UFC 289 Luck Ratings: 4 Unlucky and Undervalued Fighters to Bet Now (Saturday, June 10)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC light heavyweight Eryk Anders
Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for this weekend's UFC 289 and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into Saturday's ESPN+ PPV event.
UFC 289 features 11 fights and marks the promotion's return to Canada and takes place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Following prelims on ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET) and ESPN (8 p.m. ET), the five-fight main card streams via ESPN+ PPV (10 p.m. ET).
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 in 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 Ratings,” 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.
Odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel
Amanda Nunes (-350) vs. Irene Aldana (+255)
This is an obligatory inclusion in the Luck Ratings by virtue of the main-event status. Amanda Nunes has seen the judges only thrice in her last eight fights, with all of them being dominant unanimous decisions for the champion. Her most recent split decision was all the way back in 2017, and it has little to no bearing on her current perception.
One could make a case that her shocking loss to Julianna Pena was "unlucky" in a sense. Nunes seemed to seriously underestimate Pena, and she was beaten fairly thoroughly from the start. While that's not luck in a traditional sense, it was also a fairly fluky outcome – and one Nunes emphatically set straight in the rematch.
A new challenger in the jungle 🦁
— UFC (@ufc) June 9, 2023
Irene Aldana earned her title shot with just a two-fight winning streak, which is mostly a reflection of how thin the talent pool is behind Nunes at bantamweight. To Aldana's credit, she's finished her last three wins, with all four of her UFC losses being decisions. Two of those were split decisions, so she is a bit better than her 7-4 promotional record suggests.
Ultimately, though, whether this line is right or not comes down to Nunes' motivation levels. If she's anywhere near the fighter she's been through most of her run, she should be a much heavier favorite. The Pena fight – as well as her exit from American Top Team and general complacency as a dominant champion – have shown us that her being in peak form isn't a given though.
That makes this line more or less correct in my eyes – unless you have a strong take in either direction about Nunes' motivation here.
Verdict: Fairly valued
Beneil Dariush (-160) vs. Charles Oliveira (+124)
If for no other reason, Beneil Dariush is unlucky to simply be in this fight – he's riding an eight-fight winning streak, which apparently isn't enough for a title shot at men's lightweight. Instead, he gets matched up with the former champion Charles "Do Bronx" Oliveira.
Dariush has four finishes and four decisions during his current winning streak, with only one of those decisions split. That one had no business as a split decision, though, as Dariush landed more significant strikes in two of three rounds while also picking up more than three minutes of control time in two of the rounds. Essentially, Dariush is every bit as good as his record indicates.
Oliveira has seen the final bell just once in his last 19 (!) fights, all under the UFC banner. That was against Tony Ferguson – when Ferguson was still insanely durable – who also took Dariush to a decision. Oliveira is a kill-or-be-killed fighter whose record also accurately reflects his ability.
Of course, as champion Oliveira has fought somewhat tougher competition than Dariush. Oliveira has consecutive wins over Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, with his only loss since 2017 coming against Islam Makhachev. Dairush's best win was against Mateusz Gamrot – who's ranked behind all of Poirier, Gaethje and Chandler.
For that reason, this line has swung a bit too far toward Dariush. However, I'll be waiting for an even better price on Oliveira, and if one doesn't come, I'll look to bet the "finish only" lines on "Do Bronx" when those are released
Verdict: Charles Oliveira undervalued
Dan Ige (-260) vs. Nate Landwehr (+195)
Dan Ige's recent record is an interesting one. He's 2-3 in his last five with three decision losses sandwiched between knockout victories. Overall in the UFC, he's 4-0 in fights that end inside the distance – but just 4-5 when the judges get involved.
His three-fight losing skid came against fairly high-level competition with two of his opponents going on to receive title shots and the other – Mosvar Evolev – is 17-0 as a professional and 7-0 in the UFC. Just going the distance with those fighters is fairly impressive, and Ige is better than his (recent) record says.
One topic we don't frequently cover in the Luck Ratings is a fighter's chin. Now, I'm not suggesting that durability comes down to luck. It's certainly a skill/attribute, but it's not a permanent one. We've seen plenty of fighters have iron chins – until all of a sudden they don't – and I'm worried Landwehr might be the next example.
He's absorbed more than five and a half significant strikes per minute in the UFC, and he's been knocked down three times in six fights. His chin has held up in recent bouts, but they've been against far less dangerous strikers than Ige.
This line in general should probably lean a bit more toward Ige than it currently does, but my primary interest is in his knockout/finish props. The train has to pull into the station eventually, and I suspect those lines will be around even money for Ige, which I'd pounce on in a heartbeat.
Verdict: Dan Ige undervalued (finish props specifically)
Marc-Andre Barriault (-156) vs. Eryk Anders (+122)
Nearly every week there's a fight I start looking into for the Luck Ratings that causes me to immediately put in a bit. This is that fight.
Marc-Andre Barriault is about what his 4-5-1 UFC record says he is. His no-contest was originally a knockout win, but since it was overturned for a PED violation, it's hard to say he deserved it. Barriault is 1-3 in UFC decisions with the lone split being a loss, but I thought he fairly clearly lost two of the three rounds in that fight.
Anders has a similar 7-7-1 UFC record, but there's an argument that he's actually considerably better. He has three split-decision losses in his UFC career and just one win via a split decision. He also has one of the most unfortunate no-contests I've ever seen. He'd dropped Darren Stewart three times and had him nearly finished before Anders landed a (relatively gentle) knee while Stewart was on one knee. That may be more stupid than unlucky, but he was still clearly the better fighter there.
All things considered, if you even out his split decision record and turn the no-contest to a win, Anders would be solidly above .500 in the UFC. He should be the favorite here.
Verdict: Eryk Anders undervalued
Nassourdine Imavov (-154) vs. Chris Curtis (+120)
Both fighters are 4-2 in the UFC, with a relatively similar level of competition. Nassourdine Imavov has two wins via finish, with a 2-2 record in decisions. One of those was a majority decision loss, but it took a very generous 10-8 in Imavov's favor to stop that from being a unanimous decision.
Curtis has finished three of his four UFC wins with a 1-2 decision record. While neither of the losses was via split, there were some extenuating circumstances. Most recently, he was knocked down via a clash of heads that the referee (and judges) missed, in a fight he lost 29-28. Removing that moment from the fight probably flips the judges to giving Curtis a 29-28 win.
His prior loss came against Jack Hermansson, who essentially ran away while using his height and reach advantage to poke at Curtis from a distance. That's not an option for Imavov, who has a slightly shorter reach than Curtis.
The missed headbutt is the bigger story, though, as the officials failing to spot that is about as bad of luck as one can have in the octagon. This one should be a closer to a pick'em.