Bethe Correia +135 Vs. Kianzad -155
The early preliminary UFC Fight Island 3 lineup offers at least one opportunity to back another relative UFC newbie against an old lion of the Octagon, one of our favorite situations. In just her third fight for the organization, Pannie Kianzad will face off against Bethe Correia (coincidentally in the third fight of the third installment of action from Yas Island in Abu Dhabi...hopefully three is the magic number).
Kianzad, of Sweden, is 28 year old, while the Brazilian Correia is 37. We have remarked on several occasions that youth generally sports an advantage over age, particularly at extremes. Dillon Huff examined more than 52,000 fights from Sherdog's MMA database, which dates back to 1980. Huff found that 28 year old MMA combatants amassed a 53% win rate over the period featured in this examination, while 37 year old fighters had their arm raised after only 40% of their contests.
More to the point, Huff also observed that youth prevailed 60% of the time when the age difference between fighters is 9 years, as will be the case this Saturday.
Consistent with these conclusions, a Bloody Elbow study published in 2011 found that fighters approximately 7-9 years their oppositions's junior emerged from competition victorious about two times in three.
Part of the greater vulnerability that attends increased age apparently owes to a diminished capacity to absorb punishment later in life. Expert MMA analyst, Reed Kuhn, observed that with increased age fighters are floored with fewer punches. Per the chart below, on average, combatants in their 20s can take 36 head shots before succumbing to gravity. That number slips to 24 in for fighters in their 30s, and drops to about 10 for fighters that with at least four decades of life under their belt.
We contend that by this point in her career, Correia's age-related decline is inevitably and irreversibly on display. Supporting this position, Bethe has collected only two wins in her last seven contests, which span back to 2015. Further the veteran Brazilian has taken better than she has given in each fight over this span, as measured by significant strikes landed minus significant strikes absorbed, shown below.
But in additional to being the fighter with less accumulated wear and tear, Kianzad also boasts a four inch edge in arm reach. Empirical analysis suggests this natural advantage tilts the odds further in the Swede's favor. For instance, one study, based the 1,178 MMA fights hosted in Las Vegas between 2003 and 2010, found that fighters with at least a 3.5" reach advantage won roughly two fights in three.
Kuhn similarly observed higher win rates among fighters with superior reach. Per the graphic that follows, Kuhn observed reach disparities to be most relevant in stand-up fights. Importantly, both Correia and Kianzad are primarily strikers, which is to say we expect Kianzad's longer limbs to matter here.
Finally, we note that, preliminarily anyway, a Correia win is the more popular wager, as 61% of bets on this fight are down on the veteran. However, consistent with our thinking, the money is overwhelmingly coming in behind Kianzad. 94% of dollars wagered are supporting Pannie, per an early account from Draft Kings.
So, while the Correia's age, Kianzad's youth and Pannie's physical stature all leave us comfortable laying the chalk with the newcomer, we recognize that juice of -155 may not be palatable for all bettors. As an alternative, we also like Pannie to win by decision +110 (currently available at 5Dimes).
Supporting this alternate wager, we note that of Kianzad's three UFC contests to date, two ended via decision. Further, Pannie's pre-UFC history suggests her tendency to go the distance is not anomolous. Of 16 documented contests, 12 were decided by the judges. Thus, Kianzad's history does not suggest she wields knockout power.
Further, as four of Correia's last six fights were decided by the scorecards, we see signs that Bethe is still game enough to hang in there with Pannie. A 2019 KO, induced by a Holly Holm head kick is not encouraging though, and we concede that one-shot stoppages are more common as fighters age. However, Pannie is less of a finisher than even Holm, so we hesitate to read too much into this singular event.
Bottom line: We see Correia's age and decline, coupled with Kianzad's youth and reach as sufficient to secure the win for Pannie, in a contest that is likely to remain upright for its duration. We are wagering accordingly. However, bettors that are turned off by Kianzad's -155 moneyline might consider Pannie by decision for plus-money odds. Pannie's lack of power and Correia's historical durability support this alternate take.