UFC Kansas City Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Consider Betting Now (Saturday, April 15)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images. Pictured: UFC light heavyweight Tanner Boser of Canada
Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC Kansas City on Saturday and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into the ESPN event.
UFC Kansas City takes place at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The full event airs on ESPN and simulcasts on ESPN+ beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. PT), with the main card portion commencing at 8:30 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 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.
*UFC Kansas City odds via FanDuel and as of Wednesday
Max Holloway (-196) vs. Arnold Allen (+152)
I like to include the main event in this piece, but truthfully there’s not a ton of “luck” involved with this fight. Max Holloway has been involved in one split decision in the past decade, and that was his second of three losses to Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski was the rightful winner in that fight, though it was every bit as close as the split decision would suggest.
Of Holloway’s seven professional losses (all in the UFC), six have been against current or former champions: Volkanovski thrice, Dustin Poirer twice, and Conor McGregor once. The only exception was a split decision loss to Dennis Bermudez way back in 2013. I’m not sure if that was the right call, but a fight that long ago has no bearing on the current betting lines.
Holloway’s UFC Kansas City opponent, Arnold Allen, is a perfect 10-0 in the UFC with a 19-1 overall record. His only loss was also way back in 2014, so it’s likely not a factor in the odds as they stand. The real story here is the level of competition, with Allen’s toughest fight being Dan Hooker, Calvin Kattar or Gilbert Melendez.
While Allen won all of those easily, all of them have question marks in retrospect. Hooker made an ill-advised return to featherweight and clearly wasn’t at full strength for their fight. Kattar suffered a freak knee injury (though Allen was winning the fight). And Melendez was well past his prime.
However, none of that proves Allen can’t beat tougher competition in a fair fight, just that he hasn’t yet. That uncertainty – and his lack of five-round experience – is enough for a lean toward Holloway. Which is exactly where the markets have it. I’d be willing to take a flier on Allen if he made it up to the +175 range – or Holloway at -160 or so.
Verdict: Fairly Valued
Billy Quarantillo (-180) vs. Edson Barboza (+140)
Edson Barboza is another fighter who’s seemingly been in the UFC forever after making his promotional debut way back in 2010. Since then, he’s racked up a 16-5 promotional record, though he’s just 2-5 since 2019. Those fights all came against ranked competition with the first three of them at lightweight – but this bout is back at featherweight. Barboza also dropped two split decisions in that stretch, though his more recent losses were via stoppage and unanimous decision.
Billy Quarantillo is 5-2 in the UFC, though against a considerably weaker schedule. The only higher-level opponent on his record is Shane Burgos, who defeated him by unanimous decision. The same Shane Burgos whom Barboza had knocked out only a few months prior. MMA math isn’t perfect (or even good), but that’s something to consider.
Of course, Barboza is 37, with the best years of his career behind him. While both men fought Burgos in 2021, there’s a case to be made that Barboza has regressed since then while Billy Q has gotten better. I’m not going to make that argument, though, given that Quarantillo is 34 himself, so not exactly a prospect.
This line was a shade disrespectful to Barboza, especially on FanDuel, before it moved from +158 to +140 on Wednesday. It’s now more in line with the industry average.
Verdict: Barboza Undervalued
Ion Cutelaba (-130) vs. Tanner Boser (+102)
This fight has a ton to unpack. Let’s start with Ion Cutelaba, who’s 5-8-1 in the UFC and riding a three-fight losing skid. All three of those losses were by finish, but all three came against upper-tier light heavyweights. It seems clear at this point that Cutelaba isn’t among the top of the division – but neither is Tanner Boser.
Prior to that, Cutelaba won a unanimous decision against Devin Clark after he won the first two rounds but dropped the third. That was on the heels of a split draw against Dustin Jacoby. In that fight, he won the first round unanimously, picking up one 10-8 score, while dropping the second (on two of three judges’ cards) and the third (unanimously).
Upon rewatching the fight, the 10-8 opening round seems more than fair, and Jacoby easily could’ve lost a point from repeated fence grabs. I’d give Jacoby the second round pretty easily, so ultimately I agree with the draw as the correct outcome, possible point deduction notwithstanding. All of which paints a picture of Cutelaba as about what his record says he is, but with major cardio struggles.
Boser is 4-4 in the UFC, but with his last two losses coming via split decision. The first of those (against Ilir Latifi) I would’ve scored the contested round for Boser, but wouldn’t complain either way. The second of those split decisions was a bit more interesting. Both of the contested rounds (the first two) featured a fighter having bigger moments early while losing down the stretch. I could see either round either way, but I suspect that most people would have split the rounds depending on how much they value late action over big moments.
Of course, the real story is that Boser is coming down from heavyweight to 205 for this fight. He was giving up over 30 pounds in his most recent loss and was generally undersized for the division. He should fare better when he’s not fighting up a class. His previous losses were to Ciryl Gane and Andrei Arlovski, with the latter also fairly controversial.
All things considered, Boser is a good bit better than his record would suggest while Cutelaba is about right. I won’t be betting this one prefight, though, as Boser live after the first round is likely to yield a much better line.
Verdict: Boser Undervalued (Prefer Live Betting)
Chris Gutierrez (-215) vs. Pedro Munhoz (+164)
This fight is one of many in recent memory in which an established top contender (Pedro Munhoz) fights down the rankings a bit against an up-and-coming prospect. Munhoz is 1-4-1 in his last six fights, with all four losses coming against current or former bantamweight champions. His no-contest came against Sean O’Malley in his most recent fight, a bout that two of three judges had scored for Munhoz at the time of the stoppage.
The only somewhat bad loss for Munhoz lately was to Frankie Edgar back in 2020. Edgar was 38 at that time and clearly past his prime, but not the shell of himself we saw later on. To Munhoz’s credit, that loss was a split decision as well.
The last time we saw Chris Gutierrez, he was viciously retiring Frankie Edgar at UFC 281. That was the seventh UFC win in a row for “El Guapo” with a unanimous draw to Cody Durden in the middle of that streak. Four of those wins were by decision, with two of those decisions split.
Gutierrez could easily have three more losses on his record than he currently does, between judging and narrowly avoiding being finished against Durden. Durden also took the fight on short notice and may have won one of the final two rounds if he had the gas tank from a full camp.
When you couple that with the much tougher competition Munhoz has faced, this one’s pretty clear. Especially at the +180 line available at some books.
Verdict: Munhoz Undervalued
Matheus Nicolau (-215) vs. Brandon Royval (+164)
Two top-five flyweights are inexplicably buried on the undercard on Saturday, with Brandon Royval coming in as a moderate underdog. He’s 4-2 in the UFC with one of those wins via split decision, and the other three coming by submission.
His two losses are more relevant here, though. The first was to current champion Brandon Moreno in the first round. However, it was a very competitive fight that ended when Royval dislocated his shoulder and Moreno seized the opportunity to finish him. His next loss came to Alexandre Pantjoa – the likely next title challenger at 125 pounds. Pantoja submitted him but only after an eye-poke was missed by the referee, which led to the finishing sequence.
Matheus Nicolau has one split decision victory on his 4-0 UFC record, though I thought justice was served there. However, his wins have come against lesser-quality competition than Royval has fought. “Raw Dog” has the best win of the pair, against Kai Kara-France in 2020. Royval also dispatched their common opponent (Matt Schnell) more quickly, though I don’t put much stock in that.
Either way, Royval has been the definition of unlucky, with both of his losses a direct result of freak occurrences. He should be the favorite here based on resume but is as high as +180 as of Tuesday.
Verdict: Royval Undervalued
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