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MMA Betting Strategy Guide

MMA Betting Strategy Guide
Betting on MMA fights is one of those things that seems really easy until you start actually doing it. When we watch fights, we have a tendency to think we’re great at picking winners until we start tracking those picks and realizing that it’s not quite as easy as it seems. Here’s the good news. While it may seem challenging to the untrained eye, with a little knowledge and expertise betting on MMA fights gets a lot easier.

That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish for you here today. We’re going to give you all of the tools that you need in order to pick winners and start making money betting on MMA fights. If you couple that with your existing knowledge and abilities and some good homework and research, you’re going to be an unstoppable force in no times.

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The Factors to Consider When Breaking Down a MMA Fight

When you’re breaking down an MMA fight, there isn’t just one thing that you look at that helps you make your decision on who you’d like to bet on. Instead, it’s a collection of many different factors that you combine together to come up with a prediction.

Below, we’ve outlined all of the important factors that we think you need to be analyzing when you’re breaking down an MMA fight. Which of these are the most important? Well, a lot of that is going to be personal preference. We’re going to tell you which we think are the most important, but a lot of it is going to depend on who you’re betting on, what weight class they are in, and a whole host of other factors. Basically, some factors will be extremely important in one fight and then be less important in another fight. It’s going to be up to you to figure out the best combination of how to fit these factors together.

Let’s take a look at all of the factors you need to be considering when you are breaking down an MMA fight. Again, these are not in order of importance as that will change depending on which fight you are betting.

Fight Styles – Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the biggest cliché phrases you hear in the MMA world is also one of the most true – styles make fights. What this means is that depending on the main style of fighting a fighter employs, you might have an exciting fight or a boring one. For example, if you have a strong stand-up striker versus a wrestler who likes to win on the ground, it’s probably not the recipe for an exciting fight for the fans. The wrestler will probably spend the whole fight trying to take the striker down and if they do the striker may be somewhat helpless on their back like a lost turtle in the sun.

But, what does this have to do with breaking down an MMA fight? Glad you asked. When you’re looking at both fighters, you need to pay a lot of attention to the fighting styles they’re good at and the fighting styles they’re weak at. You also need to compare that to their opponent and try and determine what sort of game plan they’re going to approach the fight with. Then you need to determine if you think they’re going to stick to that game plan and how effective or ineffective you think it’s going to be.

You can’t just look at fighters as fighters. Years down the road, we’re going to have pure mixed martial artists who are great at everything. But, because of the infancy of the sport, we have a lot of fighters who are awesome at one or two things and trying to catch up everywhere else. You have to look at fighters in terms of, “This guy or gal is a great wrestler and a striker, but has weak Jiu-Jitsu,” or something like that.

Determine where you think each fighter is going to want to take the fight. Are they going to be able to impose that will or not? Are they going to stick to that plan or are they stubborn? We’ve seen a ton of fights where fighters have a plan to come out and win a smart fight only to stand and trade punches with someone they should never be standing with. How do we know this? Well, it usually gets revealed in the post-fight interview. It’s something to the tune of, “I had the plan to come out and push him up against the cage and take him down. But, I don’t know why I got carried away and wanted to punch him in the face.” Usually, this abandonment of the game plan does not turn out well. Whether it’s a loss of focus or a want to prove the efficacy of a newly sharpened skill, it doesn’t matter. It usually does not end well.

Here’s what you need to do. Break down each fighter into stylistic strengths and weaknesses. Determine based on past performances and coaches what you think the fighter’s game plan is going to be. If you determine that they are going to stick with that plan, start breaking down how well that is going to work against the other fighter’s strengths, weaknesses, and game plans. If you determine they might go rogue, how is that going to work out?

The point we’re trying to make here is that you need to be looking at fighters in terms of their individual skill sets and how those mesh against the other fighter. If a guy is fantastic at Jiu Jitsu but weak at wrestling and is fighting an Olympic-level wrestler, you can probably assume they’re going to struggle getting the fight to the ground so their Jiu-Jitsu will be negated. What’s their backup plan? What’s the wrestler’s plan? Is it going to turn into a striking battle?

