UFC 279 betting: Too many unknowns after wild backstage brawl at presser

LAS VEGAS — Betting on fights is hard enough when you have all of the facts at your disposal. Even when you think know the fighters, understand the how the styles mesh and have access to all the statistics, it’s still extremely difficult to turn a profit betting MMA.

But add in a huge element of uncertainty and only a fool would make more than a friendly wager on the fights.

And that’s how I’m looking at the wagering opportunities in the top three fights on the bill at UFC 279 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. After a huge backstage brawl forced the cancellation of Thursday’s news conference, there are too many unknowns to knowledgeably bet on the Nate Diaz-Khamzat Chimaev fight or either the Kevin Holland-Daniel Rodriguez fight or the Tony Ferguson-Li Jingliang fight.

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UFC president Dana White told reporters no injuries were sustained. But fighters are very reticent to talk about injuries before the fight, and so much was happening so fast backstage that White couldn’t be sure of all the facts.

What if a fighter broke a hand, or had a much smaller injury like a twisted knee? They don’t get paid if they don’t fight and you can be certain that these fighters are going to keep mum and fight no matter what.

I have no evidence that it happened, but hearing White describe what occurred and having seen many of these incidents over the years, it’s easy to imagine something could have occurred to leave one, or more, of them in a less-than-perfect way.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 08: (L-R) Opponents Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez face off during the UFC 279 press conference at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 08, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Chimaev is now down to a -1000 favorite at BetMGM in the main event. But that means that in order to make a $100 profit, a bettor would have to risk $1,000. And if you aren’t completely sold that Chimaev escaped the brawl, skirmish or disagreement (whatever you want to call it) unscathed, how could you wager significant money on him?

For Diaz to win the fight, everything was going to have to go perfectly for him. But if he twisted a knee or rolled an ankle, would you be confident in him as the biggest underdog on the card in pulling the upset.

The same is true of Ferguson-Jingliang and Holland-Rodriguez.

In the main event, I like the fight ending in the second round at +275. I won’t play that now in light of the brawl.

I liked Ferguson as a +240 underdog to end his losing streak and defeat Jingliang, but I’ll now pass that.

I was going to bet on Holland at -200 and the fight going the distance at +130, but those are out the window now.

Sometimes the smartest play is no play. And when you’re confronted with uncertainty like this, the wise move may be to save the money you planned to bet on this show and add it to another card’s bankroll.

The one fight I like is Norma Dumont to defeat Danyelle Wolf by decision at -120 on the preliminary card. I have a slight lean to Johnny Walker as a +165 underdog play to defeat Ion Cutelaba, who is a -200 favorite.

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