UFC 284 Luck Ratings: Which Fighters Are Undervalued, Overvalued for Saturday’s Pay-per-view in Australia (February 11)

UFC 284 Luck Ratings: Which Fighters Are Undervalued, Overvalued for Saturday’s Pay-per-view in Australia (February 11) article feature image

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC featherweight Yair Rodriguez

  • Inspired by our NFL “Luck Rankings," Billy Ward looks at Saturday's UFC 284 fight card.
  • Which fighters are overvalued or undervalued based on recent luck-related factors?
  • Ward identifies those fighters to determine betting angles for the 13-fight card.

One  “aha!” moment I had in gambling (generally, not just MMA) was to start thinking about why markets might be wrong, rather than just trying to predict what I think will happen.

At its core, that’s what a betting line is: a market where we can “buy” or “sell” events happening. For the most part, these markets are efficient, with the “price” eventually reflecting the true odds of the event.

While this is less true in MMA, where there are far more information asymmetries than in major markets such as the NFL or NBA, it’s still broadly (and increasingly) the case. Therefore, to beat the markets in the long term, we need to figure out spots where they’re wrong.

That’s the point of this piece. Inspired by our NFL “Luck Rankings," I’ll be looking into spots where variance has favored one fighter more than another, causing the line to be inefficient. The biggest input will be split and/or controversial decisions, with short-notice fights, fights that are later overruled, fluke injuries, and out-of-weight-class fights considered as well.

The focus will be on fights reasonably likely to see the scorecards here, or one in which one fighter holds most of the finishing upside. Let’s look into some off lines on Saturday with our UFC 284 Luck Ratings.

*Odds as of Friday and via FanDuel

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Islam Makhachev (-370) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (+295)

Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev’s only loss in the UFC (or as a professional) came via knockout to Adriano Martins in 2015.  At the time, Makhachev was just 24, fighting a veteran of 34 fights in 32-year-old Martins.

Martins is a high-level jiu-jitsu practitioner, and Makhachev perhaps gave his foe's grappling skills too much respect. Makhachev tried to brawl with Martins, but he got clipped with a heavy right hand in an exchange.

That’s not a mistake we’ll see from Makhachev again, particularly against Volkanovski. Volkanovski is a better striker than grappler, and Makhachev will surely look to bring this one to the ground.

Outside of that, his only UFC fight that was even close was against Arman Tsarukyan, whom he beat 30-27, 30-27, 29-28. However, all three rounds were very close. Tsarukyan has since proven himself to be a top lightweight, so if anything, that win looks better in retrospect than at the time.

If there’s a case to be made for Makhachev being overvalued, it’s based on his name and association with Khabib Nurmagomedov. To an extent, he’s being treated as if he were Khabib, but without the resume (so far) to prove it. Still, there’s not much reason to doubt his abilities.

Volkanovski has been similarly dominant, with his only close fight being his first against Max Holloway. While that was a split decision, I’d argue Volkanovski was the clear rightful winner.

He’s perhaps undervalued because of the step-up in weight class here. With that said, Volkaovski is a massive featherweight and has competed as heavy as welterweight as a professional.

While Volkaovski's giving up considerable length to Makhachev, overall size and strength should be comparable. Additionally, Volkaovski almost always gives up height and reach. Makhachev is shorter than Holloway and has a shorter reach than Chan Sung Jung, for example.

Verdict: Alexander Volkanovski very slightly undervalued

Yair Rodriguez (-190) vs. Josh Emmett (+160)

This interim featherweight title fight is a bit more interesting. Yair Rodriguez’s last fight was a TKO win over Brian Ortega – by way of an Ortega shoulder injury.

Josh Emmett, meanwhile, comes in following a split-decision win over Calvin Kattar – one that I had scored for Kattar. Emmett’s two previous fights were also decisions, though both were unanimous.

Rodriguez has a loss to Max Holloway and a unanimous 29-28 win over Jeremy Stpehens before the win over Ortega. For what it’s worth, Stephens knocked out Emmett when they met in 2018.

Truthfully, neither man’s recent resume is truly deserving of a title shot (nor do we really need an interim title if Volkanovski is stepping away for one fight). However, I have more questions about Rodriguez. While he was working for an armbar against Ortega, by my estimation it was more of a freak injury than a successful submission that caused the fight to end.

That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily be betting Rodriguez, though, as there are other factors working against him.

Verdict: Yair Rodriguez overvalued

Justin Tafa (-124) vs. Parker Porter (+106)

Justin Tafa is 0-2 in UFC decisions, with one of them a split decision. He’s picked up two finishes of his own while being stopped just once.

Parker Porter has the better UFC record at 3-2. However, all three wins came thanks to the judges. Both of his UFC losses (and all seven professional defeats) have come from stoppages.

This is precisely the type of matchup this analysis is built around. Porter has arguably never dominated in a UFC fight while both of Tafa’s decision losses could’ve gone the other way.

When you factor in the Australian crowd potentially swaying judges a bit, this one is fairly clear.

Verdict: Parker Porter overvalued

Josh Culibao (-108) vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan (-108)

Josh Culibao has four fights to date in the UFC: a stoppage loss, a split draw, a split decision win, and a unanimous decision win.

The split draw had one judge score the fight 30-27 against him, with one scoring it 29-28 in his favor. Even his unanimous decision win was 29-28 across the board.

That means Culibao has never finished a UFC fight, nor won every round in a decision. Even his pre-UFC career has a split decision and a majority decision win.

Baghdasaryan has two UFC fights: a knockout win and a unanimous decision victory (29-28 x3). While there are more questions about the quality of his competition, he’s at least clearly won all of his victories.

Notably, both fighters have struggled in the third rounds of all their bouts that went the distance. With over 2.5 rounds at -180, that’s a factor to consider here.

Verdict: Josh Culibao overvalued

Loma Lookboonme (-320) vs. Elise Reed (+260)

Elise Reed is 2-2 in her UFC career, with both wins coming via decision (one split) and both losses being finishes.

Loma Lookboonme is 4-2, with all six fights going to decisions. The only split decision among the six was a win for Lookboonme.

This is mostly baked into the betting lines, but one could (and I’m prepared to) make a case that Lookboonme should be more heavily favored. Not only does she have all the finishing upside, she’s also the more active striker, which plays well to the judges.

Lookboonme even averages more takedowns than Reed despite being a muay Thai fighter

Verdict: Elise Reed overvalued

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