These are just some samples of the thought process that should be rolling through your head when breaking down a fight. The actual questions you ask for each fight will be different, but the process should be the same. Strengths and weaknesses -> Gameplan -> Will they stick to it -> How that matches up with their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, game plan, and if they stick to theirs.

Training Camp Factors

If you’re unfamiliar with how MMA fighters prepare for fights, they usually do it in something called a camp. This is usually somewhere between a 6-12 week time period before the fight that all of their workouts, training, and dietary choices are designed to get them ready for this particular fight. While it’s extremely important how good a fighter is prior to their camp, the camp plays a huge role in how ready the fighter is for a particular fight.

When breaking down an MMA fight, you want to take a long look at several factors surrounding their training camp. First, do they have the time to dedicate to the camp and are they dedicating it? Because of some of the pay issues with MMA fighters, you’ll often find fighters that have to work full-time jobs on top of their training. While this is nothing personal against them, this is going to have an effect on their ability to focus and train.

Second, you want to look at the intensity and quality of that training camp. Are they pushing themselves? Are they doing the right things to get ready for this particular fight? If you think that every fight camp should be exactly the same, you are dead wrong. The camp needs to be tailored for a specific opponent, and it usually is. This is why it’s such a big deal when a new fighter jumps in last minute due to injury of their opponent.

Third and probably most important is you need to look at the quality of their training partners. Are they training with high-caliber fighters who are strong in the disciplines that their opponent is strong in? For example, let’s say a fighter has an upcoming fight with a very strong Muay Thai fighter with deadly kicks. If they are just training with boxers or ground game specialists, are they really getting prepared for what is going to come their way fight night? Probably not.

When you analyze their training partners, look to see how their skill set and abilities are going to help or hurt the fighter. Additionally, you could take a look to see if any of those training partners have fought their opponent before. If they did, that’s a huge plus because they can give a lot of insight into what they did to walk away with the victory. You can see a lot of tape, but nothing is as good as being in the actual cage with the fighter.

The one thing we want to make sure to caution you about is don’t forget to look at how much and how often they are training with these particular training partners. If you see an article that says (from our previous example) that they were training with a Muay Thai champ with great kicks, that’s definitely awesome! But, you need to see if they’re training the entire camp with them or if they were just able to get in one sparring session. Yes, they’d probably learn a lot from that one session, but nowhere near if they were able to spar and train regularly with that caliber of opponent.

You are who your friends are. If you’re training with fighters on the same level or above your opponent, you’re going to feel like Superman when you get in the cage fight night. If you’re training with subpar fighters who can’t even get close to the quality level of your opponent, fight night may prove to be a struggle.

Cardio, Weight Cuts, and Weigh-Ins

Certainly, one of the most important factors to assess for both fighters when breaking down a fight is their cardio. How long can they go in the cage? Are they going to look fresh through every round or are they going to be sucking wind after the first two minutes? This is certainly one of the most important factors to consider especially if their opponent has a strong gas tank.

When you’re looking at cardio, there are several places you can get your information. First, look at past fights. This might require you to look at fight footage. Did they look fresh in fights that went the distance? How did they look in fights where they were getting beat up or punched to the body a lot? How did they look in fights where their opponent (or they) were pushing the pace?

The next place you can look is their size, weight class, and scheduled weight cut. Are they cutting more weight than they usually are either because of more muscle mass or dropping a weight class? If they are, that can really zap their cardio. Are they an experience weight cutter or is it something that they seem to struggle with?

You can also get a lot of clues at weigh-ins if you want to wait that long to get your bets in (there’s nothing wrong with waiting). If they come out looking like a zombie when they normally look fresh at weigh-ins, you know there may be issues. Or, if they come out and miss weight and have to go back and try and cut more off, that’s certainly a red flag you need to be aware of. The additionally cut and strain on the body is going to make it hard to rehydrate and recover enough to have a full gas tank for fight night.

