win a close decision.

Best Bet: Topuria by Decision (+900)

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Joe Pounders

Josh Emmett is one of the most dangerous men in the UFC Featherweight division, largely due to the unworldly power he possesses in his hands. Pound-for-pound, I am unsure if there is a more impressive display of power in recent memory, as he seemingly throws every strike with malicious intent. The scary part for his opponent, both current and future, is that Emmett is fully recovered from his knee injury that he suffered several years ago and has skills exceeding power alone, which only exacerbates his threatening self in the octagon.

Perhaps his best secondary skill set as a fighter is doing a fantastic job utilizing his lead hand as a weapon of quickness, ultimately allowing his power backhand to land at an impressive clip. The jab to the overhand right is a combination of beauty when implemented properly, and Emmett is someone who has shown the ability to do so effectively. Lastly, although Emmett has shied away from utilizing skills outside of striking alone, he does have a strong background in grappling, having wrestled in college along with having won a world championship in the blue belt no-gi division. This background in grappling parlayed with an impressive power puncher on the feet is an impressive and dangerous combination to have as a fighter. While the case, he has worn significant damage in his last few fights, largely due to being overzealous with his offense, thus forgoing defensively sound countermeasures. If he does not sure up his defense on the feet, then the significant threat that faces him here may result in the same outcome he faced in his loss for the interim title fight against Yair Rodriguez.

Being extremely dangerous in the octagon is becoming synonymous with Ilia Topuria as he has an elite grasp on combing high-end grappling with dangerous power. This danger was on full display in his last fight, as he halted the climb of Bryce Mitchell, first by landing a knockdown on the feet and then ultimately securing a submission victory in the second round.

As seen in the Mitchell fight, Topuria frequently elects to use his grappling to defend takedowns – 8 of 9 takedowns defended against the talented wrestler – so he can keep the fight standing and inflict arena-thumping power on his opponents. This demonstrable trust and effectiveness in his striking arsenal parlayed with historical effectiveness with submissions has made him one of the most exciting prospects in the UFC, and many, including myself, believe that the 26-year-old Spaniard will fight for the title in his career.

In this fight, Topuria will be tested by facing an opponent who fights quite similarly to him, whereby they use good grappling to keep the fight standing, and then, land power shots. The difference is that where Emmett has a keen affinity for the overhand right, Topuria enters a flow state of striking quite quickly and can land with power through a variety of strikes. While the case, Topuria, similarly to Emmett, will need to fight quite defensively sound, and he has shown trouble with doing so in the past, i.e. Jai Herbert fight. If he fights too freely as he did in the Herbert fight, then the power of Emmett, which is far greater than Herbert, may put him down before he has a chance to battle back.

Ilia Topuria, being an elite prospect with wins over talented fighters, is the warranted favorite here in this bout. However, being over a 3-to-1 favorite against someone with the experience and threat of Emmett seems far too steep in price. This disparity in price coupled with the fact Emmett has skills that mirror Topuria, specifically with the ability to combat takedowns and land thumping power, makes me choose him here. While I wouldn’t be shocked to see Topuria land a clean combination, sit Emmett down, and then secure a submission, I equally would not be shocked to see Emmett find a defensive hole in Topuria’s standup game, land a massive overhand right, and drag the young prospect into deep waters where he has proven to thrive in.

Bet: Josh Emmett to win (+250)

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One Comment

  1. Excellent takes. Thanks. I also think they’re gonna be a little more cautious because they can both knock each other out.