Vitor Belfort (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Betting Lines: Do the Odds Truly Measure the Value of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort? Justin Fuller January 8, 2014 Spotlight After UFC 168, even before the dust had settled, it didn’t take long for promotional president Dana White to confirm the identity of the next title challenger for Chris Weidman’s 185-pound title. The fighter would be none other than former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. Early betting odds opened up with Weidman as a -200 favorite over “The Phenom,” who came in as a +160 underdog. For those who are curious about what these numbers mean, the number placed on a favorite fighter is the amount a person would have to bet in order to win $100. So with Weidman, a $200 wager could result in a $300 payout, amounting to a $100 profit. By contrast, the underdog’s number is how much a person stands to win based on a $100 bet. In other words, a $100 bet on Belfort would result in a $260 payout, thus netting $160 profit. These numbers are merely a reflection of how the gambling community sees the outcome of the match. It should be noted that in Weidman’s recent two outings he was the underdog to former middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. Some see betting lines as nothing more than a novelty, whereas others consider them to be a fair representation of each fighter’s winning chance. Of course, who a person favors in this fight largely depends on their country of origin. Chances are if you’re Brazilian then you feel Belfort will continue on his path of destruction in the middleweight ranks, culminating in his coronation as the new UFC champion. Then again, if you’re American, you may have mixed feelings, but betting odds are you favor the champ, Weidman. You also are probably more than aware of Belfort’s use of testosterone replacement therapy, his past transgressions regarding unauthorized performance-enhancing substances and the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s (NSAC) policy of not granting therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) to fighters who have previously failed a drug test. Determining how competitive a match is should not only take into account rankings and which fighter has done enough to deserve a title shot, but if you’re going to put money down on it, you should also take a look back at the recent history of each fighter and how they go into the position in which they presently find themselves. Although Weidman was the not the favorite in his first outing against Silva, there were a number of UFC fighters who felt he had more than a puncher’s chance of winning. Aspects like his wrestling, strength, and ever-improving striking made him a dangerous contender, which he proved to be, despite the controversy of Silva’s antics. Of course, how he found himself in that position was almost a matter of fate. Silva had already convincingly defeated every title challenger placed before him, and Michael Bisping, who had been promised a title shot with one more win, came up short against Belfort. That left only Weidman, who had scored a knockout over then top-ranked (now, No. 7-ranked) Mark Munoz. Very few doubted Weidman would one day fight for the title and possibly even be the champion, but there is no doubt the misfortune of others played a hand in his quick rise to the top, especially after only nine professional fights thus far, with only five in the UFC. One thing that rose as quickly as Weidman’s ranking was his talent. He first made a big name for himself after defeating former title challenger Demian Maia by unanimous decision. He controlled the fight for the majority of the bout, avoided fighting Maia on the ground where Maia has no equal and outstruck the Brazilian. Of course, Maia has never been known as an elite-level striker, and Weidman failed to impressively showcase any striking ability. Despite winning, the bout for the most part was uneventful and easily forgettable. But the “W” he earned over a popular and successful fighter such as Maia earned him another big fight. Weidman next faced Munoz, a heavy-handed wrestler. On paper Munoz appeared the favorite, as his wrestling seemed more than adequate to at least neutralize Weidman’s own abilities and Munoz was thought to be the better striker. This is where we start to see Weidman the fighter become Weidman the contender. He quickly put to shame doubts anyone had and in the second round delivered a brutal knockout which put “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” to sleep. In just six short months, Weidman went from out-pointing a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist to knocking out a NCAA Division I All-American wrestler who had three knockout victories in the UFC. The story behind Belfort’s road to another title shot could go back as far as 1996, but it would be more reasonable to go back to the last time he fought for the 185-pound title in February of 2011, which is the same year in which Weidman made his UFC debut. This was the first time Belfort fought in Las Vegas since he tested positive for