Take all of these factors into account and make an assessment of the fighters cardio and how you think it’s going to play into the fight. We can tell you from experience that most newer bettors don’t account for cardio near as much as they should. This is especially true when discussing heavier fighters who they just assume are going to end the fight early. Don’t discount cardio even if you think the fight will be over early. Things don’t always go as planned.

Professional Fight Record

Past performances can be great indicators of future performances in MMA as long as you make sure you are looking at the right past performances. What are we talking about? Well, you can’t just look at a fighter’s record and draw a conclusion on how they are going to do in an upcoming fight. You have to take the time to look at the opponents they face and how they compare with the fighter’s upcoming opponent.

For example, let’s say that you see a fighter is 5-0 in their professional MMA career. Does this mean they are going to have an edge in their next fight? We would bet that a lot of fans would say yes. The problem, though, is that you don’t know anything about those five fights at this point. What if those five fights were all against boxers and strikers and their next upcoming fight is against a high-caliber wrestler and Jiu-Jitsu practitioner? Are they going to have the same success now that they’re facing a completely different beast?

Hopefully, you’re starting to see what we’re getting at. What you want to do instead of looking at their record as a whole is look at their fights against similar fighters. The best thing you can find is if they’ve fought that fighter before recently. This is usually seen most with rematches. If not, though, look at how they fought against similar fighters. You can go a ways back into their past, but more recent fights should always carry more weight.

We’re not saying to completely ignore fights against fighters that are not similar to their upcoming opponent especially if they are recent. There is something to be said about a fighter who is on a hot streak and knows how to win. What we are saying is that you need to give significantly more weight to fights that are against similar opponents. These are also great fights to look for what their game plan might be and how they react to certain techniques.

For example, let’s say that the fighter has an upcoming fight against a wrestler who is known for having a killer single leg takedown. Well, you might want to look at past fights against wrestlers and look for how they respond to single legs specifically. Were they able to stuff any of those takedowns? Did they look clueless or seem to have a plan to defend and stay on their feet? All of this information can usually be found in past fights if you just take the time to look. Do keep in mind, though, that if you’re looking at a much older fight, the fighter could have improved especially if it is something they have been working on.

Look into their fight record, but make sure you’re breaking it down into the pieces that are useful in predicting the results of the upcoming fight.

Larger Fight Implications

This is a smaller detail, but one that you want to look at nonetheless. Make sure you are looking at the bigger picture of the fight. What is each fighter fighting for? Is someone close to a title shot? Is someone close to getting cut? Is someone fighting in front of their friends and family for the first time? Is this someone’s one-time shot to potentially score a long-term contract? Are there additional outside emotions involved?

The questions are endless, but the answers do have an effect on the fighters. No, just because they are fighting for something more important does not suddenly make them a better fighter. But, the more that someone has to fight for, the harder they are probably going to train for that fight. Also, if they have to have a win, you might see a bit more aggressive game plan than you would if it was just another fight for them to collect a paycheck.

Who do you think is going to train harder, a brand new fighter to the UFC who is told they’ll get their first title shot with a win in this fight or a fighter in their 40s making a comeback most likely to make some money? The answer to that question should tell you why this factor is important to look at and should not be ignored.

Strength, Speed, and Power

While technique and ability are usually going to be the most important factors, it’s hard to deny that strength, speed, and power are going to play a huge role in the outcome of a fight. At times, a fighter that is slightly outclassed in the skill department might be able to overcome that deficit with strength, speed, and/or power. Also at times, a fighter that is greatly outclassed can still pull off a win just by being a much better athlete. This is rarer, but it certainly does happen.

When you’re breaking down an MMA fight, make sure you’re looking at these three elements. Keep in mind as well that strength and power are two different things. Strength is just how strong someone is. A stronger person can pick up more weight. Power, on the other hand, is how well that fighter can translate their strength into an effective use of it.

Sorry, that’s a hard one to explain in words. Let’s try saying it a different way. A fighter who is not as strong as another fighter may still be able to hit harder if they have more power. Power usually requires the use of skill to turn strength into effective striking. A powerful fighter can do a lot more damage than a fighter who is simply strong.

