UFC 277: Taking a Side on Pena Vs. Nunes 2
Updated: Jul 26
Backing "The Venezuelan Vixen" to Maintain the Women's Bantamweight Title: Julianna Pena +200
Roughly seven months after submitting Amanda Nunes via rear naked choke to claim the UFC Women's Bantamweight championship, Julianna Peña will face "The Lioness" again in her first title defense. BestFightOdds.com reports Peña closed at odds as high as +700 as the challenger last December. As the defending champion in the UFC 277 headliner, "The Venezuelan Vixen" is still listed as a decided underdog, albeit much less so than in the initial meeting (Peña backers can nab +240 odds at onshore shops such as Bet365).
In the first fight, Peña demonstrated a willingness and ability to stand with Nunes. The Vixen exploited her hand speed advantage to find success counter punching the Brazilian with a frustrating jab, which set up combinations (see below) that stunned Nunes and ultimately opened the door to the submission that resulted in "The Lioness" receiving her first loss since 2014. We think Peña's success is repeatable and we are backing Julianna for the upset win Saturday night.
Validating our fundamental assessment, history suggests a play on Pena is quite attractive at at solidly plus-money odds...
Staff at OddsShark.com have observed empirical evidence of the winner of the first fight's edge in rematch action. From UFC 1 (on November 12, 1993) through August 12, 2019, combatants that prevailed in the first fight are 71-44-3 (62%) in do-overs. Since 2012, this record is 42-19 (69%), including a 14-11 stint when the prior winner is slated as the underdog. While pooches' 56% win rate in rematches pales in comparison to the 78% success ratio for favored fighters facing familiar competition, dogs in this spot have proven vastly more profitable (delivering a 37% return on investment versus a 10% profit to backing fighters that are expected to win).
This same analysis found this advantage persisted in title rematches. Since UFC 1, first fight winners went 25-11 (69%) when a strap was on the line (again, through August 2019), and a more impressive 17-4 (81%) since the summer of 2012.
From a slightly different angle, the BetMMA.tips database contains 85 instances back to August 2013 where challengers were favored in title bouts. Champs won only 44% of these occasions, but delivered a handsome 24% return on investment (given average odds of +170). This same source documents a mere five instances where a belt-holder off a win entered a fight as an underdog to a challenger coming off a loss. The champion emerged victorious four times (for an 80% win rate and a 100% profit).
Of interest, oddsmakers were in disbelief after Chris Weidman ended the great Anderson Silva's 17-fight (and 10 title defenses) in six years win streak to snatch the Middleweight crown in 2006. BetMMA.tips' account has Weidman slated as a +175 dog in the rematch—after closing at +235 for the first clash. All other recorded instances of underdog belt-holders featured women fighters. This observation might imply a systematic bias among oddsmakers, and represent a source of opportunity for our purposes. Ladies are 3-1 from this position, for a 75% win rate and an 81% profit.