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The Blueprint: How to Bet on the UFC

MMA and the UFC in particular is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports to wager on, but unlike traditional team sports, it lacks the in-depth betting stats and trends for bettors to use to properly handicap a fight. This puts bettors at a significant disadvantage, especially with the high volume of events the UFC puts on featuring fighters that the casual fan isn’t familiar with.

To give your bets a boost in 2017, I dug deep into the betting numbers from last year to find a few spots where you can get an edge, so before you handicap your next fight card, consult these tips first.

Don’t bother with big underdogs

Huge upsets like Nate Diaz beating Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping beating Luke Rockhold speak volumes, but fight fans should resist the urge to frequently bet on big underdogs. Diaz and Bisping were two of just eight fighters in 2016 with odds of +300 or more to win a fight. There were 101 UFC fighters with odds of +300 or more last year, making your success rate of betting on these fighters an extremely unprofitable 7.9%.

To put that 7.9% success rate into perspective, here’s a look at the win percentages of +300 or more underdogs in other sports over a similar period:

Win % of +300 or higher Underdogs
  • 20.9% of games in the NFL
  • 27.9% of games in the MLB
  • 16.8% of games in the NBA
  • 25.2% of games in the NHL

Betting on huge underdogs is fun, but not smart or profitable — especially compared with other sports. It seems like an enticing venture when other bettors brag about all the money they won when Holly Holm destroyed Ronda Rousey at +600 odds, but these spots are rare and the data above backs that up.

Consider props and parlays when betting favorites

Lots of action from casual fans tends to pour in on superstars like Conor McGregor, but there’s bigger profits to be made than simply betting on McGregor to win. Taking a look at McGregor’s nine UFC fights prior to his most recent fight with Eddie Alvarez, six of his eight UFC victories came via T/KO. So, if you were backing McGregor in the Alvarez fight, the logical thing to do was bet McGregor to win by knockout. The price for a KO victory was +110, whereas a simple win wager was -170.

The same logic could have been applied to Michael Bisping vs Dan Henderson at UFC 204. Bisping closed as a -250 favorite, but I advised taking him to win by decision at +355. The reasoning was simple, as half of Bisping’s 26 UFC fights had gone to decision, including three of his last four wins going into the fight. Combining that with Henderson’s infamous chin made for an easy payday.

Another nice money-making spot presented itself at UFC 206 in the main and co-main events where I really liked both favorites. With Max Holloway at -190 and Donald Cerrone at -280 leading up to the fight, there wasn’t much money to be made with individual wagers, so I suggested pairing them together on a parlay, which would have come in at better than EVEN money. The bet went on to cash, making an enjoyable night of fights even better.

So next time one of your favorite fighters enters a fight as a big favorite, don't be scared off. Just find a better way to make a profit by doing a little bit of digging and find another way to cash in.

Fade Former Champions

An interesting trend developed in 2016 that saw six former champions lose their first fight after losing their title. The former champs and their odds were — Anthony Pettis (-375), Holly Holm (-225), Rafael dos Anjos (-150), Miesha Tate (-130), Chris Weidman (-225) and Ronda Rousey (-200). You’ll notice that they all closed as favorites, making underdogs in this spot something you should jump all over.

Seeing former champions fall off in the UFC is nothing new, actually. Here’s a look at how a few former champs have done since dropping their titles:

Records after losing their titles:
  • Anderson Silva – 1-3-1
  • Johny Hendricks – 2-3
  • Anthony Pettis – 1-3
  • Benson Henderson – 5-4
  • Shogun Rua – 5-5
  • Renan Barao – 2-2
  • Going back even further, Chuck Liddell – 1-4

It’s quite clear that once a fighter hits his or her peak, the fall can happen very rapidly as most fighters don’t rebound and make it back to the top after dropping their titles. So, when will these spots present themselves next? Well, Robbie Lawler, Eddie Alvarez and Dominick Cruz all dropped their titles in the second half of 2016 and none has fought since, so keep your eyes peeled for fight announcements. If their opponent is an underdog or even a small favorite, you know what to do.

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