Betting the Main Event at UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos vs. Fiziev
Updated: Jul 8
Betting on youth: Rafael Fiziev -230
We like Rafael Fiziev to defeat the aged Rafael Dos Anjos Saturday in the UFC Vegas 58 main event. Dos Anjos is roughly 8.5 years older than Fiziev, and is 3-4 in his last seven bouts (and 6-6 in his last dozen). Such journeyman-like numbers are not uncommon among older fighters, and we regard this recent run as an indication that RDA has reached the end of the road as a serious competitor at the highest level.
But while Fiziev has tasted defeat only once in his professional career (specficially, in his UFC debut), "Ataman" is by no means a KO artist. The Kyrgyzstani fighter has stopped his opponent only twice in five appearances in the octagon. Still, Fiziev's high work rate (Fiziev is averaging 1.73 more significant strikes per minute than Dos Anjos) and Dos Anjos' advanced age (the elder Rafael will turn 38 this fall) combine to suggest that if a KO is to occur Saturday in the headline event at the UFC APEX facility, Fiziev is likely to be the man left standing.
Supporting the case for a possible stoppage in Fiziev's favor, we have noted on numerous occasions that, generally speaking, fighters' durability wanes materially after the age of 30.
Reed Kuhn observed that fighters in their 30's go down after a third fewer power shots to the head versus combatants in their 20's, on average. Further, Kuhn found that only about 40% of the effort was needed to knock down fighters in their 40's relative to what 30-something year old fighters endured.
Thus, despite Dos Anjos' solid beard to date, it is most probable that Fiziev will be on the dishing end of any terminal punishment that materializes.
On the other hand, Dos Anjos boasts a notable advantage in the area of grappling. The experienced Brazilian is averaging a tad under two takedowns per 15 minutes of action, versus about half a takedown per three rounds for Fiziev.
However, Fiziev's superlative defense in this area (95%) offers a great offset to Dos Anjos' ability to maneuver his opposition to the mat. Accordingly, we expect most of the action in this fight to unfold from the standing position. This circumstance should present Fiziev with opportunities to test Dos Anjos' likely softening chin.
Accordingly, in deference to Dos Anjos' durability to date, we expect a decision for Fiziev is quite likely, however, we also see a win by KO/TKO as a legitimate possibility.
By our reckoning, Dos Anjos' best shot at the win is rooted in the notion that, as the best wrestler the up-and-comer will have faced, RDA can find success grappling, and ultimately wear Fiziev down. The Action Network's Sean Zerillo recently noted that in three UFC fights that went to the judges' scorecards, Fiziev lost the third round in five of nine judges' accounts. This is to say that the notion that Fiziev becomes increasingly vulnerable later in fights is by no means a stretch (as an aside, Ataman has never gone past three rounds in the octagon). However, we expect the younger fighter's dynamic striking and defense against the shot will prove sufficient to thwart Dos Anjos' intentions.
Consistent with our thesis that Fiziev is most likely to prevail this weekend, the BetMMA.tips database contains 1,265 instances since late-April 2013 of matchups with an age gap between the two participants of more than seven years. The younger fighter prevailed 64% of the time.
When the junior fighter switched between conventional and southpaw stances, as does Fiziev, that win rate improved to 74%, on a record of 104-37. This observation implies a fair value in the ballpark of -285 for Fiziev, and suggests solid value at the current price of around -230.
Further, in situations where the two competitors were both coming off wins, materially younger, switch fighters were 38-8 (83%), implying Fiziev is bettable up to somewhere around -488.
Fiziev opened at -200 last month, according to BestFightOdds.com, but action on the favorite has since inflated the line to the present levels.
We are aligning with history and backing Rafael Fiziev's moneyline, as the 38 year old RDA is exhibiting signs of decline. We suggest inclined bettors jump on the Fiziev bandwagon sooner than later, as the public is apparently aware of the difficulties meaningfully older athletes tend to face in combat sports.