Holm should have waited for Rousey

March 15, 2016 3:05 AM


We now have had over a week for the results of UFC 196 to sink in and for many, the shock to wear off. And though we’ve all seen plenty of upsets take place in both mixed martial arts and boxing through the years, if you happened to be on social media the night of Saturday, March 5.

It was obvious that most fans were in disbelief. What magnified this feeling was the fact the improbable took place on the very same card, and more importantly in back to back bouts.

Just when we were all trying to comprehend the ramifications of Miesha Tate (18-5) being named the new UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion by beating Holy Holm (10-1) in the co-main event, Nate Diaz (20-10) slapped a rear naked choke on Conor McGregor (19-3) and made him tap in the main event. Both Holm and McGregor entered the Octagon as rather significant betting favorites and as is customary in the fight game, sportsbooks would have very much preferred seeing them win.

The betting phenomenon we see for the majority of fights is unlike any other sport where casual bettors almost always back the favorites. Both boxing and mma use a moneyline rather than a point spread, and the market is heavily saturated with mostly recreational bettors’ money.

Therefore, these bettors rather put up a little money to try and win a lot as opposed to doing the opposite, which ultimately has them backing the underdog. This results in bookmakers almost always cheering for the underdog in marquee fights, especially when one fighter is listed as a significant favorite.

For UFC 196, the worst case scenario for sports books was a victory by either Tate or Diaz since both were high profile bouts which had a lot of betting interest. The fact both went on to win ended up being a rewarding result for bettors, and a very costly one for bookmakers.

More importantly though is the effect those two results will have on the UFC landscape.

For starters, Holm could have easily sat back with her newly aquired hardware and awaited a very lucrative rematch against Ronda Rousey. It was set to be one of the most highly anticipated bouts in UFC history and there really wasn’t much upside for Holm to fight Tate. Not that Tate wasn’t worthy of another title shot, but because Rousey had already beaten her rather handedly twice.

Don’t get me wrong, as a fan I can appreciate a champion who is willing to remain active and take on tough fights rather than avoid risk in an attempt to hold on to their title as long as possible. But with the prospect of being a participant in arguably one of the biggest bouts in UFC history, as Holm’s management I would’ve urged her to wait for Rousey.

Now Holm will be forced to wait for the opportunity to reclaim her lost title as the promotion has already gone on record stating Tate’s first defense will be a third bout with Rousey.

An even bigger wrench was thrown into plans of having Conor McGregor continue growing into the sport’s most notable fighter. The perception of invincibility coupled with a persona that was custom made for fame had McGregor on the cusp of becoming the male counterpart to Rousey.

He was taking on many of the top fighters and was beating them in devastating fashion. In fact, McGregor had pretty much cleaned out his weight division at 145 lbs and to challenge himself, decided to move up in weight.

The stage was set for Conor to compete for the 155 lb title and attempt to be the first fighter in UFC history to hold two straps simultaneously. An injury to current lightweight champion Rafael DosAnjos just 10 days before the schedule title fight derailed these plans.

Rather than wait, he agreed to face Nate Diaz who would have a very limited time to prepare. Most agreed the always game Diaz would be a challenge if he had the luxury of a full training camp, but very few expected he’d offer much resistance in only 10 days even at the agreed upon 170 pounds.

That meant Conor would be fighting at a weight that’s 25 pounds heavier than where he won his title, but he’s always been considered a huge featherweight and Diaz a small welterweight.

But like it was for Holm, there really wasn’t much upside for McGregor taking this bout.

It’s ironic how both of them were settling for an opponent rather than competing against the one who was to be their next big challenge. It’s also what makes the fight game so exciting and appealing to fans and bettors alike. Although an overused cliché in sports, “Any given Sunday” is an NFL reference, it holds true in so many others too.

Being a fan, bettor, and having the privilege to cover mixed martial arts like I have, the one thing I can say with 100% certainty is that nobody is unbeatable and we always need to remind ourselves of that whenever it appears a fighter may be. Because just when you think a particular bout is simply a formality, that’s when the improbable happens and social media is a buzz with shock over the result.

Vegas-Runner is a professional bettor/handicapper featured on CNBC, ESPN, FOX, Yahoo, CBS This Morning, The Herd, JT the Brick, & More. Follow VR on Twitter @Greek_Gamblerand at the home of the Animals, Phillygodfather.com. Contact Vegas Runner at VegasRunner@GamingToday.com.

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