Are MMA Odds Too Long? by Todd Martin

by Todd Martin

For years, there has been a suggested notion that MMA odds should never get too long, because it’s MMA and anything can happen in MMA. It’s been a frequently relayed point dating back to some of the big upsets of 2007 in particular, and has come up again on a weekend when the two top UFC fights feature extremely heavy favorites in Jon Jones and Josh Koscheck. 

This has always struck me as a false assumption, built on the fact big upsets resonate in the memory more than big favorites coming through. Additionally, oddsmakers tend to be pretty smart in setting lines, and if really long odds were foolish in MMA, that would probably correct itself over time. If anything, I think there might be an issue with oddsmakers being unwilling to go too long because of the general concern about MMA unpredictability.

So I decided to look through the odds this year in UFC and see whether there has been money to be made in betting on heavy underdogs. Obviously, it’s not a huge sample size, but there have been plenty of fights where oddsmakers have installed a -350 or heavier favorite. The following are those fights. I grabbed odds from different sources, but and are generally the best at relaying the odds from the top sportsbooks. -500 means you have to bet $500 to win $100 (plus your $100 back), while +350 means you have to bet $100 to win $350 (plus your $100 back).

UFC 126

Chad Mendes -350 vs. Michihiro Omigawa +265

Miguel Torres -500 vs. Antonio Banuelos +325

Jon Jones -350 vs. Ryan Bader +270

Jake Ellenberger -400 vs. Carlos Rocha +260

UFC 127

Michael Bisping -500 vs. Jorge Rivera +300

George Sotiropoulos -500 vs. Denis Siver +300

UFC 128

Urijah Faber -550 vs. Eddie Wineland +350

Joseph Benavidez -500 vs. Ian Loveland +300

UFC Fight Night Nogueira vs. Davis

Phil Davis -350 vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira +275

John Hathaway -500 vs. Kris McCray +300

Michael McDonald -360 vs. Edwin Figueroa +280

Johny Hendricks -500 vs. TJ Waldburger +300

UFC 129

Georges St. Pierre -500 vs. Jake Shields +335

Jose Aldo -500 vs. Mark Hominick +365

Lyoto Machida -350 vs. Randy Couture +285

UFC 130

Renan Barao -500 vs. Cole Escovedo +300

Gleison Tibau -525 vs. Rafaello Oliveira +325

Michael McDonald -550 vs. Chris Cariaso +350

Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale

Jeremy Stephens -350 vs. Danny Downes +260

Josh Grispi -390 vs. George Roop +300

Scott Jorgensen -450 vs. Ken Stone +325

UFC 131

Donald Cerrone -525 vs. Vagner Rocha +325

Chris Weidman -550 vs. Jesse Bongfeldt +350

Dustin Poirier -500 vs. Jason Young +300

Krzysztof Soszynski -525 vs. Mike Massenzio +325

UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry

Rick Story -500 vs. Charlie Brenneman +300

Michael Johnson -500 vs. Edward Faaloto +300

UFC 132

Ryan Bader -600 vs. Tito Ortiz +400

Brian Bowles -500 vs. Takeya Mizugaki +300

UFC 133

Rashad Evans -500 vs. Tito Ortiz +350

Vitor Belfort -380 vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama +290

Chad Mendes -650 vs. Rani Yahya +425

UFC Live: Lytle vs. Hardy

Jim Hettes -400 vs. Alex Caceres +300

Cole Miller -550 vs. TJ O’Brien +350

Edwin Figueroa -370 vs. Jason Reinhardt +280

UFC 134

Anderson Silva -450 vs. Yushin Okami +325

Paulo Thiago -450 vs. David Mitchell +325

Yuri Alcantara -500 vs. Felipe Arantes +350

UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger

Evan Dunham -500 vs. Shamar Bailey +350

Jorge Lopez -500 vs. Justin Edwards +325

Of the 40 heavy favorites this year, only 5 lost (Sotiropoulos against Siver, Grispi against Roop, Story against Brenneman, Bader against Ortiz and Lopez against Edwards). If a bettor decided to bet $100 on each heavy underdog, they would be left with $2125 of their original $4000 investment. If another bettor decided to bet the same $100 on each heavy favorite, they would earn $4265.39 from their original investment. The favorites bettor would be over $2000 richer than the underdogs bettor on $4000 in bets. So the notion that five to one odds in MMA are crazy has not remotely been the case at least in 2011. 

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