UFC Vegas Luck Ratings: Overvalued Fighters to Avoid, Undervalued Fighters to Bet Now (Saturday, March 11)
Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC. Pictured: UFC women’s flyweight Ariane Lipski
Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC Vegas: Yan vs. Dvalishvili on Saturday and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into the event.
UFC Vegas takes place at The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas. The full 13-fight event streams on ESPN+ beginning at 3 p.m. ET (noon 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. As is generally the case with ESPN+ cards like UFC Vegas: Yan vs. Dvalishvili, there are fewer fighters with long UFC track records – but still a few notable examples.
* Odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel
Petr Yan (-260) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (+195)
When I was coming up with the idea for this article, Petr Yan was the fighter I had in mind. The former champion is 16-4 in his professional MMA career, with three of those losses coming under the UFC banner. The lone exception was his loss to Magomed Magomedov, a Bellator fighter from the Khabib Nurmagomedov/Islam Makhachev camp.
Of those four losses, three were via split decision, and one was via disqualification for an illegal knee. Had that fight gone to the judges’ decision rather than a disqualification, Yan would’ve won a split decision.
In addition, his recent loss to Sean O’Malley was highly controversial, with most MMA fans (myself included) scoring the bout for Yan. Thus, while Yan has four career losses, one could make a case that he was the better fighter in each of them.
His UFC Vegas opponent, Merab Dvalishvili, has a nearly identical 15-4 professional record. Like Yan, he has three decision losses, but his fourth loss was via a submission. To his credit, he went to sleep rather than tap to a guillotine choke – but that’s still a worse look than a DQ loss.
Of the three decision losses, only one was unanimous, with a split and a majority decision as well. He’s been fairly unlucky as well, though against a far lower level of competition than Yan.
Yan’s wins have been a bit more impressive as well, with four UFC finishes in his eight wins, compared to just one finish for Merab.
Unfortunately, the market has picked up on all of this, with Yan opening at -170 or so but moving nearly 100 cents by Tuesday morning. Thus, the verdict here will be fairly valued. However, when “finish only” and later round props open up for Yan (this is a five-round fight), there’s likely to be some value there.
Verdict: Moneyline Fairly Valued, Yan Likely Undervalued on Finish/Late Round Props
Alexandr Romanov (-166) vs. Alexander Volkov (+130)
As is often the case with heavyweights, both men have had a majority of their fights end inside the distance, leaving less room for variance on the judges’ scorecards.
The underdog, Alexander Volkov, is 9-4 in the UFC with two unanimous-decision losses plus a knockout (Derrick Lewis) and submission (Tom Aspinal) defeat. His decision losses were against Ciryl Gane and Curtis Blaydes. While there’s no shame in any of those losses, he deserved each of them. Of his nine UFC wins, five were via stoppage – all knockouts.
Alexander Romanov has just one career loss, a majority decision his last time out. It was a deserved loss but an extremely close fight. That fight was also notable because of its venue. It took place in Salt Lake City, at an elevation even higher than Denver.
Romanov won the first round handily (picking up a 10-8 round, according to one judge) before dropping the second and third rounds. He was probably a bit overaggressive looking for the finish early, but the altitude did him no favors down the stretch.
Romanov’s other noteworthy result was a technical split decision win over Juan Espino. That bout was stopped early due to an illegal groin shot from Espino, but it went to the judges’ scorecards. It’s interesting that this fight went to the judges whereas Yan was DQ’d, but I digress.
Romanov had won the first two rounds on two of three judges’ scorecards but was unanimously losing the third. This, again, paints the picture of cardio/endurance issues for the favorite.
Like the main event, this line has moved enough to be fairly valued by Tuesday. Romanov was a -120 favorite at open. However, keep an eye on props, as Volkov is likely to be the fresher fighter down the stretch. The live market is particularly interesting here as well.
Verdict: Fairly Valued
J.J. Aldirch (-390) vs. Ariane Lipski (+280)
This line surprised me a bit with how wide it is. The favored J.J. Aldrich is 7-4 in the UFC but has a 0-2 record in fights ending in a finish. Her 5-2 record in decisions has one split in either direction. I can’t recall any of her other decisions being particularly controversial in either direction – and I’m not about to watch seven lower-level women’s flyweight fights to find out.
All things considered, Aldirich is likely slightly overrated. The lack of finishing ability that dates to her pre-UFC days is a considerable concern. Her strength of schedule is the stronger of the pair here, but she’s lost all of the bouts against notable opponents.
Ariane Lipski is the more interesting case study. She’s 3-5 in the UFC but has two wins (including one finish) over future UFC competition in regional fights. Three of those five losses were finishes, though the most recent was on short notice and up a weight class.
She’s the far better finisher here, with nine of her 15 professional wins coming inside the distance. It’s not exactly “luck,” though. She strikes aggressively on the feet, which leaves her open for takedowns. Most of her losses are from ground and pound.
Once she hits the ground, she’s far more focused on throwing up low-percentage submission attempts than getting up. That creates a situation in which she’s generally losing minutes but occasionally wins the fight.
Still, Lipski is somewhat undervalued given the long odds here. A low-octane women’s fight is tough for judges to pick a winner in, so Lipski has some “undeserved win” equity here along with her finishing chances. All things considered, I prefer her ITD or finish-only props to her moneyline, though.
Verdict: Lipski Undervalued
Bruno Silva (-200) vs. Tyson Nam (+165)
Tyson Nam is another interesting fighter when approaching from a “luck” perspective. He’s 3-3 in the UFC, with all three wins coming by knockout, and all three losses by decision (one split). Broadly speaking, winning by finish is more definitive and thus less “lucky” than involving the judges. However, at this point, there’s clearly something in Nam’s fighting style leading to those results.
Let’s take a deeper look at the split decision loss from Nam. It came against Matt Schnell, who came in as a top-10 flyweight at the time of the fight. He’s hung around that No. 10 spot since then but is a very tough opponent overall.
Nam lost the first round on all three judges’ scorecards, but it was very close. I would’ve scored the round for Nam until a flurry in the last few seconds from Schnell cut open Nam. The second round was the disputed one, with two judges giving it to Schnell. Schnell landed more volume, but Nam certainly landed the bigger shots.
Most importantly, Nam won the third round on all three judges’ scorecards. That’s a good sign for a guy who’s never won a decision, as it proves cardio isn’t the issue.
Silva has a similar record, officially 2-2-1 in the UFC. Like Nam, both official wins are finishes, with two decision losses. However, he was submitted in the no-contest loss, before his opponent Khalid Taha tested positive for a non-performance-enhancing substance.
Nam also has a far tougher strength of schedule, with losses to Schnell, Sergio Pettis and Kai Kara-France. Nam’s age (39) is a bit of a concern but not enough as a +165 underdog.
Verdict: Nam Undervalued
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