Gambling on mixed martial arts, like anything else in life, is about assuming risks.
But we have the ability to negate those risks, or at least minimize them, by carefully selecting our plays. It's about the long haul and not instant success, unless you're in Vegas for a few days and you have a hole burning in your pocket. If that's the case, go right ahead and do a 12-teamer and lose your money. You'll have fun and you won't win money, but you'll have the memories.
But if you're a careful bettor looking to maximize your investment, you know that you can't just jump in and bet on every single fight. You want to look for your own inefficiencies, where the market odds do not match up with your own. And when you find that opportunity, you jump all over it.
If you're expecting this guide to tell you who to bet on for every single fight, you're wasting your time. That will never happen. I'll give you my own percentage and the market percentage by the odds, and when there is an opportunity where I believe you can make money, I'll make a recommendation. But when there isn't, I'll tell you so; after all, saving your money and not blowing it on flights of fancy is just as important as placing wagers.
And so, with that out of the way, let's go ahead and get started with our gambling guide to UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson. But first, a quick guide to the terms you'll see in the graphic previewing each fight:
Market Percentage: Essentially, these are the odds for each fight, but converted into percentage. The end result is the percent chance that the current odds (listed at the top of each slide) are giving each fighter to win. So, for example, a line of -290 would be the equivalent of the market giving a fighter 69.70 percent chance to win.
A note about market percentages: You'll notice that they don't add up to 100 percent. That's because of the vig, a number built into the odds to ensure that the house gets their take no matter the result. It varies from line to line.
My percentage: The percentage I'm giving each fighter to win.
Inefficiencies: The difference between the Market Percentage and My Percentage. As I'll explain in the following slides, this is where we find our value.
Maybe you consider Jon Jones to be the greatest fighter of all time. Maybe you're not convinced and would prefer to wait a few years before you bestow that kind of lofty status. Or maybe you're not even sure he's the best fighter in the world right now.
No matter which of the three camps above you fall into, there's one thing for certain: Jones has a much greater chance of beating Alexander Gustafsson than the UFC's marketing pitch for the fight would have you believe.
Greatness Within Reach. That's the slogan. It's on the posters and the commercials, and it's designed for two purposes: to remind you that Jones is close to breaking Tito Ortiz's record for successful light heavyweight title defenses, and that Gustafsson's reach is comparable to Jones.
Except that's not really true, is it? Going by the UFC's own measurements, Jones reach spans 84.5 inches; Gustafsson, meanwhile, clocks in at 76.5.
Eight inches of reach advantage. Sure, that's less than the 10 inches or more that Jones typically enjoys, but it's not exactly greatness within reach.
And that's why you see Jones as such a large favorite at the sportsbook, and why I have him clocking in as a 93 percent favorite. This fight really isn't all that different from every other light heavyweight contender Jones has dismantled.
Jones still has supreme physical gifts that give him an advantage over Gustafsson. But to focus on those traits to is disrespect Jones and utterly ignore one thing: his fighting mind. Simply, Jones is the smartest fighter in the game today. He analyzes film, studies traits and commits what he sees to memory until he's utterly prepared for every single thing his opponent tries in the cage.
In my mind, Jones is easily the greatest fighter in the world today, and it's only a matter of a few more supreme wins over top divisional contenders before he's considered the best of all time. Because there hasn't been a single fighter, ever, who has faced the kind of top-ranked competition on a continual basis as Jones. Not even Anderson Silva.
And so this one is much easier to pick than many of you might think. Jones is a big favorite for a reason, and my personal percentages align closely with the public odds. Therefore, I cannot recommend a play on this one, but as you'll see in the graphic above, I do recommend a small play on two props: Jones by submission and Jones to win in Round 3. And if you're feeling particularly risky, you'll parlay those two props for a nice 12-to-1 payout.
As for my prediction? Jones starts slow, figures out Gustafsson over the first two rounds and then submits him in the third.
At this point, we're all just biding our time, waiting for Dominick Cruz to return so we can finally have a title unification fight in the bantamweight division.
Of course, we're also waiting because we believe Cruz might be the only guy who can beat Barao.
The Brazilian has already decimated each of the top competitors he's faced, and Eddie Wineland is a fighter getting a title shot by default. That's not the nicest thing to say about a fighter, but it's true. Wineland is a severe underdog heading into this fight for good reason; a title win here would be one of the bigger upsets in UFC history.
You'll see that my percentages are nearly the same as the public odds. Barao is better in every aspect of mixed martial arts, and that will be reflected in the fight. As of right now, I cannot recommend a monetary play on the fight, but I do predict that Barao wins by submission at some point before the end of the third round.
Each of Brendan Schaub's three career losses have come by knockout, which is a nice way of saying that his chin is a little bit suspect.
That's not a very good thing against a fighter like Mitrione, who may never become UFC heavyweight champion or even contend for the title due to his lack of experience, but he is without a doubt a very hard puncher.
Mitrione has lost two of his previous three fights, though the two losses came to men far more experienced (Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo). Schaub is more experienced than Mitrione from a fight perspective and has faced what you might consider to be a tougher level of competition.
But, again: that chin.
It's that chin that leads me to believe that Mitrione should be a bigger favorite than he actually is, as you'll see in the graphic above. And while I typically look for an Inefficiency of greater than 20 percent when recommending a play on a fighter, I also feel safe in urging a small play on Mitrione here, as I believe he's more likely to win than the odds are giving him credit for.
If it feels forever since you've seen Costa Phillipou in the Octagon, don't worry; you are not alone.
Much has happened since Phillipou fought last December. For starters, he left his longtime home at the Serra-Longo team, perhaps in advance of a potential clash with now former teammate (and new middleweight champion) Chris Weidman. He is training at the Bellmore Kickboxing Academy; like you, I have never heard of the Bellmore Academy.
And it is for that reason, among others, that I consider Phillipou a smaller favorite over Francis Carmont than book odds would have you believe. In fact, I give him 55 percent chance of winning the fight, which is over 10 percent lower than you'll get at the book.
Carmont is a skilled striker who must be taken seriously, but he's also a good submission artist. Leaving Ray Longo and Matt Serra will not do Phillipou any favors in the grappling department.
I still believe Phillipou wins this fight, of course. It will be closer than the odds suggest, but Phillipou still wins. But there's not enough of a difference in my own percentages and that of the public for me to recommend a play here.
And finally, I have my first (and only) strongly recommended play on the UFC 165 main card.
The odds tell you that Nurmagomedov is a strong favorite (nearly 70 percent) to beat Pat Healy. I think that's a bit silly, and I actually consider Healy the favorite, though only just.
Nurmagomedov is a very good fighter. He's undefeated for a reason. But he's never faced anyone who can essentially Jon Fitch him; you know exactly what I mean. Healy is a grinder who will put you on the ground and then make life more miserable with every passing minute.
That is what you'll see here, and it's why I'm making Healy a slight favorite and why I can recommend a strong play on Healy.