It appears the UFC's network television broadcasts on Fox have been designated as the official home of the flyweight championship.
Oh. Excuse me. You probably aren't familiar with the term "flyweight," since not a shred of Fox's marketing efforts towards Saturday night's sublime tilt between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez even mentions their own 125-pound championship belt. No kidding. You've seen the television commercials (likely 150 times or more), so you know that there's nary a mention of the word flyweight. Johnson is simply the "world champion," and viewers are left to wonder if perhaps Johnson is the heavyweight champion.
And I blame this entirely on Fox, by the way, because the UFC has zero trouble promoting the flyweight championship. Back before Jon Jones canceled Christmas and UFC 151 in one fell swoop, the original fight between Benavidez and Johnson was scheduled to headline UFC 152. It was to determine the first flyweight title, and the UFC had no problems billing it as such. But then Jones McGrinch canceled Christmas and his main event was moved to UFC 152, and the lighter-weight guys were moved a notch down the card.
Still, this is the third consecutive appearance on Fox for Johnson after defenses against John Dodson and John Moraga. Perhaps someday he'll graduate back to pay-per-view.
Or perhaps not, because he's facing the toughest test he can possibly face in the flyweight division.
As we tend to do during fight weeks, it's time to take a look below the surface level for each of our four main card fights at UFC on Fox 9. This one is aimed at the degenerate gambler among you, but a word of warning: If the public odds (when translated to percentages) closely hew with my own, I tend to recommend that you stay away.
This will not please those of you who want to throw your money down on every fight, but it's the smart way to do the whole sports betting thing. If you don't care about being smart and just enjoy the thrill of putting your hard-earned money on the line, you can either go with my winner picks or take a look at my new "Just For Fun (And Five Dollars) Parlay" on the final slide.
Let's get started.
With the help of Reed Kuhn from Fightnomics, I took a deeper dive into the numbers and analytics behind this fine fight earlier this week. Based off the cold, hard data, I predicted that Benavidez will finish Johnson before the end of the third round by knockout or TKO.
But what does that mean from a betting perspective?
Johnson is currently a -130 favorite, which means the market is giving him a 56.2 percent chance to win. Benavidez is +110, which translates to a 47.62 percent winning percentage. Before you start informing me those numbers don't add up to 100 percent, keep in mind they're not supposed to. Bookmakers build a padding called the "vig" into each number. In this case, the numbers add up to 103.82 percent.
That extra 3.82 percent? That's the vig, and it's how casinos and sportsbooks make their money. Regardless of where the actual betting falls, they still make a profit. That's why the casinos just up the road from my house here in Las Vegas can keep those ridiculous lights going 24 hours a day.
So, back to the fight. Johnson is the betting favorite, but I have Benavidez pegged with a 60 percent chance to win. That means there's just over a 12 percent difference between what the market thinks and what I think. That's a decent difference, but not enough for me to execute a big play on. Remember: The smartest thing a bettor can do is stay away from bets that don't present the best value for his dollar. That's the situation we find ourselves in with this fight.
Instead, I recommend saving Benavidez for the Just For Fun (And Five Dollars) Parlay, which we'll discuss on the last slide.
Recommended play: None. Save it for the parlay.
Don't look now, but Urijah Faber is back on a winning streak and nearing title contention.
The lesser creative of those among you will no doubt make a joke about Faber winning this fight because it's not a title fight—ignoring, of course, the fact that Faber has won 10 title fights and lost five throughout his career; MMA fans are nothing if not predictable—but the truth is that Faber should win this fight. Though McDonald presents a stiff challenger on the feet, the youngster has never once faced anyone with the kind of wrestling and grappling skill Faber possesses.
Faber's takedown accuracy is not great at 36 percent. But like other Team Alpha Male fighters, Faber often uses takedown feints and shoots to set up hooks, rarely committing to a full shoot. Against McDonald, I suspect we'll see him commit to far more, because McDonald's biggest advantage lies on the feet and Faber is nothing if not a smart fighter.
The biggest statistic for me, and the most telling one, is Faber's time in control on the ground and his advances. During his analyzed minutes, Faber has 15 dominant positions and 11 Total Ground Advances; compare that to McDonald's four dominant positions and three Total Ground Advances, and you can see where Faber's largest advantage lies.
McDonald is not hapless on the ground. But if Faber can take this fight to the ground, his odds of winning the fight go way up. And I suspect that's exactly what we'll see here.
Recommended play: My percentages once again hew close to the market, so I'll offer a resounding "stay away" here.
I'm still at a loss as to why this fight was booked in the first place, and the market agrees: Mendes is a resounding -850 favorite after opening up at -800 on Wednesday afternoon. That means that, despite Mendes being a massive favorite, people are still throwing money down on him! That's confidence.
And rightly so. Mendes will win this fight, and likely in violent fashion. I rarely have the inclination to call a fight a mismatch, but that's what this is. Mendes is going to win this one, and he's going to win it early, and with the line that high I simply can't recommend a straight play on the Team Alpha Male powerhouse.
What I can do, however, is take a look at the prop bets. And wouldn't you know it, there are a couple of interesting numbers in there. Mendes inside the distance is -144, and that seems like good value, as does "fight doesn't go to decision" at -175.
Recommended play: Take a look at the props here. Mendes inside the distance is my best recommendation, but there are others (and will be even more listed by Friday) that might offer intriguing value opportunity for you.
The gut reaction here will be for you to assume Lauzon is winning this fight. The market has him listed as a nearly 2-1 favorite, and who is Mac Danzig, anyway? Some of you will ask that very question.
Here's who Danzig is: a fighter who is a much better striker than Lauzon and who is statistically nearly every bit the grappler Lauzon is. I hedge that with "nearly" because Lauzon has spent more time controlling his opponent on the ground. But he'll need to get the fight there in order to do any kind of controlling, and given that his takedown accuracy is just 42 percent—a number right in the middle of the UFC average—that's far tougher than you might think.
On the feet, Lauzon is a below-average striker according to UFC numbers. He has a weak chin (below the UFC average) and has issued just two knockdowns while taking four. Danzig's Head Power Accuracy is much higher, while all of Lauzon's defensive metrics are below average.
If Lauzon can get the fight to the ground and begin working for submissions, he wins this fight. But I don't think he does, and that puts him in danger of being knocked out. That's what we'll see here.
Recommended play: Fire heavy on Danzig. He's the underdog, and I don't believe that number is remotely correct. The market has him with a 39.22 percent chance to win the fight; I think it's more like 60 percent on the low end. That gives us a difference of +20.78 percent. My threshold for recommending a heavy play is a difference of 20 percent or more. This falls in that category, so fire away.
The Just For Fun (and Five Dollars) Parlay
This one is for those of you who simply want some entertainment value and, if a couple of underdogs fall your way, a windfall of cash without making much of a commitment. Going forward, I'll give you a five-or-more fight parlay that will garner you a decent payout for just $5. Remember, these are just for fun. The odds of landing one are low, but they sure are fun to root for.
The parlay: Benavidez + Faber + Danzig + Healy + Makovsky
The payout: $5 to win $249.35