MMA Betting Strategy
Betting on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is absolutely exploding in popularity all over the world. As a relatively new sport to mainstream betting, MMA presents some unique opportunities for sharp bettors like you to make big profits. That is of course if you know what you're doing.
Unlike other major sports, MMA requires a unique and systematic approach to making your predictions. With so many fighters and different organizations, it can be tough to stay up to speed with all of the fighters and make smart picks.
Thankfully, we've put together an extensive guide with tips and strategies to help you make the best picks you can. These strategies coupled with your knowledge will have you on the road to profitability in no time.
Reasons MMA Betting is Profitable
Understanding why you are betting on a particular sport is important because it begins to get your mind looking in the right direction for value and money-making opportunities. Too often, people will just bet on things without realizing the reasoning behind it. Knowing these reasons can help you to find value in bets and places you might not have originally thought to look.
It's no secret that the oddsmakers are really good at their jobs. It's uncommon that they make mistakes and set bad lines. However, this sort of perfectionism did not happen overnight. These oddsmakers have been setting lines on other sports for a long time and have perfected their craft. MMA betting is fairly new, though.
Most oddsmakers setting lines are fairly new and are most likely not MMA specialists but people that transitioned from setting lines on other sports. With brand new oddsmakers, it's a lot more likely that bad lines could be set. While this is still not that common, it's a lot more common than with other sports and creates some fantastic opportunities if you're poised to strike.
Historically, the betting public as a whole has been known to not be that great at sports betting. There is a reason that casinos are so beautiful and sportsbooks owners are rolling in the dough. While you're betting against the house with a sports bet, you can still take advantage of the betting public and their mistakes. Sportsbooks do their best to have the same amount of money bet on each side of a fight. If a ton of people bet on one fighter, they will make the odds a lot sweeter on the other fighter to entice action. This delicate balancing act goes on all the way until the fight starts.
The betting public has a strong tendency of betting with their hearts instead of their minds. They love to jump on heartwarming stories or bet against fighters they despise. While this might make them feel better when placing their better, it doesn't do them much good in the profit department. If the public bets way too heavily on one fighter based on their personal feelings, you can get incredible odds on the smarter bet just through their ignorance. The public has a tendency in MMA to move lines quite a bit, and a lot of times it's not in the logical, smart direction. If you can catch on to these opportunities, you can cash in big. We will cover this in depth shortly.
When was the last time you had intimate access to Tom Brady while he was training? (Not that kind of intimate) What we mean is when was the last time that you were able to watch Tom Brady practice regularly and see every aspect of his life leading up to a big game. The answer is never outside of special press sections. This is because most popular sports are extremely guarded in the information and access they grant.
MMA is considerably different. The line between fighters and normal people is not that far. Fighters sometimes work normal jobs or train in gyms that every day Joes can walk right into. Sure, some of the fighters are a little more reserved in this manner, but there are a lot of fighters that you have complete access to and so does the media.
What does this mean? This means there is a TON of information you can gather to help you make better predictions for your fights. You can rest assured that the odds makers are probably not going through all of the information that you have available. This means that you can stumble upon a lot more that they will miss and make much more educated picks. This will vary based on how high-profile the fight is.
MMA Betting Tips and Strategies
This is the number one tip or strategy we could ever give you for betting on mixed martial arts. You HAVE to understand how the betting odds work if you want to be able to make smart bets and find value. There will be times that you think someone is going to win a fight and betting on them is not a profitable move. If that confuses you, you 100% need to read this section.
First, you need to understand what sportsbooks are trying to do with every single bet. They are trying to get the same amount of money bet on both sides of the bet so that no matter who wins or loses, they make money. Sportsbooks take a small percentage of each bet (called the juice or rake) to cover their costs and make their profit. They're not in the business of gambling themselves so they want to ensure profit as much as they possibly can.
On most even bets, meaning bets where the possibility of the outcomes is exactly the same, the sportsbook will pay you out at a rate of -110. This means that for every $100 you bet, you stand to win $90.90. If the sportsbook got equal amounts of money on both fighters, they would profit no matter who won. This is their dream scenario.