The last of these three that we have not talked about is speed. Speed is extremely important when it comes to MMA especially in the striking game. A quick fighter is able to get in and out quickly, slip and move out of the way of strikes, and hurt their opponent without being at risk. It can be somewhat tough to assess speed without watching fight footage because there really isn’t a measure of it that is used regularly. You don’t really see people out with radar guns measuring punch speed. But, if you watch footage, it’s pretty easy to start comparing fighters based on speed and seeing who is faster than who.

Smaller fighters are usually going to be quicker because they have less weight to move around. That being said, there are instances when this is not true. When you find a bigger fighter who is just as fast if not faster, that’s a dangerous person who is going to go far in the MMA world. Remember that when you are making your wagers.

Coaches and Trainers

When the bell rings, there is only one person from each side in the cage. But, that does not mean that their coaches and trainers do not play a huge role in their success. Their coaches and trainers are the ones that put together their training schedule, design their camp, work with them on their technique, pick out their training partners, and help them develop the game plan to beat their opponent. Unlike some sports, MMA coaches and trainers play a massive role in the success or failures of their fighters.

Make sure that during your fight breakdown you take a good look at who is training and coaching the fighter and what sort of successes or failures they have in the past. If they’re getting trained by their dad still (we’re not looking at you Sage Northcutt, we promise…sort of), they might be at a disadvantage to a fighter who is being trained by industry professionals with a solid track record.

Some coaches are just rock stars when it comes to winning. They might not always produce the most exciting fight for fans, but they know how to get wins. Since we’re here talking about betting and trying to win money betting on MMA fights, this is what’s important.

Past and Present Injuries

The last thing that we want you to look at and certainly not the least important is injuries. This can be a challenging factor to research because the information is usually not made public or readily available and the information that is put out is only occasionally true.

Why is this? Well, imagine that you are the coach of an opposing fighter and your fighter has a fight scheduled soon with our fighter. Let’s say that our fighter hurts his knee badly in practice, but is still going to work hard to try and fight even with the injury. If we release that information and tell the media that our fighter’s right knee is jacked up, what are you going to do to your fighter’s game plan? Are you going to tell them to be careful and try not to kick our right leg? Or, are you going to tell your fighter that the new game plan is operation attack the right leg?

If we’re being honest, we all know that it will be the latter as it should be. A good coach should be looking for any edge within the rules possible for their fighter. So, let’s look at things from our perspective now. Do we really want to release that injury information? And, if we have to because it required a trip to the doctor that people saw or our fighter was spotted limping, do we really want to tell you how bad it is?

The answers are no and no. We don’t want to give you a leg up at all. So, instead, we either sit on the injury information or the information that we release is only partly true. The same goes for the recovery of old injuries. You may hear that it’s much better than it actually is or you may hear that it’s much worse than it actually is. If we tell you that our fighter’s right knee is terrible, you’re probably going to switch your game plan to attack that leg. But, what if the knee is just fine? We now know exactly what you’re going to do and we now have the leg up.

There’s a lot of gamesmanship in the injury game within MMA. Here’s what we recommend you do. Try and read between the lines of injury reports. Don’t go so far as to always have a tinfoil hat on because it’s not as “wild” as we might be making it out to be. But, make sure that you aren’t throwing all of your eggs into one basket based on an injury report.

If you’re really curious how an injury is you should watch training footage or footage from open workouts before a fight. Look to see if you can spot anything that might signal the severity of an injury. You may be able to pick something up that has not been reported which is going to give you a huge advantage at the books.

Fighters only fight a few times a year, and if they don’t fight, they don’t get paid. Because of this, fighters are extremely prone to try and hide injuries just so they can get in the cage and get paid for showing up. Remember, they don’t have to win to get paid. They get paid more if they win, but they get paid nothing if they don’t show up to fight. Keep this in mind when you’re breaking down fights.

