UFC 285 Luck Ratings: Overvalued Fighters to Avoid, Undervalued Fighters to Bet Now (Saturday, March 4)

UFC 285 Luck Ratings: Overvalued Fighters to Avoid, Undervalued Fighters to Bet Now (Saturday, March 4) article feature image

Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC bantamweight Cameron Saaiman of South Africa

Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC 285 and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into Saturday's ESPN+ pay-per-view event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

One of the first “aha!” moments 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 major markets like the NFL or NBA – it’s still broadly (and increasingly) the case. Therefore, to beat the markets over 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 where one fighter holds most of the finishing upside.

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* Odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel

Jon Jones (-166) vs. Ciryl Gane (+130)

The headliner of UFC 285 is a vacant heavyweight championship bout between Jon Jones and Ciryl Gane. Jones is returning from more than three years out of competition while making his heavyweight debut. Gane is getting another crack at heavyweight gold following a loss to now-departed "former" champion Francis Ngannou.

That defeat to Ngannou is the only career loss for Gane. The majority of his wins have been stoppages, and his decision wins were clear victories. Even his loss to Ngannou was reasonably close, with Gane winning the first two rounds.

Jones' only career loss was a disqualification for an illegal elbow. Jones was dominating that fight, and difficulty in communicating with his opponent – Matt Hamill, who is deaf – lead to a disqualification when the fight should've gone to the scorecards.

However, his recent fights have been close decision wins, and an argument could be made that Jones lost each of his last two fights at light heavyweight. Still, it appeared that it was more of a lack of motivation on Jones' part that led to the bouts being so close.

Betting lines have more or less flipped since this fight was announced, with Jones opening at about a +140 underdog. All things considered, the current lines seem about right. Jones is arguably the best MMA fighter of all time while Gane showed serious holes in his takedown defense against Ngannou.

In my opinion, those factors more than make up for the layoff and change in weight class for Jones. Assuming he's fully motivated for this one – and I have no reason to believe otherwise – he's the rightful favorite.  At the current odds, I'd lean toward Gane, but the market has this about right.

Verdict: Fairly Valued

Valentina Shevchenko (-670) vs. Alexa Grasso (+430)

Valentina Shevchenko, the UFC's current longest-reigning champion, looks to extend her streak when she meets Alexa Grasso in the UFC 285 co-headliner.

Shevchenko has lost to only Amanda Nunes in the UFC, taking Nunes to decision both times. That's no small feat, especially considering Shevchenko went up in weight for those fights.

However, her last fight against Taila Santos was razor-close, and I personally had it scored for the challenger. Shevchenko is now 34 and at best is in the tail end of her prime. Santos laid out the blueprint for how to beat the champion in their fight.

Unfortunately, Grasso isn't stylistically the fighter likely to do that. Santos made things close with aggressive grappling while Grasso averages fewer than half a takedown per 15 minutes. Grasso is a high-volume striker, but she lacks the power to put anyone away. She has zero knockdowns or wins by (T)KO in the UFC.

I expect Grasso's striking to make this a somewhat competitive fight, but it's hard to see a path to victory for the challenger. I'd be interested in betting some over props depending on the price, or perhaps Shevchenko by decision when those lines appear.

Outside of that, perhaps the best outcome here is a dominant Shevchenko performance. That way, we can get a better price on Erin Blanchfield to unseat Shevchenko in her next title defense.

Verdict: Fairly Valued – But Expect a Competitive Fight

Mateusz Gamrot (-225) vs. Jalin Turner (+172)

Mateusz Gamrot and Jalin Turner are two of the many intriguing 155-pound prospects in the UFC. This is a big fight for both, as either could approach the top five of the divisional rankings with a win.

Turner started his UFC career on the wrong foot by dropping two out of his first three fights. One was a knockout loss to Vicente Luque – on somewhat short notice and up a weight class. The other was a decision loss to Matt Frevola. That one was scored 30-27 by all three judges for Frevola, which isn't a great look for Turner. He's made massive improvements since then, though, and was just 23 at the time.

Gamrot is 4-2 in the UFC with a split-decision loss to Guram Kutateladze and a unanimous-decision defeat to Beneil Dariush. He also has a unanimous decision win over Arman Tsarukyan that easily could've gone the other way. His other three wins were all finishes.

This is another bout in which the lines have shifted significantly. Gamrot opened domestically in the -170 range before a ton of money pushed his line further. I'd happily take Gamrot at those odds, but it's gone a bit far for my liking.

Based on the current lines, I'd say Turner is slightly undervalued here. That's partially based on assuming he's continued to improve at the rate we've seen between his past fights, and partially based on Gamrot not clearly winning the fight against Tsarukyan.

If you're betting it though, wait until later in the week. I want +200 or better before I pull the trigger on Turner.

Verdict: Turner Slightly Undervalued – But Wait For Better Lines

Amanda Ribas (-122) vs. Viviane Araujo (-104)

Both women are 1-2 in their last three contests. Both have a decision loss to Kaitlyn Chookagian in that span, with Viviane Araujo losing 30-27 (x2) 29-28, and Amanda Ribas losing a split decision.

While not quite a "robbery" (whatever that means), the Ribas loss was a pretty bad call by the judges in my eyes. Ribas lost only the second round unanimously, and there's a strong case she won that round as well as the contested third round.

Normally "MMA Math" isn't a great way to handicap fights, but it's hard to ignore the results against a common opponent. Ribas is also seven years younger, so in theory, she should be getting better since that fight – while 36-year-old Araujo is on the downslope of her career.

Ribas is pretty clearly undervalued here, as she'd be a considerable favorite had the Chookagian decision gone the other way.

Verdict: Ribas Undervalued

Cameron Saaiman (-320) vs. Mana Martinez (+235)

There are two prospects on UFC 285 who are being given showcase fights. One of them is Bo Nickal, who's a roughly a -2000 favorite. The other is Saiiman, who can be had for the comparatively reasonable price of -300 or so.

Now, I'm not saying Saaiman is the level or prospect Nickal is – but it's a lot closer than the lines indicate. He's 7-0 as a professional, with stoppage wins on the Contender Series and in his UFC debut.

At first glance, Mana Martinez seems like a step up in competition for Saaiman. He's 2-1 in the UFC, after all. However, both of his wins were split decisions, with a unanimous-decision loss. He was also finished on the Contender Series before working his way back to the UFC with some low-level regional wins.

It's hard to say a -300 favorite is undervalued, but Saaiman should be somewhere in the Valentina-Shevchenko-to-Bo-Nickal price range in this matchup. The UFC is pretty clearly setting him up for success here.

Any spare change you have left after betting the rest of this card? Dump it on Saaiman. It's a quick way to make a fairly safe 33% return on investment.

Verdict: Saiiman Majorly Undervalued

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