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UFC: Betting Trends For Events With No Fans

UFC Octagon with no fans in the stands

UFC Fight Night 170: Lee vs Oliveira was one of the last sporting events to take place before everything came to a screeching halt during the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 9, the UFC took center stage again by becoming the first sport to return to action for UFC 249.

Now four events have occurred in empty arenas, which will be the case for the foreseeable future. At first, it didn’t seem like much of a difference, but if you focus, you can hear the thud of the kicks and punches much more clearly, as well as the coaches’ instructions and even the commentary team.

How does the lack of crowd noise affect the way you place your bets for the fights? If you are unsure of how to place a bet on the UFC, check out our great betting tutorial.

Favorites Carrying The Torch

To start, there isn’t a lot of data so far with fights in an empty arena – just 44 fights, one of which was a draw.

That said, at UFC 249, favorites went 9-2 and during the pandemic are 27-15 for a 64.3 percent clip. To put that into perspective, through the rest of 2020, there have been 83 fights and – excluding one no-contest and three bouts with pick‘em odds – favorites went 48-31 for a winning rate of 60.8 percent.

UFC Betting Trends - Favorites/Underdogs
EventsFavoritesUnderdogsFave Winning Percentage
No Fans271564.3
Fans483160.8

In the two fight night cards, favorites are 12-9 for a 57.1 percentage. That represents quite a contrast from regular fight nights this year as the chalk has gone 30-16 for a winning percentage of 65.2, so it’ll be interesting as more fight nights occur to see whether the trend of underdogs will continue or if it will swing back toward the faves.

Fans Are Getting Their Moneys Worth

My colleague Iain MacMillan had a nice parlay that hit on the UFC 249 prelims. He chose each of those fights, except the Carla Esparza vs Michelle Waterson bout, to go OVER 1.5 rounds, a five-fight parlay paying +1013.

I had to look into the numbers a little closer and Iain appears to be onto something.

In the three events without fans (44 fights), 34 bouts have gone OVER 1.5 rounds and 26 of those fights went to the judges’ scorecards. That’s 77.3 percent of fights that went OVER 1.5 rounds and 59.1 percent that went to a decision. 

At UFC on ESPN 9: Smith vs Teixeira, many of the total rounds props were set at 2.5 rather than 1.5 and six of the 10 fights went OVER 2.5 rounds. That trend dipped slightly at UFC Fight Night 176: Overeem vs Harris when six of 11 fights went OVER 2.5 rounds.

In the seven events with fans, 51.8 percent of fights resulted in a decision and 63.9 percent of bouts went OVER 1.5 rounds.

UFC Betting Trends - Fights Going The Distance
EventsFightsDecisionsDecision Percentage
No Fans442659.1
Fans834351.8

I think there are a couple of factors at play that could lead to a fight going the distance. Of course, the most obvious would be that fighters gain momentum from the crowd, getting that extra twist on the end of the punch and seeking the finish.

However, I think the biggest factor is the fighters being able to hear and be in tune with their coaches during the fight and in between rounds. This gives the fighter the ability to defend submissions by using proper technique, and in standup exchanges, coaches can point out areas to attack and areas to defend.

This doesn’t just go for coaches as some fighters expressed during UFC 249 that they could hear the commentary team.