UFC Vegas 73 Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Consider Betting Now (Saturday, May 20)

UFC Vegas 73 Luck Ratings: The Undervalued Fighters to Consider Betting Now (Saturday, May 20) article feature image

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC middleweight Edmen Shahbazyan

Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC Vegas 73 on Saturday and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into tonight's 12-bout fight card.

UFC Vegas 73, also dubbed UFC Fight Night: Dern vs. Hill, takes place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. The seven-bout preliminary card and five-fight main card stream on ESPN+ beginning at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT).

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.

* Odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel

Mackenzie Dern (-188) vs. Angela Hill (+144)

Angela Hill may have been to more decisions than any fighter in UFC history, with a ridiculous 18 of her 22 fights needing the judges' involvement. Naturally, that leaves a lot of room for controversy, especially given her fighting style. She's a high-volume, low-power striker who tends to win minutes without having any decisive moments. Hill also grapples very infrequently, often forcing judges to weigh her volume striking against takedowns and control time from her opponents.

Among those 18 decisions, three were split – with all three going against Hill. To be fair, she's had some unanimous decision wins that were questionable as well, but she's largely been unlucky with the judges throughout her career.

On the slip side, main-event opponent Mackenzie Dern has finished more than half of her seven UFC wins while adding in a 3-3 decision record. She has two split-decision wins and a majority-decision loss, with the rest unanimous one way or the other. She's another tough fighter to judge, given that her frequent submission attempts generally don't score well, but she tends to be in a dominant position while looking for them.

All things considered, the judges have been harsher on Hill than Dern, but Dern has most if not all of the finishing upside. I hesitate to say either fighter is necessarily undervalued on the whole, but I'd definitely prefer to be holding a Hill ticket if this one hits the scorecards. Alternatively, betting Dern's "finish-only" line makes some sense – you'll be paying a premium, but the bet gets refunded if it hits the judges.

Verdict: Hill by decision undervalued

Anthony Hernandez (-280) vs. Edmen Shahbazyan (+210)

This isn't a great fight for my typical Luck Ratings style analysis, with both fighters seeing a majority of their fights end in a finish one way or the other. Edmen Shahbazyan is 5-3 in the UFC with a 1-1 decision record while Anthony Hernandez is 4-2 in the UFC with just one decision (a win) on the record.

However, if we dive a bit deeper, we can find some angles here. First, all three of Shahbazyan's losses came to currently ranked opponents. They also all came before his 24th birthday, and it seems clear (in hindsight) that the UFC brought Shahbazyan along a bit too quickly for his own good.  He has just 11 professional fights when he lost to Derek Brunson, who had more than double that number at the time.

Hernandez has just two UFC losses, but they haven't aged nearly as well. He was knocked out at middleweight by Kevin Holland, who went on to struggle at the weight class and drop to welterweight. He was also submitted by Markus Perez, who won just one other UFC fight while losing five before being released.

The combination of strength of schedule and likely improvements for the still-just-25 Shahbazyan makes a compelling case in my eyes. While Hernandez isn't old at 29, he's probably close to his peak while Shahbazyan is still rapidly improving, both technically and physically. I understand why the line favors "Fluffy" so much based on recent results, but it should be considerably closer.

Verdict: Shahbazyan undervalued

Karolina Kowalkiewicz (-146) vs. Vanessa Demopolous (+114)

Another fight where our first read – close decisions – doesn't tell us much. Both women are undefeated in split decisions, with Karolina Kowalkiewicz picking up a pair of split victories and Vanessa Demopolous having one of her own.

Demopolous' split victory was fairly clearly the right call, with "Lil Monster" landing more strikes, scoring the only takedown, and having a four-plus minute edge in control time. Both of Kowalkiewicz's split decisions were from 2018 or before, so they have little bearing on the current perception of her ability.

Demopolous is 3-1 overall in the UFC, with her only loss coming on short notice and up a weight class in her debut. That loss has aged well, with her opponent JJ Aldrich now 7-5 in the UFC flyweight division.

While Demopolous is only three years younger than Kowalkiewicz, she's been a pro fighter since only 2017. That – coupled with her current winning streak – suggest we haven't seen the best that Demopolous has to offer. On the other hand, Kowalkiewicz is likely on the downswing of her career after 11 years as a fighter.

Like with the previous fight, this pick is more based on trying to project improvement from one fighter more than luck. Still, it points firmly toward Demopolous.

Verdict: Demopolous undervalued

Rodrigo Nascimento (-196) vs. Ilir Latifi (+152)

We have another veteran vs. prospect fight on this card, this time in the men's heavyweight division. Ilir Latifi is 9-6 through 15 UFC fights with a 4-3 record in decisions. Just one of those was a split: a win against Tanner Boser.

Rodrigo Nascimento made his UFC debut in 2020, getting off to a quick 2-1-0 (1 no-contest) record. His no-contest was originally a second-round knockout victory over Alan Baudot, but it was overturned due to a failed drug test by Nascimento. It's not what you think, though; the drugs he tested positive for were prescription ADHD medication.

Nascimento has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, so in actuality, he should be 3-1 in the UFC. He was one split decision win himself – also against Boser.

I rewatched both men's fights against Boser to see if we could glean anything. Latifi's fight featured a split first round that I probably would've awarded to Boser, but it wasn't a robbery by any stretch. Nascimento's fight featured split first and second rounds. I thought each fighter clearly won one of the first two rounds, but ultimately the right man got the decision based on a third-round sweep for Nascimento.

Both men look fairly lost on their feet while preferring to grapple, but Nasicmento has the submission edge. He's also more than 10 years younger than Latifi, another sign in his direction. Nascimento should be an even broader favorite, especially at BetMGM, where he's still at -175. Get that one before it's too late.

Verdict: Nascimento undervalued (at BetMGM)

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