How to Bet on the UFC – Guide to Betting on MMA & MMA Betting Strategies

<p>AP Photos</p>

AP Photos

Primal instincts permeate the Octagon, urging UFC combatants brave enough to step into it to impose their skillful will on opponents. Which is just as daunting is betting on MMA. This article will help clear up some of your questions about betting on UFC fights.

Which Sportsbooks Accept UFC Betting?

The UFC has distanced itself from the dark days of John McCain infamously declaring it “human cockfighting.” Nobody needs to voyage to underground sports betting speakeasies to bet on perfectly professional fights.

Rather than watching their backs, bettors can confidently glance online at most major sportsbooks to join the action. Well-established contenders include DraftKings (which also offers daily fantasy MMA), FanDuel, Caesars and BetMGM.

UFC Betting Basics

The most common wager placed on UFC bets is picking who is going to win. Every contest pits two fighters of the same sex against each other. Weight limits hinder extreme size advantages.

Here are the UFC weight classes / divisions:

  • Heavyweight (265-pound maximum)
  • Light heavyweight (205 pounds)
  • Middleweight (185 pounds)
  • Welterweight (170 pounds)
  • Lightweight (155 pounds)
  • Featherweight (145 pounds)
  • Bantamweight (135 pounds)
  • Flyweight (125 pounds)
  • Strawweight (115 pounds) 

Men compete in every division except strawweight. Women compete in the featherweight, bantamweight, flyweight and strawweight divisions.

Reading UFC Betting Odds

Generally speaking (-) will delegate the favorite in the matchup and (+) will delegate the underdog.

The further away from 100 you get, the more set as a favorite or a dog the fighter is. For example:

In the top image, Piera Rodriquez is the favorite at -125. However, Kay Hansen is not that far behind at +105. This match really could go either way.

In the bottom image, Ian Garry is a MASSIVE favorite at -365. While a match can always go either way, Garry winning is the most likely projected outcome based on these odds.

Types Of Bets

Most sportsbooks accept bets on the method of finish. Knockouts and technical knockouts group together. A knockout is self-explanatory — the fighter is knocked unconscious.

A TKO behaves similarly, the key difference being the losing fighter is conscious. A TKO mainly occurs when a fighter can no longer apply intelligent defense at the discretion of the referee.

The referee also rewards the victorious fighter with a TKO via doctor’s stoppage from a legal blow (usually as the result of a bad cut/laceration that causes enough blood to compromise a fighter’s vision to hazardous levels), as well as a corner’s stoppage (throwing in the towel) or a fight-stopping injury caused by a legal strike. 

Submissions separate MMA from other sports and occasionally bones from bodies. A submission victory constitutes a grappling hold that forces a fighter to tap rhythmically or go unconscious.  Verbal submissions blur the line between knockout and submission. A fighter tapping to strikes, or verbally indicating to the referee they cannot continue or is compromised concludes the fight by verbal submission.

Arguably the greatest mixed martial arts fighter, George St-Pierre’s upset loss to Matt Serra serves as a notable example of submission. Legendary Pride Grand Prix Champion Mirko Cro Cop’s loss to former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos exemplifies alerting the referee of injury.

The UFC scored both these fights a technical knockout. Some sportsbooks dissent with a submission ruling. This subjective occurrence is very rare, as most matchups either go to a decision or necessitate intervention to protect fighters from themselves. 

Major sportsbooks feature the option to bet on the round of finish, typically parlayed with the victor. Most UFC contests endure three rounds. All UFC title fights and most main events last five rounds. Matchmaking modifies the rounds for special occasions, though never for title fights. 

If neither fighter finishes the opponent in the allotted time, three judges’ scorecards determine the outcome. Athletic commissions delegate judges who score mixed martial arts fights based on the 10-point must system. This means that 10 points must be awarded to the winner of the round and nine points or less must be awarded to the loser (except for an even round, which is scored 10-10).

OddsJam will simplify the complexity of MMA judging criteria in future content. For now, know that the fighter with a higher score wins the decision, but there are generally two ways to tie via decision. A split draw occurs when two judges scored the fight in favor of opposite fighters, while the third judge scored a draw.

Two judges scoring the fight a draw triggers a majority draw. Chris Gutierrez vs. Cody Durden created the first and only unanimous draw in UFC history. Some sportsbooks offer draws as a bettable outcome. 

