Stephan Bonnar is, as best as can be determined, the biggest underdog in UFC history. The race & sports book at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas opened his UFC 153 opponent, Anderson Silva, as a whopping minus-1100 favorite.
Noted MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa said the price "is so high because it should be that high."
The main event of UFC 153, a three-round bout at light heavyweight at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, is considered such a blowout that the UFC made a commercial making light of the odds in favor of Bonnar.
It's all a big joke, except to Bonnar. He may not win, but don't tell him that. He's not preparing just to earn a paycheck. Winning, and being able to thumb his nose at all who dissed him, is all that is on his mind.
"I enjoy reading the negative tweets [about] how I don't stand a chance," Bonnar said. "Because yeah, I pull it off and those people's jaws are going to drop the widest."
There will be plenty of jaws dropping. UFC contender Patrick Cote, who lost a middleweight title fight to Silva at UFC 90, struggled to find a way Bonnar could win.
In MMA, there are so many ways to win a fight that it's very dangerous to count someone out, but Cote said he has difficulty envisioning how Bonnar could pull it off.
"I can't see anybody beating him," Cote said. "He's been dominating at middleweight for a long time, but he's done the same in the light heavyweight class the couple of times he's fought there. It's just the same.
"You know, I've always said, you can be favored by millions of people, but when the bell rings, it's 50-50. But in this case? I don't think so. Bonnar is tough, and he's a big guy, too. Let's be honest. It's going to be hard. It would be the biggest upset ever in the history of combat sports if Bonnar wins. Anything can happen, but no, I really don't think he has a chance to win."
Despite the thought among most experts that Bonnar has little chance to win, most bettors who are taking the risk are betting the underdog.
That's because of the way the odds work. At the MGM Grand, Bonnar is at plus-750, meaning that a bettor who wagers $100 on Bonnar would win $750 should Bonnar be victorious. In order to win $100 on Silva, though, a bettor would have to lay $1,100.
That scares most bettors off, so they wind up either better the underdog or not betting the fight. Boxer Mike Tyson lost twice as a massive favorite, once at 42-1 to Buster Douglas in 1990 and then at 24-1 to Evander Holyfield in 1996.
Bookies, though, aren't wild about posting odds like that because it creates a lot of liability for them. If a couple of bettors take a shot on the underdog and the underdog comes through, it will make for a bad day.
That is not typically the case in UFC fights, said Jay Rood, the race and sports book director at the MGM Grand. Most of the time, the matches are competitive and so, too, are the odds.
But there are several large favorites at UFC 153. In addition to Silva at minus-1100, Phil Davis is about a 4-1 favorite over Wagner Prado and Glover Texeira is 4-1 over Fabio Maldonado.
"In this sport, it's a little more difficult [to make a fighter a big favorite]," Rood said. "It doesn't typically happen. Three-eight, four dollars, that's a big price on a UFC fight. On this card, Teixeira is almost four dollars; Davis is almost four dollar. There are some big numbers out there.
"Since it is not going to be here, the volume will be considerably lower than what I would like. This is a bad card for a bookmaker, because there are so many big dogs on it and in this sport, moreso than in boxing now, is Bonnar really an 8-1 underdog? Wow, I'll tell you. I don't know. That's a pretty big dog." Rood said. "We'll probably be rooting for Silva" on Saturday because of the large number of bets the MGM will take on Bonnar.
In what is regarded as the biggest upset in UFC history, Matt Serra knocked out Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69 in 2007 to win the welterweight title. St-Pierre opened at around 6-1, Oddessa said, but bettors kept betting him. By the time the fight went off, St-Pierre was a 15-1 favorite.
"Georges opened at minus-600, but it was all money that drove that number so high," Oddessa said. "No one was willing to take a shot on Serra. They kept hammering St-Pierre and the number kept going up and up."
Serra landed that one punch, though, that changed the fight, won him the belt and earned him a place in UFC history.
When Bonnar got the fight against Silva, he said one of the first calls he received was from Serra.
Those were two guys who shared a common link.
"He was where I was and just called to wish me luck and everything," Bonnar said. "But I remember something he said. He went, 'You know, it doesn't suck winning as a huge underdog like that.' And he's right. It definitely wouldn't suck to win this fight."
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