UFC Vegas 69 Luck Ratings: Markets Caught up to Erin Blanchfield (Saturday, February 18)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC women’s flyweight champion Erin Blanchfield
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 such as the NFL or NBA – it’s still broadly (and increasingly) the case. Therefore, to beat the markets 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. Not all of these are situations I’m betting, but there’s some process-based insight to be had.
Here’s what stands out for UFC Vegas 69 on this Saturday, Feb. 18 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
Jessica Andrade (-134) vs. Erin Blanchfield (+110)
Jessica Andrade is stepping in on roughly a week’s notice to take this fight. Blanchfield was originally slated to fight Taila Santos, who withdrew due to visa issues. Legal books opened with Andrade in the -180 range, with the line steadily shifting toward Blanchfield since.
The key point to be made here is that with lighter weight classes and female fights, we need to be less reliant on finishes as a measure of dominance. Overall, finish rates are much lower in women’s MMA, and it’s possible to score dominant decision wins in a way we rarely see with men’s heavyweight, for example.
With all that said, Andrade is a finisher. Since moving to flyweight (where this bout is contested), she’s 4-1 with three stoppage victories. Her lone loss came to current/eternal champion Valentina Shevchenko, against whom she was stopped on the ground.
Blanchfield is 4-0 in the UFC, against a lesser quality of competition. She has two finishes (both submissions) and two decisions. However, those decisions were totally dominant, with a slew of 10-8 rounds in her favor and not a single round scored against her.
She’s 10-1 overall as a professional, with her lone loss a split decision to future UFC contender Tracy Cortez, when Blanchfield was just 19. In fact, she had four bouts against future UFC competitors prior to her signing, winning the other three.
When I started writing this Wednesday morning, my intention was to list Blanchfield as undervalued. In the ensuing few hours, the line has moved even more her way, however. Assuming it settles with her as a slight underdog, I’d say the markets have it right.
Verdict: Fairly Valued
William Knight (-128) vs. Martin Prachnio (+104)
This bout started as a pick’em (with some books favoring Martin Prachnio) before most shops moved William Knight to a very slight favorite.
Prachnio is 2-4 in the UFC overall, with a 1-3 record in stoppages and a 1-1 decision record – both unanimous. His three stoppage losses were all in the first round, including the penultimate win of Sam Alvey’s career before the latter’s record-setting eight-fight losing skid. Not much to indicate he’s been lucky or unlucky here, just not very good.
Knight is 3-3, with an even record in both stoppages (1-1) and decisions (2-2). For a massive (and sporadic) light heavyweight, I’d expect a higher finish rate or worse records in decisions, but he’s proven capable of going the distance despite his appearance.
Notably, two of his losses came in heavyweight or catchweight fights above the 205-pound limit. Both fights on paper appeared to favor Knight getting to fight heavier, with him weighing in considerably larger than his opponent.
That’s not how they worked out, though, so perhaps having to push his body to make weight forces Knight to be in better condition for his light heavyweight bouts. Either way, he has a 3-1 record in the division. His strength of schedule is noticeably higher than Prachnio’s as well.
Verdict: Knight Undervalued (based on schedule and out-of-weight-class results)
Alexander Hernandez (-235) vs. Jim Miller (+186)
Jim Miller has been around a long time. He made his UFC debut back in 2008 and seems well on way to his plan of fighting at UFC 100, UFC 200 and (eventually) UFC 300. With that said, I’m looking more at his recent record.
He’s 4-3 in his last seven bouts, with all of his wins coming inside the distance and all of his losses decided by the judges. None of the decisions were controversial by any stretch, though he won the first round on at least two judges cards in all three.
Rather than undervalued, this paints a clear picture of Miller. He’s a fast starter, but he either gets you out of there early or fades fast. All of his stoppage wins in the last decade are within seven minutes.
On the Hernandez side, he’s 5-5 in the UFC with a 2-1 record in decisions. Nothing stands out on the luck side, save perhaps his relatively soft quality of competition (outside of making his promotional debut against Beneil Dariush).
The overall moneyline is about right here, though I’d say markets are undervaluing Miller’s stoppage ability and Hernandez’s ability to be finished.
Verdict: Miller Undervalued (Stoppage/Early Odds)
Mayra Bueno Silva (-520) vs. Lina Lansberg (+370)
Lina Lansberg is 4-6 overall in the UFC, but 0-2 in finishes. One of her losses was a majority decision based on a point deduction, but two judges had it 30-27 against her before the point was taken.
Mayra Bueno Silva is 4-2-1 in the UFC, with three stoppage wins and both of her losses via decision. Her draw came via majority decision – thanks to a point taken from her in a fight she would’ve won.
I mention this fight only because of the unique situation in which point deductions have shaped both fighters’ records. While fouls are mostly within fighters’ control, whether or not a point is deducted is (infuriatingly) almost random.
It’s pretty hard to say a fighter at nearly -500 odds is undervalued – and I’m not necessarily endorsing laying the juice here – but I’d expect point deductions to regress over a long enough sample.
Verdict: Bueno Silva Undervalued
Khussein Ashkabov (-168) vs. Jamil Emmers (+136)
It’s the UFC debut for Khussein Ashkabov, who’s 23-0 as a pro fighter with 16 stoppages. While he hasn’t fought in any of the tougher non-UFC promotions, his record makes him seem like the real deal.
Jamil Emmers is just 1-2 in the UFC, but his losses are a split decision to Giga Chikadze and a heel hook to Pat Sabatini. Being matched up with Chikadze for his debut and dropping a split decision are both pretty unlucky, as heel hooks are fluky to an extent.
Between those losses, he picked up a unanimous decision win over Vince Cachero. This isn’t a great matchup for him, but he’s likely a good bit better than his promotional record suggests. I doubt I’ll pull the trigger this time, but he’s a fighter to watch if he gets a softer matchup next time following a loss here.
Verdict: Emmers Undervalued
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