UFC Prop Bets

MMA prop bets center around strikes and finishes. One of the most popular prop bet questions asks if the fight will go the distance. Bettors encounter this situation when a sportsbook places an over/under on if a fight will conclude without an aforementioned finish. 

The benefit to this prop bet is that, unlike most other MMA-related bets, the winning condition stays general and isn’t attached to a particular round or fighter. The drawback lies in the ability of either fighter to finish the fight within 15 minutes, meaning both fighters can spoil success.

Some sportsbooks implement significant strikes as another prop bet outlet. The subjective term refers to strikes that cause apparent damage. Connecting blows thrown with tangible force simplifies the complications. An over/under on significant strikes landed acts as the gateway to greenbacks here. 

UFC Betting Strategies: What To Do

Go Line Shopping

Lines swing in MMA betting as heavy as the haymakers that win and lose the money. Oddsmakers agree on favorites most of the time, but constantly vary on details — such as the degree of favoritism or prop bets offered.

The best bettors capitalize on odds from multiple sportsbooks to clinch the best opportunities for profitability. More books = more money!

Value Reach 

Reach isn’t the end-all and be-all, but it can certainly end otherwise close contests. Either way, it’s always a valuable, natural tool for those who have the advantage and demonstrate a continuous ability to weaponize it. The ability to hit from a distance the opponent cannot reciprocate from without maneuvering to get inside proves to be a crucial asset in fighting.

Shorter fighters expend energy covering distance, particularly those without the tremendous grappling pedigree of someone like Daniel Cormier, or the lightning speed of Mike Tyson for a famed boxing example. Most current UFC champions place in at least the upper-third of the division’s percentile in reach. 

Another reason other than striking is that long limbs act as additional leverage for certain submissions and can help keep fighters upright. Middleweight king Israel Adesanya lacks grappling credentials, only recently becoming a purple belt and spending his pre-MMA career pursuing a decorated kickboxing career.

His division-leading 80-inch wingspan, supplemented by a 44.5-inch leg reach, compensates by giving Adesanya natural levers to help him quickly get up and avoid getting his long legs crossed into a perilous position in the heat of takedown attempts and ensuing ground scrambles.

Accept That Size Matters

On the simplest level, force equals mass times acceleration. The heavier the weight, the heavier the blows and impact when they connect, in addition to grappling pressure/strength. Data substantiates this generalized statement that has held true since schoolyard scuffles.

The following are the finish rates (percentage of all fights in UFC history that ended in knockout or submission) for every male division in the UFC:

  • Heavyweight: 72.5%
  • Light heavyweight: 62%
  • Middleweight: 58.4%
  • Welterweight: 51.5%
  • Lightweight: 50.4%
  • Featherweight: 42.7%
  • Bantamweight: 48.9%
  • Flyweight: 41.8%

Notice the stark difference between heavyweight’s finish rate against other divisions. Betting on a heavyweight finish (particularly a knockout, since nearly 50% of all heavyweight fights in history ended in one) makes a simple, sound strategy in the long run.

Even though heavyweights absorb the most damage, the human body can only take a finite amount and one mistake carries the greatest consequences since the weight limit is 265 pounds — 60 pounds more than the next-highest division. On the other, much lighter hand, no division below welterweight has a knockout percentage greater than 30%. 

Size impacts grappling as well. Consider Adesanya’s sole loss to Jan Blachowicz. Adesanya’s freakish range at his size puzzles middleweights, but loses luster at the division 20 pounds heavier.

At light heavyweight, the lanky frame Adesanya’s long limbs attach to gets exposed to high-level fighters competent and resilient enough to play Adesanya’s difficult game of advanced traps, feints and kicks..

Adesanya flaunted an impressive takedown defense percentage of 86% heading into that fight. Defense wasn’t on his side in the ill-fated light heavyweight debut. Adesanya failed to defend 60% of the considerably heavier Blachowicz’s takedowns and surrender more than 7 minutes of control time during the fight.

Size carries a few potentially dangerous drawbacks as well. Muscles require oxygen. As a result, most fighters resembling bodybuilders (ie: Yoel Romero or Alistair Overeem) fight in bursts and tend to tire faster, leaving them susceptible to unanswered strikes or periods of low activity to conserve energy.

Fighters who are apt at staying safe and can strike with speed like Jose Aldo take advantage of slower movements and cardio advantages in later rounds. Almost all the top UFC fighters balance cardio with functional strength.

