UFC Jacksonville Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Bet Now (Saturday, June 24)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC strawweight Tabatha Ricci of Brazil
Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for Saturday's UFC Jacksonville event and see which fighters are overvalued and undervalued heading into the ABC-televised event.
UFC Jacksonville, which is also dubbed UFC on ABC 5: Emmett vs. Topuria, takes place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Following prelims on ESPN (11:30 a.m. ET), the UFC Jacksonville main card airs live on ABC (3 p.m. ET). ESPN+ also simulcasts the entire 13-fight 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 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 Monday and via FanDuel
Ilia Topuria (-340) vs. Josh Emmett (+250)
We'd certainly skip this one were it not the main event. Josh Emmet is a top-tier featherweight, but he "earned" his interim title shot with a controversial split-decision win over Calvin Kattar. He was dominated in that interim title fight with Yair Rodriguez, getting outstruck on the feet before securing a panic takedown that led to him being submitted.
On the other hand, the 13-0 Ilia Topuria seems destined for a title. At just 26, he's 6-0 in the UFC with the last five all coming via dominant finishes. Since his debut, he's never even had a close fight in the UFC octagon despite ever-increasing levels of competition.
Obviously, it's hard to figure out true probabilities on fighters who are overwhelmingly likely to win, but Topuria is at the very least deserving of his current line. I'd speculate he closes an even heavier favorite as late (sharp) money tends to flow to the favorite – but that doesn't necessarily mean he's worth betting in a sport as volatile as MMA.
Verdict: Fairly valued
Amanda Ribas (-175) vs. Maycee Barber (+140)
I was pretty excited to write about this one since there are a few data points flowing in the same direction here.
That is, until I looked at the lines.
I was hoping we'd be able to catch Amanda Ribas at closer to even money here, but oddsmakers have done a fairly good job with the opening lines.
Ribas is 3-2 in her last five with her two losses coming against Marina Rodriguez and Katlyn Chookagian. While Marina landed a knockout, Chookagian was awarded a very controversial split decision. Ribas outstruck Chookagian in the third round of their fight, and she had at least two minutes of ground control time in each of the first two rounds.
Additionally, Ribas' recent win over Virna Jandiroba has aged well, with Jandiroba going 2-0 since then.
On the other side, Maycee Barber is 4-1 over her last five, but her last win was an uninspiring split-decision over Andrea Lee that could've easily gone the other way.
While she's 4-0 since losing to current champion Alexa Grasso, all of those were decisions, with two of them split. They've also all come against lower competition than Ribas has faced.
My gut says Ribas closes closer to -200 than her current line, so I'm tempted to say she's still undervalued. Not to a degree I'm comfortable betting on her without further study, though, so we'll call it fair for now.
Verdict: Fairly valued
Zhalgas Zhumagulov (-192) vs. Joshua Van (+148)
This is an interesting one since Zhalgas Zhumagulov was supposed to fight last week, before his opponent had a medical issue that forced a cancellation of the bout. Joshua Van is stepping in on short notice (just over a week) to make this fight happen, which is obviously part of the line.
However, that's not just an issue for Van. Given when Zhumagulov's fight was canceled, he had likely already cut most of the weight needed while peaking for a fight last weekend. Having to turn around and do it again a week later is a challenge, as is fighting an entirely different opponent – especially one without much relevant tape to break down.
Lest we forget how bad Zhumagulov has been in the UFC as well. He's 1-5, with his only win coming against a fighter who went 0-4 before being released by the UFC. Van is the current Fury FC flyweight champion and a 7-1 professional whose only loss was when he had just turned 20.
Obviously, there are many unknowns given the level of competition for Van, but I like his chances against arguably the worst flyweight in the UFC.
Verdict: Van undervalued
Tabatha Ricci (-128) vs. Gillian Robertson (+100)
As Tabatha Ricci declared after her last fight, the "Baby Shark Era" is upon us. She's currently 3-1 in the UFC with two dominant decisions and a submission making up her three wins. Her lone loss came in her UFC debut to top flyweight Manon Fiorot, notable because the rest of Ricci's bouts have been at her more natural weight of 115.
Gillian Robertson is a longtime veteran of that weight class with a 9-5 UFC record. Seven of those wins were via submission, which is an encouraging side broadly, but not great against the elite grappling of Ricci, who is a double black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo. So, a grappling-focused attack is unlikely to work on her.
This bout is mostly included due to the nature of Ricci's only loss being up a weight class. Additionally, the FanDuel line listed above is somewhat off the market. Ricci is at least -140 everywhere except FanDuel and DraftKings, where she's -125.
I'd take either of those lines sooner rather than later, as I'm expecting them to ultimately settle around -145 or so.
Verdict: Ricci undervalued
Jamall Emmers (-184) vs. Jack Jenkins (+142)
Despite the level of competition he's faced so far, I've been very impressed with Jack "Phar" Jenkins, a featherweight prospect from Australia. He has a suffocating grappling style with four takedowns each in Contender Series fight and his official UFC debut.
Jamall Emmers has a 2-2 UFC record, not counting his loss on the Contender Series – a second round knockout that followed a first round in which he nearly secured a knockout himself.
Emmers' UFC losses were to high-level competition – Pat Sabatini and Giga Chikadze – but I haven't been especially impressed with his wins.
While the FanDuel line is listed above for continuity sake, Jenkins is +155 on DraftKings on Monday.
That's far too long for this matchup, and I don't think we'll have that line available later in the week.