(Have a nice trip, see you this summer. Photo courtesy of MMAFighting.com)
Props to BloodyElbow for tipping us off on the early betting lines for UFC 118 (August 29th, Boston), in which former champ BJ Penn has been pegged as a minus-365 favorite over new champ Frankie Edgar, while "The Answer" is still a sizable underdog at plus-285. Going into their first fight at UFC 112, the line was -675/+552 in Penn’s favor, meaning that Edgar’s chances have been upgraded from "snowball’s chance in hell" to "snowball’s chance in Phoenix."
We haven’t seen a champion come in as such a significant underdog since Serra vs. St. Pierre II. The question is: Is it justified? Oddsmakers are masters of tapping into public sentiment about a matchup, and preying on bettors’ emotions. Basically, they want you to put your money on Edgar with the hopes that you’ll triple your investment, so that they can collect it all when the Old BJ shows up and cleans house. But when the betting line starts to drift too far away from reality, they run the risk of getting burned.
Obviously Penn should be the favorite in the rematch — he’s BJ Penn, for God’s sake, and may not have been completely healthy last month. Still, would you call his loss a fluke, in the "could never possibly happen again" sense? Does Penn really deserve to be more than a 3-1 favorite at this point? Edgar’s win wasn’t like Matt Serra catching GSP with a punch that stole his equilibrium in the first round; he hung in and scored points for all 25 minutes. Think of the boost in confidence that must have given him. Before UFC 112, Frankie thought he could beat BJ Penn. Now, he knows he can. His gameplan worked. Penn may very well steamroll Edgar in Boston, but he’ll have to be a lot sharper to do it.
If you’re the betting type and feel like Frankie Edgar can shock the world twice, get in on this one as soon as you can, because the line will only shrink down once every UFC fan in Jersey puts down their shore house payment on the scrappy kid from Toms River. Personally, I’m going to skip this one and get rich putting my life savings on James Toney…