Let’s look into some mispriced betting lines for UFC Vegas 74 on Saturday and see which fighters are overvalued and which are undervalued heading into the ESPN fight card.
UFC Vegas 74, also dubbed UFC Fight Night: Kara-France vs. Albazi, takes place at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. The entire event airs on ESPN beginning at 6 p.m. ET (3 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
Kai Kara-France (-113) vs. Amir Albazi (-113)
Kai Kara-France is a long-standing member of the top of the flyweight rankings, as well as a former title challenger. He fell short in that attempt and is now tasked with holding off the upstart Amir Albazi.
Kara-France has a 7-3 record in the UFC, including a 5-1 record in decisions with one win via split decision. It came back in just his second UFC fight, though, so that result has little standing on the market’s current opinion of him. His three losses came to flyweight champion Brandon Moreno (twice) and top-five contender Brandon Royval.
Albazi has just four fights in the UFC with a perfect 4-0 record. He’s finished three of those wins with a clear unanimous decision win in the other. His best opponent in that span was probably Malcolm Gordon, who currently ranks 25th in Tapology’s flyweight rankings. That obviously makes this a huge step up for Albazi considering the elite competition Kara-France has faced.
I’m tempted to deem Kara-France undervalued here, thanks to the stiff competition he’s faced – especially in his losses. Still, just because we haven’t seen Albazi against top competition doesn’t mean he can’t compete at that level. I may end up betting this one at some point, especially if the line moves considerably. However, from a “luck” standpoint, there isn’t much of an edge in Saturday’s UFC Vegas 74 main event.
Verdict: Fairly Valued
Jared Gordon (-200) vs. Jim Miller (+154)
Jim Miller was originally slated to fight L’udovit Klein before an injury to the latter led to Jared Gordon stepping up on somewhat short notice. That’s likely a significant factor in the current betting lines; I would expect Gordon to be a much heavier favorite under normal circumstances.
Gordon’s last two fights were both prime examples of awful luck. In his most recent outing, a Bobby Green headbutt dropped Gordon, leading to a no-contest. Gordon was holding his own – and arguably winning – that fight before the headbutt. Before that, Gordon was a victim of some of the worst judging in recent memory in a split decision loss to Paddy Pimblett.
While I’m slightly concerned about the short-notice nature of this fight, I still would’ve made Gordon a bigger favorite. Especially relative to the -175 line at BetMGM. I’d take Gordon’s moneyline there now – or wait for his finish/knockout props later if you don’t have access to BetMGM or anywhere else with a similar line.
Verdict: Gordon Undervalued
Don’Tale Mayes (-128) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+100)
Going through the entirety of Andrei Arlovski’s UFC career – which began in the year 2000 – is obviously not a useful exercise more than two decades later. We can look at his recent results, though, as his results over the past few fights are likely baked into the betting lines here.
Arlovski is 4-2 over his last six fights with both losses coming via submission and all four wins via decision. Two of those wins were split, and all four came against bottom-of-the-barrel UFC fighters. Three of the four men he defeated are no longer employed by the promotion. Arlovski was also outstruck in both split-decision wins while surrendering two takedowns (while scoring none of his own) in the most recent.
Mayes is 2-3 in the UFC with one no-contest that originally was a split-decision loss. That split was the right decision, but his opponent failed a PED test following the fight, so I’m willing to give him a slight pass. One of his three official losses came against Ciryl Gane – who reverted to grappling to beat him – and he was taken down in each of his other two losses, as well.
Point being, Mayes struggles when forced to (defensively) grapple, but he’s solid from everywhere but his back. Arlovski hasn’t scored a takedown since 2018 – and he’s 44 years old.
I’d make Mayes a considerably longer favorite here, and the lines are trending in that direction after Mayes opened as an underdog. Grab this one before it gets any longer.
Verdict: Mayes Undervalued
Daniel Santos (-215) vs. Johnny Munoz Jr. (+164)
Neither fighter here has a split decision on his UFC record or any especially fluky results to speak of. They are both .500 in the UFC, with Pedro Munoz Jr. 2-2 and Santos 1-1.
Munoz made his debut up a weight class at featherweight, so we could arguably excuse that loss. On the Daniel Santos side, his debut came after nearly three years of COVID-related inactivity, and he’s looked much better both before and after that fight.
The key factor worth pointing out here is that this bout was rescheduled from UFC 288 less than a month ago. The reason for the rescheduling was an injury to Santos. Interestingly, though, Santos is a bigger favorite now than he was for the original booking (roughly -165) despite his injury forcing the bout to be moved.
While I’m picking (and likely betting) Santos to win here for technical reasons, it’s a bit strange that the line has moved toward the fighter who was out with an injury less than a month ago. From that angle, Munoz is certainly undervalued here, as an injury severe enough to move the fight in the first place should mean Santos is less than 100% now, or at the very least a bit rusty following some time away from training.
Verdict: Munoz Undervalued