MMA Betting Tips

What we’d like to do now is give you a collection of betting tips to accompany all of the above information. These tips will help you to make the most of this guide and help to set you up to have the best chance to become a profitable MMA sports bettor. Remember, betting on any sport is not easy. Well, making the bet is easy, but winning is not. It is certainly doable, though, as there are many professional sports bettors out there making a living betting on mixed martial arts fights.

With enough hard work and expertise, you too can join those ranks. We’ve given you a lot of the building blocks you need. Now, we’re going to fill in some of those cracks with these tips. The rest will be up to you to do the research and make the right picks.

Do Not Forget to Look for Value

The number one tip that we can give you to have a better chance of being a profitable MMA bettor is to make sure that you are looking for value. If you are only concerned with winning your bets, you’re not going to be profitable. This is a tough concept for people to understand. Just because you think that a fighter is going to win a fight does not automatically mean they are a smart bet to take.

You need to be getting paid out the proper amount of money for the risk that you are taking. Here’s an extreme example to make our point. Imagine that you have two heavyweights scheduled to fight and one of the heavyweights is a huge favorite. In your mind, the other fighter has almost no chance of winning unless they get really lucky with a wild shot. Should you bet on that favorite fighter?

If you’ve said yes already, you’re wrong. The answer should be that you need more information. You need to know what the odds are. What if the odds are (-4000)? This means that if you bet $100 on that fighter, you’d only get $2.50 in profit if they won. Is that really worth it with the risk that they could make a mistake and get caught? It’s probably not worth it.

Now, we almost never see any fights with that huge of favorites, but the point becomes the same when you move the fighters closer together. You need to be looking for value instead of just wins. As we know this is a complex concept, we’ve gone ahead and put together a guide that breaks it all down. If you want to be a profitable MMA bettor or a profitable bettor in any sport, this is a must-read. It’s not just a must read, but it’s also a must understand and must employ. This is the single most important concept you’ll ever learn in sports betting.

Break the Fight Down Round by Round

Often, newer MMA bettors tend to look at fights as a whole. They look at the fight as one occurrence and try to predict how the entire fight is going to go at one time. What we would encourage you to do is instead of looking at the entire fight as a whole, look at individual rounds. Break the fight down into smaller chunks and work to make your predictions round by round.

This is going to accomplish three very important things. First, it’s going to make you dial in on details. When you are forced to predict how each round is going to go, you are forced to look at smaller details that you might have glossed over with your overall view of the fight. Second, it just makes things easier. When you’re looking at a fight in 15 or 25 minute chunks, it can be tough to predict how things are going to go. But, when you dial that down to 5 minute chunks, you can start to make your predictions a lot easier.

Lastly, it helps you to find other potential bets that you might have missed otherwise. In our next tip, we’re going to talk about some of these other bets, but the short version is that you are able to bet on a lot more than just the fight winner. We’ll cover this in detail in the very next section.

Utilize the Different Types of Bets Available to You

When you talk about betting on MMA fights, everyone just assumes you are talking about picking fight winners. This is understandable as moneyline bets (picking a winner) are the most popular form of bets on not just MMA but any sport. But, you actually have a whole lot of other options that you can choose from that include things like betting on how the fight will end, when the fight will end, and individual things that may or may not happen during the fight.

If you’d like to see all of your options, check out our Types of MMA bets guide that details everything you need to know.

Account for Altitude

This is a little tip, but one that can go a long way in decided a fight if it’s not properly accounted for either by negligence or logistically speaking. When fights take place in higher altitude locations, the air is thinner and has less oxygen in it. This is not just a fun science fact, but something that has a big effect on athletes. If you’ve ever gone for a hike up into the mountains, you know what we’re talking about. The thinner air causes fatigue to set in much faster. This is the case whether you are indoors or outdoors in case you were wondering.

So, what does this mean for fighters? This means that if they are not used to fighting and training at the higher altitude and lower oxygen conditions, then they are going to feel like they hit a wall when they get into the cage fight night. Ideally, the fighters should be conducting their entire camp in a higher altitude location if the fight will be taking place in one. It doesn’t have to be the exact fight location, but that is what fighters often opt for.

