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UFC Betting: Underdogs Profitable in 2016

McGregor Diaz UFC

It seems as if every few months, even though we shouldn’t be, we’re being shocked by the latest huge upset in the UFC. Years ago, big upsets in the sport seemed rare, with Georges St-Pierre getting run over by Matt Serra being the most common example that comes to mind.

Lately though, results seem much more random and unpredictable with win streaks being railroaded by unlikely contenders. With underdogs hitting at 40.8% in 2016 — up slightly from 2015’s 38.5% mark — and recent wins by Miesha Tate (+240), Nate Diaz (+300) and a guy named Daniel Kelly you’ve probably never heard of (+325, the owner of the year’s biggest upset so far) made me wonder exactly how profitable underdogs have been this year.

The most straight forward approach to finding out is simply to look at the 100 fights that have taken place so far this year, and see where we’d stand if we bet the dog in each fight. So, based on a $100 bet on closing line for every underdog this year, here’s where things stand:

UFC 2016 Underdog Profits
EventUnderdog WinsFavorite WinsProfit Based on $100 Underdog Bets
YEAR-TO-DATE4058$1027.29
UFC Fight Night 8176$465
UFC 19548-$75
UFC on Fox 18*57$145.91
UFC Fight Night 8266$435.24
UFC Fight Night 83310-$535
UFC Fight Night 84211-$750
UFC 19684$1115.23
UFC Fight Night 85**56$225.91

*event featured a draw, **event featured a fight with even odds

Breaking it down by fight card, you would have profited on five of the eight cards so far this year. You would have gotten killed on Fight Night’s 83 and 84, but $1027.29 in profits at roughly the quarter mark of the year is pretty damn good. 

So, what do sportsbooks make of the underdog surge in the UFC? “Sportsbooks have been getting slaughtered by huge underdogs in UFC recently,” says OddsShark’s Sports Analyst Jon Campbell. “Most bettors like to simply take the heavy underdog and hope for the big payout with MMA and boxing. It leaves books in a vulnerable spot and it cost them big in the Rousey and McGregor fights.

“What we might see in the future for major events is they lower the value a little on the underdog depending on how much action a book sees on MMA. So there’s a bigger gap between the price of the favorite and the underdog than what we’ve seen before, but they still have to keep the lines reflective of the matchups. UFC fans are a pretty savvy bunch and you’re not going to be fooling them if a line is off.”

Considering last year’s underdog record and the way this year has started, it appears as if the underdog trend is here to stay. Maybe it's a testament to the UFC's matchmaking, but since handicappers still haven’t figured it out, now is the time to bet the dog, so cash in while you still can.

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