UFC Vegas 72 Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Consider Betting Now (Saturday, April 29)

UFC Vegas 72 Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Consider Betting Now (Saturday, April 29) article feature image

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC flyweight Cody Durden

Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC Vegas 71: Song vs. Simon on Saturday and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into the ESPN+ event.

UFC Vegas 72 takes place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. The full event streams on ESPN+ beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT), with the main card portion commencing at 7 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 Vegas 72 odds via FanDuel and as of Tuesday

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Ricky Simon (-130) vs. Song Yadong (+102)

Ricky Simon and Song Yadong are the only officially ranked fighters on the card, with both men checking in just inside the top 10 of the bantamweight rankings. The similarities continue, with both fighters featuring identical 8-2 UFC records, though Yadong has an additional bout that ended in a draw.

Which is why the fairly close betting line also makes perfect sense, as there's not much on paper between these two. Each fighter has one split decision win on their UFC record, and I'd argue that the judges got it right on both occasions. Simon's was less of a clear victory, however, for whatever that is worth.

Yadong's draw also would've been a win, if not for a clear foul he committed. It's hard to say how much the foul – a knee to a grounded Cody Stamann – impacted the fight beyond the point deduction. It looked more like a quad muscle strike than a knee upon further review, and Stamann seemed no worse for the wear. Not quite bad "luck" from Yadong, but he has a draw on his record when he was pretty clearly the better fighter.

Perhaps the most salient point about this fight is its elevation to a main event. Originally scheduled as a co-main on last week's card, it got bumped up to this week's headliner, which means two extra rounds. Neither has fought five rounds in the UFC, but Yadong went four rounds in his last bout before a bad cut forced the stoppage (the fight was tied on the scorecards.) Simon's wrestling-heavy style is also more taxing from a cardio standpoint, so I'm leaning toward the underdog here, at least at the current FanDuel line.

Verdict: Yadong undervalued on FanDuel

Martin Buday (-113) vs. Jake Collier (-113)

First things first: You're welcome for watching back all of the split/technical decisions between these two lower-level heavyweights. Wouldn't recommend that to anybody.

Moving on, Martin Buday is 2-0 in the UFC with a split decision and the rare "technical decision" win on his record. The split was razor close, with Buday losing the first round and half of the second before slowly taking over. I'd give it to him, but I would have no complaints either way.

He dominated the entirety of his technical decision win – which occurs when a bout goes to the scorecards prematurely. However, deep into the third, he egregiously elbowed his opponent on the back of the head. I'd argue it was very lucky that he wasn't disqualified or the bout ruled a no-contest (that rule varies by state commission and isn't well-understood by anyone).

Jake Collier has been in the UFC for nine years and three weight classes, so most of his 5-7 promotional record can be tossed out. He has two split decision losses in his last four fights, though, all at heavyweight. The Carlos Felipe loss was probably the right call, with Felipe landing more strikes in every round of a grappling-free bout. The Andrei Arlovski loss probably should've gone the other way, but it was close enough I have no major complaints.

Both men are slow starters without many finishes to their name, so my main interest here is on round overs and/or goes-to-a-decision lines. If those have standard heavyweight prices, the overs could be great values. I'm also interested in Buday live; he's come on strong in his close fights while Collier has done better in early rounds. In terms of the moneyline, though, the pick'em price is about right.

Verdict: Fairly valued

Charles Johnson (-170) vs. Cody Durden (+132)

This line has already tightened a bit since coming out, with FanDuel having the best current odds on Cody Durden. Durden is 3-2-1 in the UFC with a 2-0-1 record in decisions. All of those were unanimous, though, including the draw. All of which were also absolutely the right call, so not a ton of luck involved.

However, that draw was on short notice against the highly regarded Chris Gutierrez, so the dominant first round from Durden was a moral victory in and of itself. Hard to blame him for gassing late given the lack of training camp for the fight.

Charles Johnson is the more interesting fighter to unpack from a "luck" standpoint. He made his debut against Muhammad Mokaev in a fight he was clearly supposed to lose. Which he did, but he took Mokaev the distance – the same Mokaev who submitted Durden in less than a minute. Since then Johnson has gone 2-1 with one finish (a win) and two split decisions.

His loss to Ode Osborne was mildly controversial at the time, but I rewatched the disputed round and would say the judges got it right. More interesting was his win against Zhalgas Zhumagulov. The contested round was the second, and Zhumagulov was fairly clearly winning in my eyes, until a low blow from Zhumagulov caused a break in the action.

Johnson took over from there, and there's a chance that the combination of recency bias and pause in the action biased the judges in his favor. Johnson also got away with an eye-poke in that round, which also helped him a bit.

The combination of relatively fortunate judging for Johnson and Durden being razor close to a win in his debut pushes me slightly to his side. Most of that has been consumed by previous line movement, but at the current FanDuel odds, I'd say Durden is still a bit cheap.

Verdict: Durden undervalued

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