UFC Vegas 84 Luck Ratings: Bet This Mispriced Fighter at Ankalaev vs. Walker (Saturday, January 13)

UFC Vegas 84 Luck Ratings: Bet This Mispriced Fighter at Ankalaev vs. Walker (Saturday, January 13) article feature image

Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images. Pictured: UFC welterweight Matthew Semelsberger

Check out some UFC Vegas 84 betting opportunities with our UFC Luck Ratings for the Jan. 13 fight card, including the Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker main event on Saturday.

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The UFC returns this weekend after its annual Christmas holiday break with UFC Vegas 84: Ankalaev vs. Walker this weekend. Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for Saturday's event on ESPN+ (4 p.m. ET) and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into the first card of 2024.

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.

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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 Monday and via DraftKings

Magomed Ankalaev (-455) vs. Johnny Walker (+350)

The first UFC main event of the year is a weird one.

It's technically a rematch from the Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker bout at UFC 294 that was ruled a no-contest due to an illegal knee from Ankalaev, but it's effectively a rebooking.

That's because Walker was, by all accounts, perfectly able to continue after taking the knee, but a language issue when talking to the doctor saw the fight waved off.

The fight's been called! ❌

Ankalaev and Walker have to be separated as the bout is declared a no contest. #UFC294pic.twitter.com/DnVNTsa5rL

— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) October 21, 2023

The line has shifted slightly toward Ankalaev this time around, which is the wrong direction by my estimation.

I was on Walker the last time around, and nothing in the three-or-so-minute fight changed my opinion on that read. Walker was easily winning the standup with nine leg kicks in around two minutes of standup fighting.

The illegal knee came as Walker was escaping back to his feet from an Ankalaev takedown, which bodes well for his ability to overcome the Dagestani's wrestling.

I'm sticking with my original read here, and I will gladly take the even better price on the underdog. The best line on Walker is +375 at Caesars – though I wouldn't be shocked if the line widens further throughout the week.

Verdict: Johnny Walker Undervalued

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Manel Kape (-245) vs. Matheus Nicolau (+200)

(Editor's note: This fight was canceled on Friday after Manel Kape missed weight for the 125-pound matchup. Kape issued a statement saying he's been dealing with a recent illness.)

The UFC Vegas 84 co-main event also features a rematch, but this time it's one nearly three years in the making.

Back in 2021, Matheus Nicolau took a split-decision win from Manel Kape, who has won four in a row since then. Nicolau is 3-1 since that fight, his only loss coming in a title eliminator against Brandon Royval in April 2023.

There's no shame in losing to a fighter of Royval's caliber, and outside of that, both fighters' recent form has been fairly even.

How you view this one thus comes down to your opinion on the judging in the first contest. Every single media member on MMA Decisions scored both the second and third rounds for Kape, an opinion I agree with.

Watching the fight back. it's hard to see any justification for giving Nicolau either period, considering he spent much of them unsuccessfully hunting takedowns while being outstruck.

With that said, this is a pretty wide line for a fight that was very close the first time around and one that opened as a pick'em when it was first listed at various books.

For that reason, I'll probably take a value bet on Nicolau at some point, but let's wait and see how far this line climbs. I'd feel much better around +250 than the current number.

Verdict: Matheus Nicolau Potentially Undervalued

Matthew Semelsberger (-125) vs. Preston Parsons (+105)

Matthew Semelsberger was originally slated to fight Bassil Hafez in this spot before an injury forced Hafez off the card. In his stead is Preston Parsons.

I expected this line to open with Semelsberger as a considerably heavier favorite here. He's 5-4 in the UFC with fights against reasonably high-level competition in that span.

"Pressure" Parsons is just 1-2 for the promotion with his lone win coming over Evan Elder.

My guess is this line is based on Semelsberger coming into this fight following two consecutive losses, but neither was a "bad loss" by any stretch; he dropped a razor-thin split decision to Jeremiah Wells in April and then suffered a late knockout loss to Uros Medic in July of last year.

Semelsberger was arguably winning the Medic fight and was close to finishing Medic himself before he got caught – and he has a strong case for being robbed by the judges in a weird fight against Wells.

Now add to that the fact that Parsons is coming in on short notice, during a time of year when most fighters who don't have anything on the books have been training less than usual due to the holidays. That's enough for me to take a bet on Semelsberger at -125 on DraftKings, and I expect it to move throughout the week.

Verdict: Matthew Semelsberger Undervalued

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