Now as you can imagine, this gets tricky when the fighters are not evenly matched, or the public likes one fighter more than the other. In this situation, they will change the odds to deter bets from one side and encourage bets on the other side. They will release an initial line that they think will get even bets on both sides but will adjust it in real time based on how the best are coming in. For example, let's say that Anderson Silva is fighting Chael Sonnen and the sportsbook thinks Silva is going to win. They release the odds like this:
- Anderson Silva -400
- Chael Sonnen +550
If you remember from the earlier section on Moneyline Bets, this means that Silva is a big favorite and Sonnen is a big underdog. Let's say the public thinks that Silva is going to crush and should actually be a much bigger favorite, so they bet on him like crazy. The sportsbook has to do something, or else they will stand to lose a lot of money if Silva wins. They will adjust the odds to make betting on Chael more appealing and betting on Silva less appealing. They might change to the following:
- Anderson Silva -600
- Chael Sonnen +750
In the first example, if you bet $100 on Sonnen, you would profit $550 if he won. In the second example, if you bet $100 on Sonnen, you would profit $750. Subsequently, the payouts for Silva get worse in the second example. The idea is they will keep moving the line this was until more money starts to come in on Sonnen. They will continue moving it back and forth all the way up until the fight to try and get equal money on both sides of the bet.
This is the key to understanding the next few tips we are going to talk about. Also, it's key to knowing when and if you should place a bet. For example, let's say you want to be on Silva to win. At -400, if you bet $100, you stand to profit $25 for a correct win. This might sound like a good bet to you as that's a somewhat decent return on what you think is a sure bet. At -600, though, if you bet $100, you stand to profit just over $16. While you still think Silva is going to win, this starts to be risking a lot of money for a small gain. If the line moves further to say, -800, you're risking $100 to win only $12.
While this still could technically be a good bet, we like to stay away from way too high of a risk for such little reward bets. If you didn't look at or understand the odds and just bet based on who you think would win, you could be risking way more than you thought you were for not a lot in return. If you're confused on the odds or want to see how to calculate payouts, check out the Moneylines section of this MMA hub where we break this down further.
It can be tempting to want to place a bet on every single fight. For most of us, we think we're geniuses on everything, and it's no fun to sit and watch a fight we don't have action on. Unfortunately, this is not a winning mentality and is one of the worst strategies you can have. It's entirely impossible for you to be able to do ample research on every fighter for every fight. When you skimp on research, you're just guessing, and now you're gambling instead of taking calculated risks. The best thing you can do is only bet the fights you have a strong prediction on and have the time to research. If you think you have an edge on a pick, go for it.
For those of you that are action nuts, maybe place a small prop wager on the fights you don't have time to research just to keep you entertained. That way you can bet a small amount that won't affect your bottom line but will still give you a sweat for a bigger payoff. There are way too many sports bettors that shoot themselves in the foot by betting too many fights. Don't be that guy or gal. Please.
A lot of people neglect to look at where a fight is taking place because they assume every octagon or ring is the same. Unfortunately, this is not the case many times. There are two things that you need to be looking at in regards to location - distance traveled and altitude.
The more important of these two is altitude. If you've ever done physical activity in a higher altitude location, you already know what we're talking about. At higher altitudes, there is less oxygen which makes cardio a much more serious concern. If a fighter is in shape at sea level, they may struggle several thousand feet in the air (like in Denver or a city like that). To combat this, some fighters will move their training camps to higher elevations to prepare and get acclimated. Note that this takes more than a week or two for the fighters that just bounce out last minute.
The second thing we look at is how far the fighter has to travel for the fight and how long before the fight they traveled. If a fighter has to be flying the day before they fight or two days before, you can imagine jet lag might become an issue. Also, the further they have to travel, the worse the jet lag is probably going to be. You could also look into the direction of travel and how it affects jet lag. To save you time, jet lag is worse when you are traveling east. For example, Coconut Extreme Couture guys are going to have jet lag worse when flying out to Florida than Coconut Creek American Top Team guys flying from Florida to Vegas. Again, this is not a huge deal if they travel well before the fight, but it is something you are going to want to pay attention to in the cardio category.
