Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE
Demetrious Johnson: -240
John Dodson: +190
This is as good a place as any to explain what I've learned about gambling on fights. I'm not saying that I actually gamble on the fights, because as a journalist, I'm not really allowed to. But what I'm about to explain is still a fantastic way to assess upcoming fights and figure out which way you want to go when picking them.
One way to find value in gambling odds is to convert the odds like the one you see above into percentages. You then compare those percentages assigned by the linesmakers to your own percentages.
I won't bore you with the formulas, but let's look at this fight for an example. Johnson is listed at -240, which converts to a 70.59 percent chance that he'll win the fight. Dodson's odds convert to 34.48 percent.
I typically look for big differences when comparing those percentages to my own, because those are the fights that give us the best value. For this fight, I give Johnson a 60 percent chance to win compared to 40 percent for Dodson; that means that the difference between my own line and the official line on Johnson is just 10.59 percent, while Dodson clocks in at 5.52 percent.
If I gave Dodson a 60 percent chance to win the fight, then the difference would be 25.52 percent. Anything above 20 percent represents decent value, and anything above 25 percent is fantastic value. If I were a gambling man, I'd pull the trigger on that, because the official line wouldn't come close to matching my own.
Of course, my personal odds could be way off, but that's where the "paths to victory" approach comes in.
When you look at an upcoming fight, it's good to determine how many ways each fighter can win, or lose, a fight. There are three ways that any fighter can win: by knockout, by submission or by decision. Of course, there are fluke things like disqualifications, but it's impossible to account for those.
You also want to take negative traits into account. Does a fighter have a glass jaw? Is his ground game severely underdeveloped? These are all things that can help you out when analyzing a fight.
So let's apply that to Johnson vs. Dodson.
Johnson's paths to victory: Decision
Dodson's paths to victory: Decision, knockout
Johnson hasn't shown the kind of knockout power he would need to finish Dodson, so we can't say that he'd win by knockout. If Johnson wins the fight, the most likely way he'll do so is by decision, using his speed to stay away from Dodson's power and continually earn points by countering.
Dodson, meanwhile, can win by decision, but he also has knockout power, so that gives him another path to victory.
You're probably going to ask why Dodson isn't my pick if he has more ways to win. Put simply, Johnson's ability to use his speed and wrestling to stifle his opponents is far greater than anything we've seen from Dodson thus far. This is not to say that Dodson cannot win; I do give him a 40 percent chance, after all.
But we're trying to find value in the gambling odds here, and my own personal percentages are too close to the real percentages to pull the trigger.
My Pick: Demetrious Johnson
Now that we've gotten all of that explanation out of the way, let's take a look at the rest of the fights.
Side note: You can learn more about the paths to victory approach, and other fight analyzing techniques, in Jason Rothman's excellent book Betting on MMA.