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What is TJ Dillashaw’s place in the Pantheon of MMA upsets?

Where does Dillashaw’s performance last night rank in MMA upset history? Paul Gift shares which betting lines should be used and where Dillashaw ultimately lands.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

What a night, what a fight! To steal from other sports, this is why you play the games. T.J. Dillashaw was amazing. Speed, footwork, precision, endurance; he had it going on. He made me eat my words with my Renan Barao #1 P4P talk, but that's the beauty of our sport. You never truly know what'll happen.

The question now turns to Dillashaw's place in the Pantheon of MMA upsets. The Gold Standard is Matt Serra knocking out Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69 as an enormous underdog, and there was some mention last night that Dillashaw may have tied this feat.

Betting lines come in pairs, a negative number for the favorite and a positive one for the underdog. Saturday night's final betting line had Barao at -910 and Dillashaw at +710. This is the same thing as Barao being as a 9.1-to-1 favorite and Dillashaw a 7.1-to-1 underdog. So which number should we use, the nine or the seven?

It turns out that if you had bet $1 on every underdog in UFC, Strikeforce and WEC history (where we know the betting lines), you would've wagered $2,681 and lost $251.60 for a return on investment (ROI) of -9.38 percent. If you instead had bet on every favorite, you would've wagered $2,681 but lost only $23.90 for an ROI of -0.89 percent (if there was no favorite/underdog, I pretend you flipped a coin to pick one).

If you do the same analysis for the UFC only, you get an ROI of -8.64 percent betting underdogs and -1.14 percent betting favorites. This is because of longshot bias. People don't like betting a lot to win a little. We like betting small and winning huge, so we'd rather bet longshots and underdogs. Sportsbooks know this, so they shift the lines to give us worse numbers on underdogs and slightly better ones on favorites. We're still losing money either way, but we really get hammered on the dogs.

For Dillashaw's place in history, this means we should compare the lines for favorites, since they represent the closest thing to the market's perception of the truth.

Here was your Top 12 heading into last night.


The Gold Standard of Matt Serra over GSP retains the #1 spot. But, at -910, TJ Dillashaw is now #3 biggest MMA and UFC upset of all time (this dataset excludes Bellator). It was an amazing accomplishment and a true privilege to watch.

Fight data provided by FightMetric.