You will see some fighters try and head to higher altitudes a week or two early, but that is just not enough time to get acclimated. Remember, this is not some hokey science thing. This is actual fact and something that has a huge impact on fighters that don’t prepare for it properly. Imagine going for a run outside. Then, imagine going for a run outside with someone covering half of your mouth. That is what this is going to feel like to a fighter who is not used to the change in altitude. This only matters at high altitude fight locations, so you can disregard this if the fight is taking place at a location closer to sea level.

Don’t Bet the Whole Card

It can be so tempting to come out firing when you get started betting on MMA. You see the main card with five fights, and you now assume that you need to make at least five bets. While we understand this temptation, we want to tell you to slow down. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the amount of money you have on the line or bankroll management (though those are important things). This has to do with making smart bets.

Remember what we talked about in the very first tip of this section – understanding value? Well, you should only be placing bets that have value. Not all fights are going to have value. On top of that, you’re not going to have a strong prediction on every single fight; it’s just not possible. If you do have a strong prediction on every fight or think that every fight has value, then you are forcing bets which is an absolutely terrible habit to get into.

Stick to only betting fights that you feel you have a strong prediction on and that you feel the betting lines are offering adequate value. This might mean that you only place a few bets on a particular card and it might even mean that you don’t bet the main event. If you’re only looking to have a good time, disregard this. If you’re looking to make money betting on MMA fights, you need to have the discipline to know which bets you shouldn’t make.

Don’t Let Emotions Get Involved

One of the most fun parts about being an MMA fan is reading all the storylines and enjoying the emotional rush leading up to a fight. The trash talking…the comeback stories…the up and comers…whatever it is, it makes being an MMA fan awesome. But, the key word here is fan. These stories are awesome when you’re in fan-mode.

But, when you are sports betting, you have to distance yourself from being a fan. You have to approach each fight logically and with facts and reason. If you start basing your MMA fight bets on what you want to happen or how your heart feels about the fight, you’re not going to be very profitable. Don’t let the media get you riled up when it comes to making your bets. Save that emotion for when you’ve already made your bets, and you’re back to just being a fan.

Be Okay With Walking Away from a Fight

There’s a cliché phrase that we love because it is so genius. The smartest bet you’ll ever make is the one you don’t make. What this phrase is trying to say is that avoiding making a bad bet is worth way more money than making a good bet. This can be tough in the world of MMA because while there are way more events than there used to be back in the day, there are still a limited number of fights on each card. This can make you become tempted to want to bet every single fight.

On top of that, there is a sense of attachment that happens when someone spends time researching a fight. For example, let’s say there is a middleweight fight coming up that you are interested in betting. You start researching the fight and spend a couple of hours digging through stats, footage, and everything you can get your hands on. When you get done with that, you realize that you don’t really have much of a prediction either way and the odds just aren’t favorable on either side of the bet.

This is where the discipline has to kick in, and you have to be willing not to make a bet on that fight. It stinks because you’ve already committed a lot of time to your research, but you determined that there is no value there. At this point, you need to chalk that one up as a no-go and move on to researching the next fight. If at the end of that next fight’s research you find no value, you have to be ready to walk away again.

Sure, it’s not fun to get no action after you’ve invested so much of your precious time. It’s even worse if your betting research time is limited and you end up with no bets because of it. But, if you really are serious about making money, you have to be willing to walk away as many times as is necessary when you don’t have a pick, or there is no value.

How to Get Started Betting Today

You’re now locked and loaded with all of the knowledge you need to start intelligently betting on MMA fights. Is the road going to smooth sailing and easy from here? Probably not. Winning sports betting on any sport is challenging, and MMA is no different. But, that being said, it’s certainly beatable if you’re willing to put in the work.

So, what do you need to do now if you’re ready to get started and place a bet? The first thing you need to do is pick out an MMA betting site to take your action. The link below will show you the best betting sites to take your MMA action. You don’t even have to leave your chair to get your bets in. After that, use the information we taught you, do some research, and start picking some winners!