It’s a bit late with March already being a week old, but here is the recap of February’s MMA action (particularly from a money-making perspective). As usual, the UFC led the way in lined fights. This month they hosted 32 (and a pair more that were cancelled either the day of, or day prior). Bellator had a pair of events that produced 9 lines, while AXS TV promotion Legacy had 7. The European scene was well-represented in February with KSW 30 (Poland), M-1 Challenge 55 (Russia), and Cage 29 (Finland) combining to bring us 21 lined bouts, even if the average North American fan couldn’t name more than a handful of fighters on those cards. Rounding out the month were WSOF 18 (4 lines and 1 cancelled bout), RFA 23 (4 lines), and Invicta FC 11 (4 lines). All told, there were 81 bouts available for MMA bettors at 5Dimes Sportsbook during the month. That’s quite the haul, and presents some solid opportunities for those willing to do their research. In the UFC, February was the month of the underdog. It was one of the rare occasions where favorites actually posted a losing record for the entire month, going just 14-17 (the 32nd bout of the month, Kid Yamamoto vs. Roman Salazar, ended in a no contest). Of course this was in large part to the massive night underdogs had at UFC Fight Night 61 in Brazil, where a record 10 upsets took place on a single card. At some point in the year, favorites will go on an extended run (many believe it could start with UFC 185 next weekend) to return these numbers to their norms. It wasn’t just that underdogs won in the UFC this month though. There were some rather large underdogs that cashed, including Frankie Saenz (+725), Matt Dwyer (+365), Adriano Martins (+340), and Sam Alvey (+280), who all find themselves amongst the statistically largest upsets of the year in the UFC. Outside of the UFC is was business as usual, however. Those remaining 49 fights saw 32 favorites emerge victorious, 16 underdogs win, and 1 bout end in a draw, which is in line with historical averages. See the table below for results by promotion. There were some large upsets amongst those 16 underdog wins. Kleber Kloike Erbst (+435) is currently the third largest upset this year, while Gabriel Checco (+265 at RFA 23), Dave Burrow (+242 at Legacy FC 38), and Jarjis Danho (+235 at Cage 29) all cashed as decently-sized dogs as well.
Looking back to last years numbers as a point of comparison, RFA continues to be home to a high percentage of upsets while WSOF almost exclusively sees favorites win. Due to a dearth of numbers, it’s hard to cast any sort of judgement on Invicta or any of the European promotions, so it will be interesting to see how those bouts play out should lines appear more regularly. In terms of betting totals (only offered on UFC, Bellator, and WSOF bouts), the over was good on 27 occasions, with the fight ending under 17 times. In January, those numbers were 28 and 18, respectively, so there seems to be an early consistency to how bouts will finish. 26 of those 44 totals were set at 2.5 rounds, with 16 going over and 10 ending early. The remaining 18 were set at 1.5, and 11 of those made it past 7.5 minutes, with only 7 finishing prior to their allotted time. Until a bit more number-crunching is done, it remains unclear where the value truly lies in totals, but the one trend I did note back in January (a standard 1 unit bet on all O1.5 lines, which netted 2.1U in January) would have made an additional 0.73U in February. Another month or two would be required before calling it a worthwhile trend to use, but there certainly seems to be potential there. Some of the biggest highlights during the month were Ronda Rousey’s record-setting win over Cat Zingano, and Ben Henderson’s impressive jump to the welterweight division which saw him dispatch Brandon Thatch. Aside from those main events, highlights during the month including Matt Dwyer’s superman punch KO of William Macario, Sam Alvey finishing his fight against Cezar Ferreira with the first combination he threw, and a stretch during the middle of UFC 184 which saw five consecutive impressive finishes by Tim Means, Roan Carneiro, Tony Ferguson, Alan Jouban, and Jake Ellenberger. Outside of the UFC, Terrion Ware and Joe Murphy put on what will surely be one of the forgotten gems of 2015, as their RFA 23 main event was the type of fight that just got better and better until the final bell. Alexander Shlemenko spun his way to another finish, this time catching Melvin Manhoef with his whirling dervish act. On the Bellator 134 undercard, Tamdan McCrory continued to make his return to MMA successful with a submission over black belt Jason Butcher. Alexa Grasso impressed everyone in a highly entertaining bout at Invicta 11. It won’t be long before the Mexican 115lber finds herself in the UFC, and she has the potential to be one of the more popular fighters in her division. The worst of month goes to Legacy FC 39 referee Jon Schorle (and really, are we surprised by this?). Schorle missed an obvious low blow that Leonardo Leite landed on Larry Crowe which ended up finishing the fight, as Crowe dropped to his knees and Leite landed several punches to put him away. If you’re unaware of Schorle’s extended history of incompetence inside the cage (and ring), here’s a bit of light reading for you: Strikeforce ‘Houston’ Results: Just How Bad Is Referee Jon Schorle? Officiating & Sunlight’s Disinfecting Properties Schorle wasn’t alone in his officiating gaffes however, as Jerin Valel tossed his name into the hat on a couple of occasions, most notably not recognizing that Mark Munoz was unconscious for an extended period of time before stepping in to stop his bout with Roan Carneiro. On a more positive note, there were some prospects outside of the UFC who put on impressive performances, and they all came on February 21st. BAMMA 18 saw Frenchman Tom Duquesnoy (10-1) and Brit Mike Grundy (3-0) pick up finishes. The now 21-year-old Duquesnoy has shown well-rounded skills and an ability to finish fights from numerous positions, with his only loss coming to UFC fighter Makwan Amirkhani as a 19-year-old with just four pro fights. Grundy has picked up all three of his victories with Brabo chokes thus far, so hopefully he can face a test to see how the rest of his game looks. KSW 30 saw a pair of Polish prospects who really should be making their UFC debuts next month when the Octagon makes its first foray into Poland. They won’t as that card is already set, but both Borys Mankowski (25) and Mateusz Gamrot (24) are skilled young fighters who could find success in the UFC’s 170 and 155lb divisions right now. Coming up for the rest of March are at least seven events which should have betting lines posted. Outside of the obvious fights and fighters to watch, Adriano Moraes defending his ONE FC flyweight belt on March 13th is worth tuning in for (or catching a replay of), Titan FC 33 features four title bouts, and the winner of Legacy FC 40’s heavyweight title main event will likely find themselves in the Octagon shortly thereafter. On the final weekend of the month, American fans will get a chance to watch a fighter who is well past his prime, but historically one of the most entertaining fighters ever, Hideo Tokoro makes just his second appearance on American soil, taking on L.C. Davis in a Spike.com preliminary bout.