This one is a double-edged sword as following the news can be great and can be absolutely terrible at times. The important part here is distinguishing between media hype and actual news that will affect the fighter. Sometimes this is really easy to do, but sometimes it can be challenging, specifically, the part about will the news affect the fighter or not. Let's look at some examples starting with the easier to distinguish and moving to the more difficult.
- News Piece One
- Fighter A is Brazilian. A Brazilian fighter has always won the main fight in this certain Arena.
- News Piece Two
- Fighter B breaks his finger in training camp.
Obviously, news piece one has no effect on the outcome of the fight. The problem is that the media is going to hype it up like crazy and people are going to start betting based on that information. This is not smart. News piece two, on the other hand, is something that is going to have a real and measurable effect on the fighter and the outcome of the fight. Let's look at a more confusing example.
- News Piece One
- Fighter A breaks up with his longtime girlfriend the week before the fight.
- News Piece Two
- Fighter B breaks his finger in training camp.
As we know from our first example, news piece two is extremely important and should be calculated into our betting picks. News piece one, though, is a bit confusing. This is because, for some fighters, this won't affect them at all. They'll say good riddance and focus on the fight, or it might even motivate them more to fight harder. Other fighters, though, might crumble and break under the emotional weight of the situation. Kids could be involved, and it could totally mess with their head and focus and destroy them in a fight.
Ultimately, you are going to have to decide what news is important and what news should be disregarded. Being able to do this will help keep you from getting caught up in the media hype and ignorantly betting with the public. This leads perfectly into our next tip we're going to discuss.
As we just mentioned, the public has a huge tendency to bet with their hearts or according to news that's not really news. They love to bet on underdogs, bet against fighters they hate and bet with what they WANT to happen, not what they think is GOING to happen. This creates a great opportunity for a smart sports bettor.
Remember how we talked about the sportsbook moving the lines to try and get the same amount on each side? Remember how we said they do this when too many bets come in on one side? Well, when the public goes nuts betting one side of a fight incorrectly, the odds on the other side of the fight become a lot sweeter. Bets that were too close for you to bet suddenly become great bets. Bets that you were already betting become much more lucrative to put additional money on.
If you see a line that you absolutely love, bet it right away. Don't worry about timing and miss out on what you think is a great bet. If you see a line that you like a decent amount but think it might move, place a smaller wager at that rate and then if it moves in your favor bet more. If it doesn't move at all, you can always place the rest of the bet at the same odds, or if it moves the other direction, you don't have to bet anymore at all.
Predicting if and when lines are going to move can be a bit of an art form. It's up to you to start learning what affects the public and what causes them to bet certain ways and when. Remember, the lines don't move according to the entire betting public. They move according to the bets that particular casino or sportsbook has taken. The sportsbook couldn't care less what is going on at other books but only at their location or site. If everyone and their mother is betting on Fighter A but at a particular sportsbook, they have a ton of fans of Fighter B that are betting on them, The odds at each place are going to be completely different. This conveniently leads into our next strategy tip.
This is without a doubt the most important tip we can give you not just for MMA but for any type of sports betting you do. Shopping lines can be the difference between being a profitable sports bettor or just a chump who loses. Shopping lines refers to the practice of checking multiple sportsbooks to get the best odds on a bet you are going to place. It is extremely common for different books to have completely different odds on the exact same bet.
Why is this? Well, if you read our above tip, you saw that sportsbooks want to have the same amount of money bet on each side of a fight to ensure that they make money no matter who wins. If all of the sportsbooks were owned by the same company, then the lines would all be the same. But because they are all independently owned and operate independently, the odds will be different.
Imagine you have a Brazillian fighter fighting an American fighter and you have a sportsbook in each country. As you might imagine, more people in Brazil are going to be betting on the Brazillian fighter. This means that the sportsbook is going to have to make the odds on the American fighter pay better to entice more action on that side. The opposite will probably happen in the American Casino. So if you were going to bet on the American fighter, you would want to do it in Brazil if possible because you would get a much better payout.
Now, this is pretty impossible unless you really want to fly all the way to a different country to place bets. But, with the invention of online sportsbooks, this becomes possible and only takes a matter of seconds. You can shop several different lines in the matter of a few seconds and get the best odds for the bet you want to make. If I offered you the chance to make a $100 bet in one of two places and one of the places I'd pay you $100 for a win and the other I'd pay you $120, what would you do? You'd make the bet for $120 potential profit unless you are insane. This is exactly what shopping lines does.
