Paul Craig gets insane value at +330 odds for the November 18, 2023 UFC Fight nIght (Allen Vs. Craig)
Paul Craig is incredible value here, and has real opportunity for a win, but luck and cardio will factor into this fight, and despite a better resume of opponents, Paul Craig makes mistakes in fights. That said it’s impossible to take a -355 to -450 moneyline (at time of writing) on Brendan Allen for a fight that is unbelievably closer than it’s positioned as.
It’s slightly less impossible to take a +280 to +330 dog in a fight like this (at the time of writing).
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The history that pushes me to think something is way off in this Allen vs. Craig Fight Night Bout
Jamahal Hill fought Paul Craig in UFC 263 (June 2021) – Paul Craig beat him viciously. Like Brutally. The body can only handle so much before it breaks. If you’re not familiar with that fight it was a brutal, lightning fast traversal to an armbar. It literally disconnected Hill’s arm. Craig had him in what was basically a triangle, and Hill was getting his head bashed in. To add insult to injury, the Referee Abe Vagoda (the ref was actually Al Guinee), took about 10 seconds too long to call the fight. Had it stayed on the feet, it’s unlikely to get out of the first round (Because Hill is incredible). Because it went to the ground it was also unlikely to get out of the first round (because if you can get HIll down, and have the pedigree of Craig it’s probably over).
Now to be fair – this was a very raw and less sophisticated Jamahal Hill than we know now. So, there is a big difference between Hill in June 2021 and today.
An important note: Craig won by TKO in that Hill fight. Not by Submission, despite breaking Hill’s arm badly.
That’s kind of the story with Paul Craig – he’s, by the record, not very impressive, but by resume – he’s very legit.
And yes, he’s awkwardly strategic in picking opponents or ending up in fights. How does one guy get so much brand name talent, and keep coming back even after straightforward losses?
He drew against an over the hill Shogun Rua, he also beat him straight up with a TKO (Rua was 39 at the time, but still no slouch). He faced Johnny Walker basically in his prime – and yes there was a loss, but also, it proved Craig will fight anyone – It was a similar concept when he was fighting Hill in 2021. His losses are still impressive in some ways. He lost to Crute via submission, but again, afraid of no one. In this Allen Matchup, he also has a 1 inch advantage on leg length and on arm reach. Because of the similar styles that inch matters.
Craig offers a lot of upside potential here.
Why the losses mean something for Craig in his current position as the #13 ranked fighter
The loss to Johnny Walker I think comes down to the 6” reach advantage for Walker more than mistakes or skill deficiencies of Craig – remember also, that Craig is nearly 6 years older than Walker too. Craig, again has some value here. And let’s revisit that record for a minute: Craig’s record is right in line with what a lot of champions have attained at that point in their career. And how many more years does Craig have left? I’d argue Craig knows that he has a year or two left, and has the catalyst and urgency to go for it all in 2023 and 2024. He’s hungrier than a lot of much younger, potentially more skilled opponents. He has a window to climb in this time frame.
His loss to Oezdemir was still telling on his ultimate upside – but having two loses back to back works against him in the UFC promotion – despite their undoubted willingness to have a guy willing to fight anyone for a chance to climb up the ranks.
I think Craig showed better against Muniz than Allen. And that factors because of recency.
Oezdemir is arguably a better striker than Brendan Allen, and Craig went 5 with Oezdemir. That matters because the advanced statistics are typically the argument for any fight fan nowadays. And Oezdemir has better standing stats from a striking perspective in my opinion, if even incorporating Allen having a bit better accuracy and Significant Strike Defense (Allen vs. Oezdemir).
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Why the Fight resume may be the game changer here in UFC FIght Night Novembre 18, 2023
I think it’s significant to factor in the fight resume. And I do not think that Allen’s resume is as daring, interesting, or difficult as what Craig has taken on. His trending has been better, but you’d expect that from a 27 year old nearing the apex of his career, versus a 35 year old towards the end of his career. By the way, I DO think that Craig is staring down the possibility of the pit of despair that the UFC throws mid-tier and low-top-tier fighters into, after a series of defeats in a short time frame. They want the younger guy to fight up, not the older guy. Older fighters don’t bode as well for their future promotional efforts.
Brendan Allen’s Resume – Why it’s more important than his recent trends for this fight against Craig
The November 2020 Fight Against Strickland, was against a Strickland that was coming back up, not the Strickland that is fighting in 2023. Strickland handily beat Allen. It wasn’t really close ever.
Blah blah – enter obligatory sarcasm: “the UFC rankings don’t mean anything”. Yep they aren’t great, and they are infinitely malleable at the UFC’s discretion (it seems). But, the rankings matter for the betting lines. And the betting lines matter for this fight. There is massive value at the time of writing for Craig here. A +280 to +330 line for a guy that has a legitimate fight resume, and has both knock out potential and submission capabilities, and has fought the same fighters and done better than his opponent in the past ten months – that’s ridiculous.
