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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 21 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.

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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.

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 are starting to gather more data for fight cards without fans and now have 218 total fights, four of which were pick’ems while two were draws.

At UFC 249, favorites went 9-2 and during the pandemic are 149-76 for a 66.2 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 Fans1497666.2
Fans483160.8

In the 17 Fight Night cards with no fans, favorites are 117-62 for a winning percentage of 65.4. That is slightly higher than in regular fight nights this year as the chalk has gone 30-16 for a winning percentage of 65.2.

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 21 events without fans (232 fights), 157 bouts have gone OVER 1.5 rounds and 115 of those fights went to the judges’ scorecards. That’s 67.7 percent of fights that went OVER 1.5 rounds and 49.6 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: Covington vs Woodley, six of the 14 bouts 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 Fans23211549.6
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.