Analyze Fighter Records

 Wikipedia and reliability mesh together like fire and rain. The equally popular and problematic resource extinguishes doubts about erroneous fighter records though. Looking at fight history for the MMA bettors consider wagering ignites inspiration for successful bets.

Has the matchup occurred before? Has a fighter who is going against a potent striker suffered frequent knockouts lately? Does either fighter show a history of poor performances or strong ones against their opponent’s style or caliber of competition? What stage of the vicious combat career cycle are the fighters in? These are some of the crucial questions fighters’ record reflects.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski’s record duals as a teaching tool for trend hunting. The grizzled 43-year-old is tied for second in UFC wins and total fights. Recently, he has gutted out five victories over his last six fights, all via decision against unranked opponents.

He hasn’t achieved a knockout or been ranked in the top 10 since 2015. Knockout artists fulfill their purpose against Arlovski’s battle-worn chin. Simultaneously, Arlovski’s speed and unique longevity trouble middling UFC fighters, particularly those without punishing power. 

Bettors extrapolate that betting on Arlovski to win via knockout worked better in his younger years and he likely won’t upset any upper-tier fighters as a venerable veteran. Though the body can’t react at the highest level, his mind has processed enough punches and his quickness is adequate enough to be a decent underdog target against the young, untested prospects he often faces or anyone outside the top 10.

UFC Betting Strategies: What NOT To Do:

Blindly Pick Popularity 

Stars make money. Visibility correlates to marketability and oftentimes success, but not necessarily viability in a particular matchup. Conor McGregor epitomizes this betting principle. His left-handed, one-shot knockouts and left-field one-liners enthrall casual fans.

However, the sport’s biggest star is also one of the most inactive, only fighting four times since 2016 in a young sport where rapid evolution takes place and the champions harnessing it often fight multiple times per year.

Ring rust presents a very real problem for stars who get caught in the crosshairs of contract holdouts for bigger paydays. Strikers tend to make a bigger name since everyone understands knockouts, often leaving exploitable weaknesses in the most famous fighters like McGregor, Jorge Masvidal, Anderson Silva and Francis Ngannou.

Chase Extreme Parlays

Parlays fuse multiple bets into one wager with a higher payout. To win a parlay, all bets need to succeed. The entire payoff disintegrates if even just one leg fails. Singular seconds and mistakes end fights as fast as the referee starts them in a combat sport where the goal is for trained martial artists to incapacitate opponents or cause enough duress to gain victory.

As such, bettors absorb incredible risks when electing to chase parlays in MMA. With a couple of well-placed combinations in fights, bettors feel particularly confident in accelerating earning potential. Almost everyone gets caught by the wrong punch in arguably the most unpredictable major sport in the world. Don’t get caught by greed as a bettor. 

OddsJam assists with unraveling this MMA mystery via the parlay calculator, which can be used with other sporting event parlays as well.

Misgauge Experience

Father Time is undefeated unless your name is Tom Brady. Optimists tout the saying “age is just a number.” The numbers associated with age in combat sports signify more than mere statistics. Age isn’t terrifying in modern MMA, thanks to modern medicines, smarter training methods, the importance of situational awareness in this versatile sport and the ability to remain calm under physical and mental pressure.

That said, cumulative damage and signs that the wear and tear impedes a fighter’s ability to execute scares all savvy bettors. Some fighters, such as Glover Teixeira, the current UFC light heavyweight champion, harness “old man strength.” The term describes an enviable combination of not losing too much muscularity to age and gaining the benefit of muscle fiber efficiency obtained from decades of repetition. 

Old man strength gives way to old man reflexes just as often. Conventional wisdom warns that speed leaves a fighter first and power last. No two bodies function the exact same and a fighter can “get old” in one round, let alone one fight. As such, never assume that the more experienced and/or aged fighter will automatically win or lose. Treat each individual fighter and matchup with customized care. 

Conflate UFC & WWE

Dana White and Vince McMahon share an aggressive, outspoken promotional style that prioritizes building characters and marketable storylines. WWE’s global popularity as an entertainment juggernaut for decades blemishes the image of the occasionally similar-looking UFC action.

Professional wrestling features trained entertainers coordinating with each other to complete a physical performance with a predetermined outcome. Despite questionable judging, the UFC is 100% a legitimate competition overseen by athletic commissions. 

There will never be a blatantly “rigged” UFC contest. Never bet on any fighter to win on the sole basis that it would seemingly attract higher attention for the growing promotion that still fights for universal mainstream acceptance.

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