UFC 303 Odds: In Title Fight Rematches, History Favors The First Fight’s Victor

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Alex Pereira is the favorite in his light heavyweight title defense against former champ Jiri Prochazka, which headlines UFC 303 on Saturday night in Las Vegas. History suggests there is a good reason for that.

The two fought for the first time less than a year ago, with the 205-pound champion Pereira winning via second-round TKO. He’s a favorite in the rematch, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

According to Michael Carroll, a research analyst with UFCStats.com, there have been 83 title fight rematches in UFC history. Of those, 76 fights resulted in a winner (thereby excluding draws and no-contests). In 48 of those title fight rematches, the winner of the first fight prevailed again in the second, resulting in a win rate of 63.2% for the fighter who scored the initial victory.

And in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, specifically, that trend has also held firm. In 11 title fight rematches, the victor of the first fight won the rematch seven times, for a rate of 63.6%.

Pereira drawing more betting action in UFC 303 main event

According to Jake Girard, the race and sportsbook risk manager for Circa Sports, the edge typically goes to the fighter who won the first bout regardless of how that win came about.

“When Pereira and Prochazka fought the first time, the line was pick’em and Prochazka won the first round on all three scorecards,” Girard said. “The second round, up until Prochazka was (knocked out), was also very competitive. So despite Prochazka winning most of their first fight and a lot of people questioning the stoppage in their first fight, we’ve seen the line shift toward Pereira. Throughout the week, it has moved closer to what that first fight closed at.”

According to Fanatics Sportsbook, Pereira has been the more popular choice for UFC 303 bettors by a hefty margin. That’s true not only for the main event, but also for betting action on the entire UFC 303 fight card.

Fanatics is reporting that 70.4% of the tickets and 81.5% of the handle is on Pereira. In addition, Pereira to win the fight has the most handle for both single bets and parlays on the entire UFC 303 card, the sportsbook reported.

Alex Rella, a senior sports trader at BetMGM Sportsbook, noted that both fighters have fought once since their first meeting, both on the UFC 300 fight card. Prochazka beat fellow 205-pound contender Aleksandar Rakic via second-round TKO after losing the first round on all three judges’ scorecards. Pereira earned a quick knockout win over former champ Jamahal Hill.

Rella said the outcomes of their fights that night and the result of the first fight helped inform the betting line for the rematch.

“Their first fight is definitely relevant when analyzing how this one can play out,” Rella said. “The first round could have gone either way with Pereira winning the striking, but Prochazka scored a nice takedown and controlled everything on the ground. Jiri was then having some really nice moments striking in the second, but Pereira waited for the right moment and countered for the TKO victory.

“That being said, I think the Rakic fight is also important when looking at the flaws in Prochazka’s style. He is very susceptible to leg kicks, as Pereira and Rakic both capitalized on this fact. Jiri can knock out anyone on any night, but I have to go with the world champion kickboxer if they keep the fight standing up.”

Alex Rella – senior sports trader at betmgm

Mixed results for Pereira, Prochazka in rematches

One additional factor that may influence title fight rematch outcomes is how much time passes between fights. Especially at light heavyweight, the loser of the first fight seems to have a better shot at victory when more time elapses between title fights.

Of the four title fights in the division that saw the losing fighter from the first fight win the subsequent rematch, all but one — Mauricio Rua vs. Lyoto Machida — came when the rematch was more than a year after the first fight. And in the outlier case of Rua and Machida, the result of the first fight was a controversial decision.

Then again, each man in Saturday’s main event has his own personal history with rematches.

Prochazka has fought one rematch in his pro career. After being knocked out by Mo Lawal in the Rizin World Grand Prix in 2015, he got his revenge with a knockout win over Lawal nearly four years later.

Pereira has also only fought one rematch in his MMA career, but he followed the opposite pattern. After picking up a TKO victory over former kickboxing rival Israel Adesanya at UFC 281, he suffered a knockout loss to Adesanya in the next fight five months later.

Photo by Associated Press