elevated testosterone after his first bout with Dan Henderson at Pride 32 in 2006. Belfort was aggressive early, landing some shots that dropped Silva, but he fell victim to a highlight-reel front kick to the face for the knockout loss. Belfort followed up this loss with a first-round knockout of his own over Korean-Japanese judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 133 in August of 2011. This was the last time he fought in the United States. Although Akiyama was not a top-ranked opponent, the performance proved Belfort was not going to be easily dismissed like many of Silva’s other previous contenders, such as Maia, Thales Leites and Patrick Cote. It also maintained his co-main event pay-per-view status at UFC 142 in January of 2012. He made quick work of Anthony Johnson, who was supposed to be making his middleweight debut after having difficulty maintaining his weight at 170 pounds. Unfortunately for Johnson, he missed the 185-pound mark by a large margin. After some deliberation, Belfort agreed to continue with the bout, and it was ruled a 197-pound catchweight fight. Johnson was cut from the promotion and eventually made the permanent move to light heavyweight. Belfort, meanwhile, campaigned for another title shot, which he received, but it was not the one we thought he was going to get. His next title fight was for the 205-pound strap. This was the result of Henderson being injured shortly before his bout with Jon Jones at UFC 151, Chael Sonnen offering to step in on short notice to save the card but Jones refusing the opponent on only 10 days’ notice, and Lyoto Machida not wanting to rematch Jones at UFC 152 with only four weeks’ notice. Belfort was more than willing to do so, and it was a match which had promotional value given that Belfort was only two wins removed from his loss to Silva and is also a former UFC light heavyweight champion himself. Despite Belfort almost securing an armbar against the champ in the first round, the bout went mostly as expected with Jones controlling the fight and using his reach and size to damage the Brazilian on his way to a fourth-round submission victory. After the Jones fight, we begin to see a change in not only Belfort’s success, but the way he fights. No longer was it the aggressive, forward-moving style, but a more composed and collected measure of striking with greater emphasis on his counter timing. Such changes resulted in three head-kick knockouts, with only Bisping making it past the first round. Belfort’s other victims consisted of former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold and MMA legend Henderson. The latter was fought at 205 pounds, as Belfort was somehow convinced he was not risking his No. 1 contender status by fighting outside the middleweight division. Henderson easily agreed to it, as he has never been a fan of cutting weight and knew Belfort would not have a size advantage on him. With each head kick, Belfort worked his way back up the ladder to a title shot. But with each win, controversy brewed, and it was not lost on the general public or other fighters that Belfort was granted a TUE by the UFC in each of those three bouts, all of which took place in Brazil. Despite Dana White’s assurance that the UFC regular tests those fighters who are granted such exemptions throughout their camp, it doesn’t remove the black cloud over each win nor will it prevent it from being factored into where Weidman would prefer to defend his title. With the bout between Weidman and Belfort expected to take place in Las Vegas later this year, the betting lines properly reflect the outcome of the bout if you’re of the opinion that Belfort held an immense advantage in his last three outings due to his TRT usage and that Weidman’s pair of wins over arguably the greatest mixed martial artist of all time were no fluke. After all, Weidman and his camp have not held back their tongues with regard to Belfort’s TRT use and their preference about the location of the bout. Then again, if you are of the belief that TRT does not help you land head kicks, any advantage Belfort may have had in recent outings was nullified by the fact that his bouts did not last long enough to show a difference, and that any advantage he may have had in training camp won’t matter at this point since he’ll likely end the bout with a quick knockout using techniques he has already perfected. If that’s your view, then by all means wager a large sum of money for him to win and you may be rewarded with a bounty equal to your faith in him. Either way it won’t make a difference in the actual outcome of the bout. If betting lines were always right, then there would be a lot more people rich from gambling, not the other way around. So take those odds for what they are, and that is a surface-value novelty to be discussed amongst all the other factors that will play into the build-up and outcome of the bout. As long as the bout is fairly contested and without controversial officiating, fans will either rejoice, be sad or indifferent. Regardless, those who didn’t bet will not look back and remember where the betting lines stood. And that’s the bottom line.