First, our usual opening disclaimer:
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.
With those words of wisdom out of the way, let's turn our eyes towards UFC 166 and the third fight between the two best heavyweights on the planet.
Much like every other UFC card coming down the pipeline this year, this pay-per-view is stacked from top to bottom. In the following slides, I'll take a look at each of the main card fights. We'll examine the market numbers, the odds that are being given to each fighter. I'll translate those into an easy-to-read percentage for you. And then I'll give you my own percentage for each fighter, and we'll see if there are any discrepancies between my numbers and the public numbers.
Here's a quick guide to the numbers you'll see on each slide:
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.
When Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos opened up their trilogy on the UFC's initial show on Fox, I thought it would be a one-sided affair. I believed then, as I believe now, that Velasquez is far and away the best heavyweight in the world and that, despite Dos Santos being a truly excellent fighter with good boxing and fearsome power, Velasquez was just that much better.
The first fight didn't go that way, of course, and I was left with egg on my face. But the second fight between the pair represented what I envisioned before the first fight; a truly dominant heavyweight making another world-class fighter look as though he didn't belong in the same cage. Velasquez used intense pressure and cardio to stay on Dos Santos' face for 25 minutes. The champ couldn't catch a breath, and Velasquez never allowed him to settle into his game plan.
What you saw in the second fight is the norm. If Velasquez and Dos Santos fought 10 times, Velasquez would win 8 of them by utilizing the exact same game plan. Dos Santos will never have an answer for Velasquez's cardio and wrestling, no matter how long he's in the sport.
This being MMA, anything can happen. But I think Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3 is going to look almost exactly like Dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2.
The market agrees with me, and there's no real value to be placed in a straight wager. If you're looking for an interesting play on this fight, I suggest delving into the props and going with the fight goes to decision angle at +180. I would say it's highly likely that neither man finishes the other, which makes +180 a very good value play.
With Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez, you have a fight that probably would've thrilled fans three years ago more so than it does now, back before Sanchez became an afterthought.
If that's your line of thinking, you're in for a surprise come Saturday night. This is a sublime piece of matchmaking. Not because it's going to be all that competitive; I believe Melendez is the far superior fighter and will prove it on Saturday night.
No, it's sublime because this is one of those bouts where the "styles make fights" mantra, often overused, still holds true. Melendez can be pulled into a war when he wants to be, and Sanchez loves nothing more.
Sanchez has been able to endure beatings throughout his career without going down. But those beatings, coupled with his advancing age and time outside the cage, will conspire to harm him greatly here.
My numbers closely align with the public numbers, and there's no value on Melendez at -650. With that in mind, I suggest again looking at the props for our value; Melendez winning inside the distance is currently sitting pretty at +243. Fire on that one.
This is a curious fight, mostly because it is Cormier's last fight at heavyweight. He's on his way down to 205 pounds, where he'll likely challenge Jon Jones at some point in 2014.
But for now, Cormier's still at heavyweight. He's fighting one of the most popular and durable heavyweights in UFC history, and he's coming in over at 5-to-1 favorite. That should tell you all you need to know about Cormier's skills and the way he's perceived by the public.
Cormier's -525 line means the market gives him an 84 percent chance of winning. That aligns nearly perfectly with my own estimation of 85 percent, which means there is no value in a straight play on Cormier. Even though we're confident he's going to win the fight, it's not worth the major juice we'd need to throw in order to squeeze a nice profit.
So, we'll turn our eyes once again to the props, where we see Cormier winning by decision is -175. That's much more palatable, and it's also quite likely. Cormier has deadly power, but Nelson has the toughest chin I've ever seen in mixed martial arts, or at least one of them. Cormier may connect, but it's not very likely that he finishes Nelson, which means we'll see a decision. Jump on this line before it gets out of hand.
With all respect to Shawn Jordan, he should not be the favorite in this fight.
Gabriel Gonzaga, since returning to the UFC, is 3-1. More importantly, he's once again using the jiu-jitsu that makes him one of the best grapplers in the heavyweight division.
That's not good for Jordan. He's a fine heavyweight athlete, but he will not be able to compete with Gonzaga should the Brazilian elect to take this fight to the ground. And I believe that's exactly what Gonzaga plans on doing.
The market has Gonzaga at just a 35 percent chance of winning this fight; I believe it should be more along the lines of 60 percent, and that's being kind to Jordan. There's a big discrepancy in the market and my own odds; we bet on anything over 20 percent, and this one is +24.91 percent.
Fire on Gonzaga and thank me later.
Montague is one of the best flyweights in the world yet to make his UFC debut. Dodson, meanwhile, is one of the best flyweights in the world already IN the UFC. He's competed against the best, even fighting Demetrious Johnson for a title. He lost, but Dodson remains one of the best (and most powerful) fighters in the division.
It's that power that leads to my tip for this fight: take Dodson winning inside the distance at +165. There's a very good chance Dodson knocks Montague out cold, so that's what we'll bank on.