The real question in my mind, and why it makes it hard to take an outright tilt and bet on Craig, is that he’s 35, and he doesn’t go the distance very often historically. He fights a 27 year old with real-world experience going five rounds, and winning, he may be a big underdog if for nothing else than his cardio/longevity in actual bouts in the past ten months.
Brendan Allen is a master at picking fights to improve his ranking potential and win probability
I don’t want to downplay anyone’s skills, but I think Brendan Allen is very good at accepting certain matchups, and has done well to make strategic callouts. He called out Dricus Du Plessis – I think because he feels exceptionally well matched to the guy. And I should be transparent here – I think Strickland beats Du Plessis handily. I’m even surprised Dricus is ranked #2.
More on the topic: Allen fought a good stylistic matchup – I think – in Bruno Silva, for the win. I feel the same about Jotko. It was stylistically a good call to fight that fight for Allen. He must poll well according to UFC internal statistics or something, because he’s been “gifted” some excellent opponents of late.
Prefaced with a bit of sarcasm/hyperbole…But where does Allen go even if he wins?
I’m not even going to fanboy here with the way Benoit Saint Denis walks through a guy like Brendan Allen, and yet, that’s probably a very likable fight for UFC if Allen wins, given the huge fight Saint Denis had in UFC 295. OK, maybe I did a little bit there. Oh yeah, I’m stating that a currently unranked lightweight could walk through a #10 middleweight right now! And given the upper end of the division for the middleweights, I could see this fight happening. I just don’t see a ton of upside potential for Allen as a middleweight even if he destroys Craig, which seems unlikely, despite being a ridiculous favorite.
Chris Curtis manhandled Allen in UFC Fight Night *(Aldo vs. Font) and while Curtis is probably a less proven fighter, but a better skilled striker in general than Paul Craig, He was a +270 underdog against Allen in that December 2021 fight. Curtis is ranked lower than Craig (Curtis is #14, Craig is #13, and Allen is #10).
Have I mentioned yet how the rankings make no sense?
How does Jamahal Hill and Chris Curtis Factor into this 2023 fight between Craig and Allen?
Since that fight with Chris Curtis (see below), Allen has realized he doesn’t like getting punched or kicked, or kneed in the face. Follow me here for a bit…
Curtis is no Jamahal Hill. Jamahal has great takedown defense too, just like Curtis, but relies on much better accuracy, and dodges bullets on the feet much better. Whereas Curtis is forced to rely on getting hit. Where Allen is not a stereotypically strong striker even with decent improvements of late
Where am I going with this? Craig beat Hill at a time where Hill’s overall skill set was better than Curtis’ and Hill was MUCH better on the feet than Craig, with exceptional takedown defense. But Allen lost to Curtis when Curtis was on the uptick in his specialty. I think given that type of information, I’d favor Craig here because of the strength of opponents.
Catalysts for Allen and Craig in this fight on November 18 2023
Additionally, I think the trend for the last 18 months for Allen is manipulated a bit by making good fight contract choices. Whereas, Craig just doesn’t care. He’s 35 and his time is now or never. That, in and of itself, is a strong catalyst for him to put it all on the line.
The reason I bring this up is that I think Allen is a smart planner, but not necessarily as good against the “No-Fear” guys. He picks fights that suit him. I wonder if he’s doing the background work to become a better balanced fighter while he picks such advantageous fights? His win streak is more telling of his ability to match himself to fights, more than it is an indication of an unbeatable trendline.
Here’s the rub: If I argue that he’s so good at picking opponents, How can I argue that he is all of a sudden picking a fight he is likely to have a decent chance of losing?
Because I think that the way the favorites are picked is less important than what the fighter brings to the table. I see massive value here for Craig versus Allen. I also think Allen’s trendline betrays the actuality of his ranked position. I see these guys much more evenly matched. And give the upside potential more value for Craig, because of it; given his resume. I say forget about recent form versus opponents because Craig’s recent opponents outclass Allen’s.
All of this is to say exactly what I put in the first paragraph: Paul Craig offers a lot of value here at +280 odds or so. This is a MUCH closer fight than we think, and that is mostly because of good fight management by Allen, and “no-fear” from Craig. The numbers don’t tell the story of this fight. It’s skewed because of age, cardio, and maybe even the UFC knowing they’d rather champion a younger fighter, than one who perennially takes on huge opponents. Being an underdog and losing doesn’t make you famous in the UFC. But being a favorite and winning does. That’s the story of their records independent of each other
Here’s where I completely destroy the entire argument I’ve made all this article until now:
Paul Craig makes poor decisions in fights more often than Bendan Allen does. And he does have poorer cardio in REAL-WORLD fights.
Brendan Allen has every chance to get owned by Paul Craig, but he also is a favorite for legitimate reasons. None of which SHOULD BE his recent fight outcome trend. He is a more cerebral fighter before and during fights. He sees things that Craig typically tried to power through – sometimes ultimately to his undoing, and when he sees tem, he avoids them better than Craig does.
