UFC 292 Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Bet Now (Saturday, August 19)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC women’s flyweight Andrea Lee
Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC 292 and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into the pay-per-view event on Saturday.
UFC 292: Sterling vs. O'Malley takes place at TD Center in Boston, and the main card streams on ESPN+ PPV (10 p.m. ET) following preliminary card fights on ESPN+ (6:30 p.m.ET) and ESPN (8 p.m. ET).
We've got two title fights at UFC 292 with a bantamweight headliner between champion Aljamain Sterling and challenger Sean O'Malley, as well as a women's strawweight tilt between titleholder Weili Zhang and opponent Amanda Lemos. The UFC 292 prelims also feature the two tournament finals for The Ultimate Fighter 31.
In all, the UFC 292 fight card features 12 bouts, and we've got some overvalued and undervalued fighters on the lineup.
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 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.
Aljamain Sterling (-258) vs. Sean O'Malley (+210)
There are a lot of main events on which I don't have much of a luck-based read. This is not one of those occasions. Both fighters have had their fair share of odd results in the UFC that have led to this moment. Let's start with the challenger, Sean O'Malley.
O'Malley was fed a steady diet of winnable fights early in his UFC career, winning seven of his first eight UFC appearances – with the lone exception coming as a huge favorite against a then-unheralded Marlon Vera. Then, he was given a step up in competition against Pedro Munhoz (who fights Vera on this card).
O'Malley lost the first round against Munhoz on two of three judges' scorecards before an accidental eye-poke ended the fight – perhaps fortuitously for "Suga" in the second round. UFC matchmaking moved forward as if he'd won that bout, though, matching him up with former champion Petr Yan next. O'Malley claimed victory there – but a highly controversial one in a fight widely regarded as a robbery.
— UFC (@ufc) August 14, 2023
Of course, Sterling has his own history with Yan. Sterling claimed the title from Yan thanks to an illegal knee by the then-champion, and he then went on to cement his reign with a split-decision win of his own. To be fair, that decision was far less controversial than O'Malley's win, though.
Sterling continued his reign with a TKO win over an injured T.J. Dillashaw and then yet another split decision over Henry Cejudo – though again, that one was probably the right call.
It's hard to feel great about either fighter here given the lack of "clean" wins in recent fights for either of them. One could argue O'Malley has no legitimate wins against upper-tier bantamweights.
O'Malley is a popular enough figure that I expect some square money to come in on him later in the week. I'll be betting on Sterling in some fashion, but I suspect we'll find a better line later on.
Verdict: Sean O'Malley overvalued (but wait)
Weili Zhang (-310) vs. Amanda Lemos (+250)
In a rare occurrence at the lighter-weight classes, we have two women who've finished the vast majority of their UFC fights in champion Weili Zhang and challenger Amanda Lemos.
Both have seven UFC wins, with four finishes for Zhang and five for Lemos.
They each also have a split-decision victory, though I'd argue the correct winner was named in both cases.
Both women have tremendous power for the division, and this one is likely to be a slugfest.
For that reason, the line is a bit wider than I'd make it. It wouldn't shock me if either one picked up a knockout here.
While Zhang's substantial grappling edge makes her a deserving favorite, it's close to a coin flip in the striking.
Books that posted early lines have already started to tighten things up, and I expect the trend to continue in that direction, making Lemos a value on Monday. The best line available is +265 on BetRivers, and I'm expecting a closing price closer to +225.
Verdict: Amanda Lemos undervalued
Natalia Silva (-355) vs. Andrea Lee (+280)
Natalia Silva is one of the more promising prospects in any of the UFC's women's divisions after a 3-0 start to her UFC career. Two of those wins were by knockout with the third a dominant unanimous-decision victory.
On the other side, Lee is a 10-fight UFC veteran with a ho-hum 5-5 record. This fight is clearly designed as a showcase for Silva, a 26-year-old with a bright future in the UFC octagon.
However, all five of Lee's losses have come via decision, with three of them splits that have gone against her. All of her wins were either stoppages or unanimous 30-27 decisions in her favor.
Lee's recent split-decision loss to Maycee Barber was especially questionable – and this line would look a lot different if Lee had been awarded just one more round.
Fighters with a 0-3 record in split decisions are precisely the point of this column. Silva certainly deserves to be favored here, but the line should be considerably closer.
I'll take a sprinkle on Lee now in hopes that her decision luck reverses a bit this time around.
Verdict: Andrea Lee undervalued
Karine Silva (-155) vs. Maryna Moroz (+130)
Like Natalia (no relation), Karine Silva is another rising women's flyweight prospect. She's coming in off consecutive submission victories in the UFC, both within the first round.
Overall, Silva's winning streak extends to seven – all finishes.
Maryna Moroz is 6-4 overall in the UFC but has just two fights in the last three-and-a-half years, going 1-1 in that stretch.
Unlike other fights pitting a veteran against a prospect, it's hard to argue that Moroz has fought stiffer competition in the UFC, at least not recently. She has a 4-4 decision record in the UFC with a 1-0 record in splits.
Notably, these women fought earlier in their careers. The then-23-year-old Moroz defeated the 20-year-old Silva via first-round submission.
However, that was long enough ago – and Silva was young enough – that I'm mostly discounting those results.
The combination of recent form and inactivity for Moroz has me leaning heavily toward Silva. She should be a bigger favorite, and lines approaching -200 wouldn't surprise me. The line had already started to shift on books that opened early but has since stabilized, but you still may want to get in sooner than later.