6 MMA Betting Tips, Tricks, Pitfalls and StrategiesMixed martial arts (MMA) is a sport which dates clear back to ancient Greece, but only over recent years has it become a global phenomenon. Recently we have posted a couple of articles covering MMA betting. Start here for a crash course which includes a rundown of betting odds and types of bets.
MMA presents some unique opportunities to the prudent punter who is willing to do his or her homework. Unlike with team sports, there are not a ton of different players and personnel pulling your attention in dozens of different directions. You have just two fighters to analyze, which gives you an opportunity to conduct in-depth research and really look at an upcoming fight from every possible angle.
In this article, I am going to give you some additional tips, tricks and guidance for betting profitably on mixed martial arts!
1. Know what statistics to use.
As with any sport, it helps to take statistics into account when you are handicapping fighters.
MMA did not become popular until the 1990s, so you will not find a tremendous amount of statistical data out there (as you would for boxing). While this poses some challenges for you as a bettor, the good news is that bookmakers also are stuck in the same boat you are. So that means that you can take advantage of that to predict fights as well as a lot of major bookies—or better. The result can be some excellent values and some high-paying wins.
- Here are the statistics I suggest you pay attention to while you are conducting your analysis:
- Basic physical information about the fighters: height, age, and weight. Pay attention to reach as well.
- The recent and historical performance of each of the fighters. You should pay attention mostly to the past two or three fights.
- Number of recent fights. Fighters who have been in the cage more often lately may be more fatigued, but they also may be more prepared. They are also easier to predict.
- The stance of each fighter.
- Average Takedowns and Submissions.
- Accuracy of Takedowns.
- Striking and Takedown Defense.
- Accuracy of Striking and Strikes Landed Per Minute.
- Strike Absorption.
You may find as you start analyzing MMA fighters that there are other statistics which are helpful to you as well.
With these statistics, you not only can guess who is likely to win an upcoming fight, but you also may be able to guess how the action will unfold and how they will win. You can then place prop bets like Method of Victory and win big.
2. Do not ignore conditioning.
How important conditioning is for any specific fight is going to depend on a few other factors—namely how quickly each fighter tends to engage and how long their fights tend to last.
Fighters who typically finish their opponents with a knockout early on in a match are not necessarily going to need the conditioning it takes to hold up to round after round. Then again, that may not be the case if they are going up against an opponent who is going to challenge them to fight and win in a different way.
Mental conditioning matters too. Some fighters may have the physical conditioning to last through a number of rounds in a fight, but they may be subject to mental fatigue if a fight extends past a certain duration.
A great example would be Ronda Rousey, who was viciously routed by Holly Holm in 2015 and never recovered. Rousey was used to finishing off her opponents in a matter of seconds, but Holm was not willing to engage her as directly as previous opponents. As a result, Rousey lost her nerve. She simply did not have the mental toughness to last outside her brief window of comfort.
So when you are analyzing a pair of fighters, ask yourself whether they have the physical and psychological endurance to last if the fight is likely to carry on for some time.
3. Pay attention to a fighter’s personality—but don’t let it throw off your judgment.
Personality is one of the most complex elements which plays into MMA.
A fighter’s personality can impact his or her tactics in the cage. One fighter with a particularly aggressive personality may take a more aggressive approach while fighting. Another who is more cautious and reserved may choose a strategy which plays to that personality.
How can you learn about a fighter’s personality? Watch how they behave in training camp, what they say (or do not say) to the press before and after fights, and what they say to and about their opponents.
One thing you want to pay special attention to is confidence. Ideally, a fighter should be confident going into a match, but not too confident. Overconfidence can be just as dangerous as under-confidence.
Trying to figure out how confident a fighter is can be supremely challenging, since MMA fighters are encouraged to project an over-the-top image of themselves. As a result, you may sometimes see fighters showboating who really are not overconfident—and sometimes may even be completely terrified of an upcoming match.
Likewise, you may also encounter fighters who are quiet and restrained compared to the showboats, but who actually are far more confident (and competent).
4. Be cautious when superstars and showboats are involved in a fight.
That brings me to the next pointer—you should be very cautious if you are betting on a fight where a showboat or superstar is involved.
