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2016 UFC Betting Year In Review

2016 was a landmark year for the UFC. The company was sold to WME-IMG for a record $4.2 billion, Conor McGregor became the biggest star in the sport (maybe in all of sports) and we saw an increased interest from fighters in a union.

Of course, it was also a banner year for books, as faves hit at a 63.2 percent rate throughout 2016. However, there were still plenty of times where bettors took it to books as well with underdogs dominating the beginning of the year.

With so much to digest, we decided to take a look back at 2016 from a betting perspective. Below are some of the most interesting stories and notes from UFC bettors from the past 366 days.

Biggest Underdog of the Year: Eric Spicely (+500) Defeats Thiago Santos

Eric Spicely hadn’t exactly looked like a world-beater during his time with the UFC, as he was rather underwhelming during his time in The Ultimate Fighter and lost in the first round to Sam Alvey. On the other side of the Octagon was Thiago Santos. Santos had been knocking out people with ease aside from a short-notice fight against contender Gegard Mousasi.

This fight was supposed to see Santos quickly knock out Spicely and continue to move through the middleweight rankings. However, Spicely and his extensive grappling skills took over the fight quickly once it went to the mat. Ultimately, ‘The Dream Catcher’ forced ‘Marreta’ to tap out within three minutes.

The next biggest underdog was a little more high-profile, as Michael Bisping (+425) toppled Luke Rockhold on short notice to win the middleweight title.

Favorites Sweep UFC Fight Night 102

In the wake of the UFC’s triumphant first event in New York, folks in the Empire State were given an abysmal Fight Night card in Albany. The card was almost entirely forgettable (aside from Francis Ngannou’s submission victory in the co-main event) but it was a landmark event for books, as favorites went a perfect 12-0.

It was the first time all the favorites won on a single card since UFC 177, which only had eight fights. UFC Fight Night 102 tied the all-time high for number of favorites to win on a single card with UFC 170 and UFC 171.

This event actually came right after The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale the week before, which saw favorites go 10-2. If you had bet $100 on every dog across the two events, you would have been down a whopping $1910.

In general, favorites dominated the latter stages of 2016 with the faves going 145-75 across the final 19 events.

Best Fighter To Bet In 2016: Amanda Nunes

There is no doubt that the UFC women’s bantamweight champion has done nothing but shock the world during her rise to fame. Nunes went 3-0 this past year with victories over Valentina Schevchenko, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. The most spectacular aspect of these victories: Nunes was an underdog every time she entered the Octagon.

If you had wagered $100 on Nunes in each of her three bouts in 2016, you would be up $400. Yes, some fighters would have made you more money if you tailed them every fight, but nobody was a more consistent underdog play than Nunes. But, don't expect to be getting that value anymore, as 'The Lioness' showed the world she deserves to be looked at as the best after making an example out of Rousey. 

Championship Turnover

Gold has become increasingly hard to hold onto in the UFC, as seven of the 10 belts ended up on a different waist between the start and end of 2016. And one of the three that didn’t change hands was never defended: Daniel Cormier never put his light heavyweight gold on the line in 2016.

Of those seven title changes, four were won by fighters who closed anywhere between +210 and +425. The lone title challenger to win and close as a favorite was Conor McGregor when he dominated Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.

At the beginning of 2016, Sports Interaction released odds on who would be the holder of each UFC title at the end of the year. Two champions shocked the online book, as Michael Bisping (+15,000) and Amanda Nunes (+25,000) were massive long shots to enter 2017 as title holders. The most shocking, though, could be Cody Garbrandt, as the new bantamweight champion wasn’t even listed by the book.

Opening Odds To Be A UFC Champion By The End of 2016
Weight ClassChampionOdds
HeavyweightStipe Miocic+300
Light HeavyweightDaniel Cormier+185
MiddleweightMichael Bisping+15000
WelterweightTyron Woodley+1300
LightweightConor McGregor+250
FeatherweightJose Aldo+350
BantamweightCody GarbrandtNot Listed
FlyweightDemetrious Johnson-250
Women’s BantamweightAmanda Nunes+25000
Women’s StrawweightJoanna Jedrzeczyk-180