What does the future really hold if Allen wins?
Brendan Allen has improved. Not at the rate of a Benoit, or Jamahal, or any number of recent star-power fighters. I just don’t take his record as seriously, because I think he picks the right fights, which makes me systematically rate him down on the skill levels given the full landscape.
He could surprise me and make a legit run at the title, but he has 5 guys in front of him that walk over him currently. I just don’t see him challenging at the top level. This Craig fight, if Allen were to win, doesn’t prepare him any better to take on those 5+ guys any better than he is on the eve of the Craig fight (November 18, 2023).
So what’s the point of all this rambling?
- Craig has more impetus than Allen does to win this fight.
- Allen is staring down the specter of fighting a much improved Sean Strickland that already wiped the floor with him, as well as 3+ other strikers that dwarf him in talent on the feet, and which possess superhuman takedown defense.
- He is poised to sit at 10-15 ranking for a year, and given that Craig is (arguably mistakenly) ranked lower than him
He didn’t pick this fight as well as he should have.
- If for any reason, Craig can get into his head by mimicking any of the fighting that occurred in Allen’s previous losses, he will have the advantage.
Craig is very good at that, if he doesn’t laser focus on trying to get a triangle – which will be very hard to execute on Allen. So, as long as Craig has a clear head going in and realizes that this fight needs to be fought differently, he probably has more than just value on his side. You think a guy that knows he has MAYBE 2 years left in the Octagon isn’t painfully aware of this point?
Here’s the bottom line: the rankings don’t add up for Allen vs. Craig
Weighing advanced metrics for Allen vs. Craig, the numbers favor Allen a bit AT FIRST GLANCE, but they also discount the opponents fought in the past 2-3 years heavily in favor of Allen, which is a mistake if you are looking for how this fight could play out.
Craig has landed fewer significant strikes on his opponents, but his opponents are MUCH higher caliber than those who faced Allen in the not too distant past. He has legitimate wins against big fighters that, while younger and less skilled/seasoned during many of those wins, were still very, very good fighters.
The advanced metrics tell as little about the potential in this fight as the odds makers do with this lopsided betting line.
So who is going to win this fight, or How do you bet on the Allen Vs. Craig Fight?
Do I think Allen has the advantage? Possibly for a couple reasons (age/cardio/5 round bout experience), but I also don’t think this fight is cut and dry. And there is no world where I would ever take a -355 bet for a guy that has done so well to manipulate his record favorably.
Though, that “fight matching” skill, in and of itself, is impressive, and the fight makers have groomed a true headliner that has surprisingly “middling” skills in a stacked Middleweight division. Ouch. I know – saying Brendan Allen is middling hurts someone’s feelings, but just name 3 guys ranked above him currently, that he comfortably beats. I’ll wait. And NOW you realize how undervalued this fight line is for Paul Craig.
Does Paul Craig have a chance?
If you don’t know, now you know: Paul Craig always has a chance.
Now for Paul Craig, it’s up to him to not forget about everything but a submission, against a guy that is about as good as him at subbing people, despite being unable to sub anyone of the caliber that Craig has. It’s also on Paul to have gone for 15 round sparring sessions for weeks before this fight, because he has to, to survive. He’s nearly 10 years older than Allen, and has very little real-time experience in a legitimate bout to show he can go the distance.
Some fights you just cannot take straight on the betting line – This UFC FIght Night (Craig Vs. Allen) is one of those fights
Because the full betting options are not yet out – thanks to the early nature of this article, I can’t say how I am betting this yet. And, that is the point. I can easily see lines moving, and I would lock in a half unit early for the Craig ML, because of value. (As I go to push this through the website live, I see numbers climbing, to make a bigger divide between betting lines for this fight – so be aware).
If you have the time – we’d love for you to hear what RickHHSports and Andy HHSports have to say about this fight on the UFC Betting Podcast: Pilsners & Prelims
I cannot necessarily see a ton of ways that bet makes the most sense though, so I would stay tuned to see how the other alternative options for betting this fight shake out later in the week (maybe in a day or two).
Because I didn’t do research or have any proven insights into the training camp for Craig here, I think I like the Inside the distance numbers. This is regardless of the fight winner outcome and I think I would slightly lean Allen on that play, but it doesn’t matter because there is zero value on Allen ITD most likely going forward. I state that because I have a feeling that the cardio will be in play here.
I would be pleasantly surprised closer to the fight, if those ITD numbers favor value on Craig. Because it’s likely the bigger win-win for the fight than betting it straight. I imagine right now the odds of this fight ending inside the distance are in the high 80%+ range or so.
This has been a much dismissed UFC card, and I think that it’s not nearly as electric being sandwiched in between UFC 295 which was the best card of the year up until now, and the 296 Card (later on in December), which is possibly even better.
I seriously doubt that this Allen vs. Craig fight will disappoint. And I. Am. Here. For. It.
THIS IS AN ARTICLE WRITTEN BY SDG
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