UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3
Updated: Mar 19
The Bet: Leon "Rocky" Edwards +195
Leon Edwards first encountered Kamaru Usman in 2015, early in both fighters UFC careers. Usman dramatically outstruck Edwards in the third round of an otherwise close fight and ultimately earned the win by unanimous decision.
These combatants faced off again last August, in Usman's 16th contest under the UFC banner and the seventh defense of his welterweight title (Edwards too was quite seasoned by this point, having notched 14 fights for the promotion coming into this event). The Nigerian's higher work rate translated to dominance, particularly in the the second and fourth rounds of this five-round affair, but the Brit, from the position of +285 underdog, landed a head kick late in the fifth that ended Usman's night and earned Edwards the welterweight belt.
We are backing Leon Edwards to defend his crown in the rubber match between "Rocky" and "The Nigerian Nightmare" Saturday afternoon. Supporting our position, we note that champions off wins have demonstrated a decided edge over challengers off losses, historically. Of 13 such instances in the BetMMA.tips database (which dates back to April 2013), titleholders successfully defended their belts all but twice.
This 85% win rate proved highly statistically significantly different than the 34% probability implied by Edwards' +195 moneyline.
Relatedly, champions with positive momentum that were slated as underdogs are 4-1 facing challengers off a losing effort, for a similar 80% win rate. Importantly, despite the small sample size of this subset of fights, this result too proved statistically significant at better than the 95% confidence level that is commonly regarded by statisticians as the threshold for indicating with high conviction that the observed result is not due to chance.
Separately, writers for OddsShark.com have noted that winners of previous fights have exhibited a notable edge in rematches. Since November 12, 1993, UFC combatants that prevailed in prior matchups have gone 71-44-3 (62%) in do-overs (again, highly statistically significantly different than the probability of success implied by Edwards' moneyline). The record under this circumstance is 42-19 (69%) since 2012, including a 14-11 stint when the winner of the prior meeting is slated as the underdog in the rematch.
While the 56% win rate in rematches for pooches that won last fights pales in comparison to the 78% success ratio for favored fighters facing familiar competition, underdogs in this spot have delivered an extremely compelling 37% return on investment. Also worth noting, the more modest win rate advantage underdogs in this position have displayed in rematches still proved highly statistically significantly different than the roughly one-in-three chance for the "W" bookmakers are giving Edwards.
This same OddsShark analysis found the advantage for winners of previous fights persisted in title rematches. Since UFC 1, first fight winners went 25-11 (69%) when a strap was on the line, and an even more impressive 17-4 (81%) since 2012—both statistically significant.
As such, through a couple of different lenses, history suggests there is a ton of value with the unlikely champ. We are wagering accordingly.