We recommend joining a few online sportsbooks as they cost nothing additional to join. Have them all ready to go so that when you go to place a bet, you can do a quick line shop and then place your bets. Don't leave money on the table or miss out on bets that you would have made at a better rate.
This is an easy one, but one you need to look out for. Betting a lot of underdogs can be a profitable strategy, but you need to be careful that you aren't betting against the "can't lose" fighters. Fighters like GSP and Anderson Silva and Ronda Rousey (in their primes) were betting suicide to bet against. They couldn't lose, and no matter how sweet the odds were on the other side, it was a bad bet. The tip here is to identify who these fighters are and stay away from betting against them or betting for them for that matter since the payout will be so low. You can usually see who the bigger organizations are starting to preen and pump up as their poster boys and girls. These fighters should be avoided with betting like the plague.
Knowledge is profit when it comes to sports betting. This is true for mixed martial arts as well and starts with the core information. Each fighter is going to have a different style they specialize in and most likely a few that they dabble in or are learning. These styles don't all match up well against other styles, and it can be a vital piece of information to decide if a bet is smart or not. For example, a wrestler could be crushing all of their opponents but maybe hasn't faced a hard Muay Thai fighter yet. If this is the case, you could accidentally think they will walk through anyone but might have a lot of problems dealing with the rugged stand-up.
The important thing here is to know the different styles, know how they match up against other styles and know what works best for MMA and what doesn't. If you haven't read it yet, we've put together a page talking about the more popular fight styles and how they work or don't work for MMA. This information will have you more knowledgeable than 90% of MMA fans and have you on the right track to being a successful sports bettor.
We will say it again because it is true. Knowledge is profit. The more homework that you do on the fighters and upcoming fights, the better suited you will be to make great picks and turn a solid profit. The important thing, though, is that you don't just look at any information. You need to make sure that you are studying the correct data and statistics to make better picks. How you choose to analyze this information and which pieces are more important is up to you. What we've done here is give you a list of things to start looking at and why they might be of importance. This is not a complete list but should be plenty to get you in the right direction as there is endless information on fighters to study.
Prioritize and look at what you think is important and disregard anything that is not important. You can't study everything.
- Take a Look at Who Their Training Partners are.
If they are training with World Champs and other serious fighters, you can expect them to fight better. If they are training with chumps or people you've never heard of, you might want to be a little more skeptical of their skills. We also like to look and see if they've brought in specialists in any discipline to help out for a specific opponent. You might not recognize a name if they aren't an MMA fighter, but they could be a legend in another discipline (IE: Top wrestler, Judoka, etc.).
- Look at their record, but not just the numbers.
Too often, people will look at a fighter's record and immediately use that to decide how they are going to do. The problem is that each of their fights is a different beast and is usually against a different kind of opponent. Look at their record in regards to the type of fight they have coming up. If they are fighting a Jiu Jitsu rockstar, look at how they fared against other BJJ fighters.
- Don't neglect injuries.
Just because a fighter says, they are completely healthy and recovered usually does not mean that they actually are. Most fighters are almost always fighting with some sort of injury, small or large. Follow along on injury news and look up what the actual healing time for something is. Fighters are notorious for getting back into the gym too quickly and not letting things heal how they should. This can have a major impact on their performance and your wallet if you're betting on them.
If you see a fighter that has back surgery a month later saying they're 100%, not buying it. Some of the levels of this won't be this absurd, but you would be surprised. Just stay on top of the news and rumors and try and make an assessment. Looking at how a particular injury would affect their style is also important. For example, if a Jiu Jitsu guy hurts a finger, it might not affect him as much as it would a striker. But if the same Jiu Jitsu guy were to pull or tear a groin muscle, it could be a lot more impactful. Again, all of this is up to you to decide how important and how impactful it is to your picks.
- Taking some time to look at the coaching staff is also important.
Certain coaches have a lot more success against certain types of fighters as well as other coaches. As these coaches are usually in charge of every aspect of the fighter's training, it's extremely important that you put some serious weight behind this. Don't go overboard, but definitely take a look at it.