UFC Vegas 70 Luck Ratings: 4 Undervalued Fighters Worth Your Consideration (Saturday, February 25)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC middleweight Brendan Allen
(Editor’s note: As the UFC Vegas 70 main card kicked off, UFC officials announced the cancellation of the scheduled headliner after Nikita Krylov suffered an undisclosed illness and was forced out of his bout with Ryan Spann.)
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 major markets like 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 ones in which one fighter holds most of the finishing upside.
Here are the early takeaways for UFC Vegas 70 on Saturday, which streams on ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET) from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.
Nikita Krylov (-170) vs. Ryan Spann (+145)
Given both men’s high finish rate, this fight wouldn’t be worth mentioning were it not going to be a main event. The five scheduled rounds open up some angles, though, so let’s take a look.
Nikita Krylov has had two separate stints in the UFC. He went 6-3 between 2013 and 2016, with every fight ending inside the distance. A couple of those fights were at heavyweight, and Krylov was between the ages of 21 and 24. For the purpose of this piece, we’ll ignore those and instead focus on his more recent UFC run.
He’s 4-4 since returning to the promotion, with his record perfectly split between finishes and decisions. He’s 2-2 on both counts, with the only split decision going against him. Notably, in both of his decision losses, he won the first round unanimously while the second and third rounds both went against him. With the exception of Paul Craig (who’s no slouch), all of Krylov’s losses have been against former champions or title challengers.
Ryan Spann is 7-2 in the UFC, with a 2-0 record in decisions. One of those was a split (against Sam Alvey), but it was a fairly clear Spann win in my eyes. Similar to Krylov’s split decision, Spann won the first round unanimously, the second round was contested, and Spann dropped the third on every scorecard. Both of Spann’s losses (Johnny Walker and Anthony Smith) were against top-10 light heavyweights.
The biggest takeaway is that both men do their best work early, so this one isn’t likely to last a long time. We’ll have to wait a bit to see what kind of odds we can get on inside the distance or “under X” rounds props, but those are likely to be the best bets.
Verdict: Both Fairly Valued – Likely to End Early
Andre Muniz (-205) vs. Brendan Allen (+175)
Andre Muniz is 5-0 in the UFC with three stoppages and two clear decisions. One of those decisions was in his most recent fight, against a retiring Uriah Hall. While it’s hard to hold a 30-27 unanimous decision win against him, it’s perhaps not the best sign that he wasn’t able to finish Hall.
All things considered, Muniz’s strength of schedule is a bit lacking. He has two wins over fighters who’ve since been cut, two against fighters who retired following the bout (Hall and Jacare Souza), and one against Eryk Anders, who is 7-7 in the UFC.
Still, all he can do is beat the guys in front of him, so I don’t want to discredit him too heavily.
Brendan Allen is 8-2 in the UFC with a 3-0 record in decisions, all of which were unanimous. His two losses both look much better in retrospect than they did at the time, though. His first came against Sean Strickland, in the midst of Strickland’s five-fight winning streak at middleweight. Strickland is currently ranked in the top five in the division.
After that, Chris Curtis stopped him. It was just the second UFC fight for Curtis, but “Action Man” is now 3-1 in the UFC and also a ranked middleweight contender.
Both fighters who beat Allen stopped him with strikes, while all of Muniz’s UFC finishes were via submission. From a matchup standpoint, this is a bit tougher for Muniz than it appears on paper.
Verdict: Allen Undervalued – Based on Strength of Schedule and Style Matchup.
Augusto Sakai (-135) vs. Don’Tale Mayes (+115)
This line has seen some early-week movement, so take the analysis with a grain of salt. However, based on the Tuesday line, here’s what I’m seeing.
Augusto Sakai is 4-4 in the UFC with all four of his losses coming consecutively prior to this fight. Every loss has been a stoppage, with his four wins evenly split between stoppages and split decisions.
His split-decision wins include Andrei Arlovski – 40 years old at the time – and Blagoy Ivanov (3-4 in the UFC). To his credit, his losses have come against fairly tough competition, though.
Don’Tale Mayes is officially 2-2-1 in the UFC, though his no-contest was originally a split-decision loss to UFC newcomer Hamdy Abdelwahab. While that should count against him to an extent, Abdelwahab then tested positive for an impressive amount of PEDs, so maybe we give Mayes a pass.
His other two losses came to former interim champ Ciryl Gane (in Mayes’ UFC debut) and Rodrigo Nascimento, who is 3-1 in the UFC overall.
All things considered, both fighters have beaten bottom-tier heavyweights fairly consistently while losing to better fighters. However, Sakai has been knocked out four times in the last 30 or so months, and he seems to be trending the wrong way.
Mayes should be a coin flip at worst here.
Verdict: Mayes Undervalued
Charles Johnson (-170) vs. Ode Osbourne (+145)
This is a tricky fight to examine after Charles Johnson took it on just 11 days’ notice. It’s near impossible to know what kind of shape fighters are in when they take short-notice bouts, or what the line would be with a full camp to prepare.
My intuition is that markets overreact to very short-notice fights – think week-of replacements – while underreacting in situations like this. The extra week or so to prepare doesn’t really do much good if a fighter wasn’t already training hard.
Johnson is 2-1 in the UFC. His loss came by decision to Muhhamed Mokaev, but Mokaev dominated that fight. With that said, Mokaev is a highly touted prospect who finished both of his other UFC opponents. We don’t want to give too much credit for merely surviving a fight, but it’s notable since nobody else has managed to against Mokaev.
Ode Johnson needing a split decision to beat Zhalgas Zhumagulov is concerning, though, with Zhumagulov having a 1-5 UFC record. Johnson’s other win was a stoppage over Jimmy Flick in January. Johnson looked good, but it was Flick’s first fight in more than two years after “retiring” for a time – so, not the toughest of fights for Johnson.
Osbourne is solidifying his spot as a mid-level UFC flyweight, with a 3-3 record. All but one of his fights have ended inside the distance, with the exception being a clear decision over C.J. Vergara. Osbourne dominated the first two rounds before losing the third on all three scorecards. Both of his other wins came within the first 61 seconds.
When we consider the short-notice nature of the fight, I’d say Osbourne is undervalued. However, Johnson has shown consistently better cardio. If betting Osbourne, finish props are the way to go.
Verdict: Osbourne Undervalued (Early/Finish Props)
Hailey Cowan (-130) vs. Ailin Perez (+110)
(Editor’s note: This fight was canceled on Thursday after Hailey Cowan was forced to withdraw due to an undisclosed illness.)
Normally I avoid fighters making their UFC debut. The quality of competition – and judging – outside of the UFC is fairly questionable, so drawing strong conclusions is a challenge.
With that said, let’s take a look at Hailey Cowan. She’s coming off a split-decision win in her Contender Series bout. She dominated one round, was clearly beaten in another, with a contested third. The third round started with Cowan controlling the first half, but she got swept midway through the round and got the worst of it from then on out.
That fight actually ended with her opponent on her back with a rear-naked choke, but two of the three judges thought Cowan did enough to take the round. I disagree – though it was razor close.
Ailin Perez is 0-1 in the UFC, losing by rear-naked choke in the second round of her debut. However, Perez took that fight on short notice and up a weight class at 145 pounds. This bout is back at her natural 135. Her only other professional loss was due to illegal knees – and against a future UFC fighter.
With all that said, it’s had to draw many conclusions about either woman. However, we’re getting as high as +120 on Perez. This should be -110 both ways, and I’d take plus-money in either direction.
Verdict: Perez Undervalued
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