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Betting on Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts is arguably the fastest growing sport in the world over the past decade. With its popularity growth has also come a spike in the number of gamers looking to gamble on the action. Because it is a newer sport, compared to the traditional sport out there, frequent followers of the fighting game can find an edge over oddsmakers which are largely still finding their way in setting odds on the sport. Here are some tips to help you find your way.
Research the Fighters:
This might sound simple and basic, but it is alarming how many people put money down on an event without really knowing much about the participants. They watch a few highlight clips, listen to a couple of uneducated sports jockeys on the radio, and then lay down their money.
If I could burn one thing into your head to understand about mixed martial arts fighting is that styles make fights. When the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), now the predominant mixed martial arts organization in the world, first launched there was a little guy named Royce Gracie beating opponents more than double his size. Gracie came from a long family heritage of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. To the participants of the early UFC events, it was largely an unknown fighting style. It concentrates on submission moves that allow a smaller individual to overcome an opponent much larger or who is unskilled in defending submissions.
Over time, styles have evolved, as have the fighters. The fighters have become much more well-rounded and practice multiple disciplines, hence the term mixed martial arts. However, most fighters have a primary style or discipline that they start out in. Then over time, they learn other styles, but they generally fall back on their strength.
Some prominent examples over the years:
Chuck Liddell: Chuck had an extensive background in striking, including kickboxing and karate. He also had experience in collegiate wrestling with a little bit of Jui-Jitsu training. His success was largely because he had enough of a wrestling background to avoid being taken down to the mat, or to get back to his feet if taken down, and keep the fight standing where he was generally in a dominant position over his opponents.
Tito Ortiz: Tito had a background in wrestling. He was dominant for several years in the UFC by using his great wrestling skills to take his opponents down where he could control them while inflicting punishment. However, he did not have extensive striking skills. When he went up against opponents like Frank Shamrock, who famously defended himself on the ground and wore Tito out before beating him on his feet, or Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture who had excellent wrestling skills themselves and could keep the fight standing, he was outmatched.
Brock Lesnar: Brock was a highly decorated collegiate wrestler and freakishly gifted athlete. He was successful against opponents who he could wrestle to the ground, but when faced with opponents like Cain Valesquez and Alistair Overeem who could outclass him on their feet, the outcomes were much different.
Ronda Rousey: Ronda was running roughshot through the women’s ranks using her world-class Judo skills to takedown and submit her opponents. Judo is not widely practiced and uses much different throws and takedowns than traditional wrestling, which gave her an advantage. That was until she met a fighter in Holly Holm who had sufficient enough takedown defense to keep the fight standing. Holly is a former world boxing champion, so having the fight on their feet gave her the advantage.
These are just a few of numerous examples you can find and study. The thing to remember is that if one fighter has a notable advantage either standing or on the ground over their opponent and possesses the skills to control where the fight takes place, they will hold a significant advantage in the matchup. Look for these sort of mismatches for serious value on bets.
In the example above of Rousey vs. Holm, Rousey was a large betting favorite. She was a favorite of the media and had been getting a lot of hype for a few years. To many it was a shocking result. To more serious followers of the sport who really understood the skills that Holm possessed and how they would matchup with Rousey, there was significant value in laying money on Holm that night.
When studying the fighters you want to understand how their skills matchup against one another. If you can find opponents they shared, that can be a great resource. Just be careful about the conclusions you draw over shared opponents. Just because Fighter A beat Fighter B and Fighter C lost to Fighter B, does not mean Fighter A will beat Fighter C. We call this MMA math. Do not start doing this.
What you want to look for though is themes in the fights. For example, Fighter A and Fighter B both fought Fighter C. In the first fight, Fighter A totally outclassed Fighter C in the standup fighting. However, Fighter B struggled against Fighter C when striking. That is knowledge you can use. Now can Fighter A keep the fight standing against Fighter B where they potentially have an advantage? That is the kind of stuff you want to research and try to understand. Styles make fights.
Stay Away From Heavy Favorites:
In boxing, they say that anything can happen and one punch can end a fight. In mixed martial arts, that is even more true with the fighters using much smaller gloves. There have been some shocking, one-punch knockouts in MMA fighting, and it is much more common than in boxing.
For that reason, stay away from heavy favorites. There is no value there in risking too much money on what the betting line says is a sure thing. Once a favorite starts to reach the -350 mark, it is time to start considering the underdog’s chances in the fight or limiting your wager. At -450, it is probably wise to avoid the favorite completely or perhaps the avoid the fight completely.
Bet the Money Line:
You will find a lot of different betting options for fights, such as being able to lay money on which round the fight will end in, how the fight will end (decision, submission, KO, TKO), or even combinations of how the fight will end AND in which round that finish will happen. Every now and then you can find a good value bet in these plays. You might find that oddsmakers are undervaluing the chances of a fight going the distance based on a matchup you understand very well. For the most part though, these bets are really just sucker bets.
It is hard enough to pick the winners of each fight. Trying to predict a round and how a fight will finish is just much more difficult and risky.
If you stick to picking winners, you will be putting yourself in position to have much more success.
What is the money line? Money lines on fights typically look something like this:
ALEX OLIVEIRA +210
DONALD CERRONE -270
What this line means is that Cerrone is the favorite. You would need to place a winning bet of $270 to win $100. Oliveira is the underdog and pays $210 on a winning bet of $100.
Bet on MMA is one of the most exciting sporting events in the world. There is nothing quite like fight night. Remember that underdogs always have a puncher’s chance. Look for value and look for stylistic mismatches that give you an edge over the oddsmakers.