UFC Fight Night 170: Lee vs Oliveira was one of the last sporting events to take place in 2020 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 51 events have occurred in empty arenas, which will only be the case for Fight Nights moving forward. At first, the absence of spectators 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.
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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 guide and our MMA News for more info on the UFC.
Also, take a look at the betting trends in the smaller UFC Apex Center cage compared to the more conventional larger cage.
Favorites Carrying The Torch
We have gathered more data for fight cards without fans and now have 565 total fights, seven of which were pick’ems, eight were draws and three were no contests.
At UFC 249, favorites went 9-2 and during the pandemic are 360-187 for a 65.8 percent clip. To put that into perspective, through the rest of 2020, there were 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.
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In the 40 Fight Night cards with no fans, favorites are 274-151 for a winning percentage of 65.2. That is slightly lower than in regular fight nights in 2020 as the chalk went 30-16 for a winning percentage of 65.2.
Fans Are Getting Their Money’s Worth
In the 51 events without fans (565 fights), 384 bouts have gone OVER 1.5 rounds and 286 of those fights went to the judges’ scorecards. That’s 68 percent of fights that went OVER 1.5 rounds and 50.6 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. It fell again at UFC Fight Night: Woodley vs Burns when five of 11 bouts went OVER 2.5 rounds. Most recently at UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs Moises, four of the 10 fights went OVER 2.5 rounds.
In the seven events with fans in 2020, 51.8 percent of fights resulted in a decision and 63.9 percent of bouts went OVER 1.5 rounds.
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.
Esparza said that she could hear Daniel Cormier calling the fight while she was in the octagon.— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) May 10, 2020
He criticized her for not mixing up her strikes and her wrestling and she used it as advice and started to mix it up more.