The two terms are not necessarily interchangeable. A showboat is simply a showoff—he or she may not be a superstar. And a superstar certainly can be (and often is) a showboat, but not every time.
In MMA culture, showboating is a big deal. Both the press and the betting public are attracted to fighters with reckless, over-the-top personalities. They create drama, which makes them entertaining. As a result, they will generally get the most publicity, and may also garner a significant amount of wagers from the public.
But traits like recklessness and aggression do not necessarily do anything to help a fighter overcome his or her opponent. They can—but only if they are kept within reasonable bounds. In many cases however, they are actually counterproductive. Reckless aggression has caused many a fighter to charge right into a knockout and end up on the floor of the cage within seconds of starting a fight.
With both showboats and superstars, there is an additional danger as well. Regardless of the reality of what goes on in the cage, the judges may be predisposed to accord them special treatment.
This means that a superstar or showboat fighter might break a rule which should cost them a fight, but a judge may decide to simply look the other way.
And that brings me to the next thing you should be aware of when you are wagering on MMA—corrupt judges.
5. Watch out for biased or incompetent judges.
In recent years, there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding judges in MMA who are biased or incompetent.
Corruption is common in MMA, just as it is in boxing—if not more so. Why? Part of it is the same as it is with any sport; there are always going to be conflicts of interest, and anyone can make a mistake. But MMA in particular may attract corrupt judges because of its culture. All that showboating, trash-talking, and soap opera drama boosts ratings, and judges are aware of that.
Promoters are aware of it too. As a result, they may pressure judges to make calls which favor showboats and superstars—even when those judgments are unfair or flat-out wrong.
Judges may also be susceptible to pressure from the crowd, which can lend a home advantage to one fighter or another.
And as in other sports, judges are predisposed to favor incumbent champions. This sometimes means they will refuse to award points to the underdog, even when they are well-deserved. Unless the underdog does something which completely blows everyone’s minds, it may just be ignored.
For this reason, you will not only want to research MMA fighters, but if you can, look up the records of the judges too.
Based on what you find out, ask yourself if there is likely to be a significant bias in the judgments. If you have an underdog going against a showboat who is popular with the promoters, and you know that there is a corrupt judge overseeing the match, there is a very good chance that the fight will be heavily weighed in the showboat’s favor. So even if you suspect that the underdog has a good chance at winning, it still may not be the smart money. Bad judgments could completely throw off the outcome.
6. Pay attention to what goes on in training camp.
One more thing you can do while you are evaluating MMA fighters is keep an eye on their training camp activities.
This gives you a chance to pick up some qualitative information to provide context to the statistics you are researching.
Here are some questions to ask while you are reading up on training camp performance:
- Is the fighter in question winning most of his matches in training camp?
How is his conditioning?
- Is he focused on his training and committed to his success, or is he having a hard time concentrating?
- Is he getting along well with his instructors?
- How is he getting on with his opponents? Are his fights friendly, or are they fraught with hostility?
- Is outside drama interfering with training camp? Does he show up alert and enthusiastic, or does he arrive totally wasted from partying the night before, complaining about his relationship problems or his annoyances with the press?
Conclusion: Like MMA Fighters, You Are Most Likely to Win If You Stay Focused
MMA is sport where noise, bright lights, and distractions abound. Between aggressive showboating champions, press hype, and frequently ridiculous drama between fighters, it is easy to get swept up in all the theatrics. But if you let that happen, you will lose sight of what really matters.
Fighters in MMA are subject to these same distractions. But it is the ones who are able to stay focused, steady, and confident who are able to prevail, not those who talk the most trash or who showcase the most aggressive, flamboyant fighting styles.
Do your research on statistics and training camp, account for the role of promoters, judges, and the press, and learn what you can about the personalities and fighting styles of the combatants. Figure out which fighter is most likely to win based on conditioning, style, personality and skill, and if you can, try and figure out how it will happen. The more closely you follow MMA and the more dedicated you are to your handicapping, the easier it will be for you to see through the hype and identify the winners.
In fact, you may very well become better at handicapping MMA than your bookmaker. Just imagine how much money you can make successfully backing the underdog or taking prop bets on Method of Victory or Double Chance where you guess precisely how a fighter will win. Over time, betting on MMA can turn into a steady source of income!