Favorites in UFC heavyweight title fights have burned many bankrolls over the last two years.
Underdogs are on a four-fight win streak in heavyweight championship bouts, heading into Saturday’s title fight between champion Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir at UFC 146 in Las Vegas. Not since Brock Lesnar came back to submit Shane Carwin at UFC 116 - 30 numbered UFC events ago - has a heavyweight champion kept his belt and cashed tickets for bettors.
“I think that’s just random,” MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas told Covers. “I think Junior dos Santos will put a stop to that. I think that streak comes to an end.”
If dos Santos can’t knock out Mir, then it’s time to officially consider the possibility that a curse is attached to the heavyweight title belt and bet the underdogs for the rest of eternity.
This matchup is custom-made for the champion to shine in his first title defense. The odds reflect as much, as dos Santos is posted around -500 with Mir coming back at +350.
“I can’t recommend people lay 5-1,” Kalikas said, “but I don’t think Mir is worth a bet, honestly. He’s going to have to get this fight to the ground to be successful, and I don’t see that happening.”
But plenty of public bettors do. The line has stayed steady for the most part since Kalikas opened it because more straight tickets are on Mir. UFC 146 is shaping up beautifully for many sportsbooks. They aren’t worried about exposure on Mir because the co-main event features a matchup with a favorite just as hefty.
Cain Velasquez enters as a -450 favorite over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, posted at +300. The excessive number of two-fight parlays pairing dos Santos and Velasquez makes a Mir victory far less dangerous for bookmakers.
“People that don’t know much about MMA are going to take a shot on the dog to cancel out the parlay money,” Kalikas explained. “The casual sports fan that’s starved for action is going to like the high price.”
It’s hard to blame them considering recent events. The dreaded “unstoppable” word was thrown around for both Lesnar and Velasquez before their reigns came to inglorious ends.
The upheaval has given the heavyweight division an inaccurate reputation as the most unstable class in the UFC. The big guys have more power - the sentiment goes - so the results tend to be more random and more dependent on one strike.
But truthfully, the upset rate in the heavyweight division is no greater than the smaller weight classes in the UFC. The surprises have just come at the top, making them more memorable.
The underdog success shouldn’t last past this weekend. Like the Macarena and rat tails, the run by underdogs in heavyweight title fights is a trend born to die.
UFC 146 leans
Junior dos Santos (-500) vs. Frank Mir (+350)
Kalikas wisely suggests checking out the price on dos Santos to win inside the distance on fight day. It’s a nice way to back dos Santos while trimming off a small amount of juice.
Cain Velasquez (-450) vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (+300)
The only interesting question here is whether Silva can last longer than he did against Daniel Cormier, Velasquez’s teammate, last year. Cormier knocked out Silva in 3:56. Give me the under with a motivated, healthy Velasquez.
Roy Nelson (-225) vs. Dave Herman (+175)
Herman claims he barely trained for this fight after taking it on short notice. Nelson claims he emptied his bank account in order to get the best preparation for UFC 146.
Stipe Miocic (-160) vs. Shane del Rosario (+130)
I hate to uncharacteristically take all the chalk, but that’s where the value rests this weekend. Miocic has a higher upside than del Rosario, who hasn’t fought in 14 months after suffering severe injuries when struck by a drunk driver.
Stefan Struve (-120) vs. Lavar Johnson (-110)
Shop to find Struve by submission at +110 or Even money for the best bet on the card.