The Odds Are Good, But the Goods Are Odd

Han Solo despised being told the odds. But that was a long time ago…. Today’s sports fans are constantly bombarded with information and data, even at a very simple and straightforward sport like MMA. As any game develops, the metrics that quantify it and the statistics that report it all evolve and advance. But there’s one set of numbers which are omnipresent from the beginning of almost any game, in the rear alley to the big leagues: the gambling odds.
In MMA, the Tale of the Tape summarizes the simple physique of each fighter, while their recordings outline their performance history within the game. Nonetheless, it’s the gambling line that is the most immediate and direct hint to what’s about to happen when the cage door shuts on two fighters. So let’s take a closer look at exactly what the odds can tell us about MMA, matchmaking, and upsets. Hey Han Solo, “earmuffs.”
Putting the Extreme In an educational sense, betting lines are basically the market cost for a certain event or outcome. These prices can move based on gambling activity leading up to the event. And when a UFC fight starts, that gambling line is the people final guess at the likelihood of each fighter winning, with roughly half of bettors picking each side of this line. Many experts make bold and confident predictions about fights, and they’re all wrong a good portion of the time. But what about the chances? How do we tell if they’re right? And what do we learn from looking at them in aggregate?
The fact is that just a small section of fights are equally matched according to odds makers. So called”Pick’Em” struggles composed just 12% of matchups in the UFC since 2007, with the remainder of conflicts having a clear favorite and”underdog.” UFC President Dana White mentions these gambling lines to help build the story around matchups, frequently to point out why a specific fighter may be a”dog” White’s right to perform up that possibility, because upsets occur in roughly 30% of fights where there is a definite favorite and underdog. So next time you look at a battle card expecting no surprises, just don’t forget that on average there’ll be two or three upsets on any given night.
What Do Chances Makers Know?
In a macro sense, cage fighting is inherently hard to forecast for many different factors. The young sport is competed by individuals, and there are no teammates at the cage to pick up slack or help cover mistakes. Individual opponents only fight only minutes per excursion, also, if they are lucky, only a few times per year. And let’s not forget the raw and primal forces at work in the cage, in which one strike or error of position can finish the fight in seconds.
The volatility of the factors means there’s absolutely no such thing as a guaranteed win when you are allowing one trained competitor unmitigated accessibility to do violence on another. The game is completely dynamic, often intense, and with just a few round breaks to reset the action. These are the reasons we watch and love the game: it’s fast, angry, and anything can happen. It is the polar opposite of this true statistician’s game, baseball.

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