How to bet on UFC fights. From bell to bell.

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How To Bet On UFC/MMA Fights 

In the wake of the Covid pandemic of 2020, betting on UFC fights has become more popular than ever. Dana White, the president of the UFC, was determined and motivated to make sure that the “the show” must go on. Buoyed by the exposure created by the deal White struck with ESPN to begin 2019, the sport of MMA in general and more specifically, the UFC, now have the greatest exposure either has seen since their inception. With this being the case, it is important to know what types of gambling options are available for a sport ascending into the limelight and with ever increasing popularity in the sports betting world. This article is a guide for first time MMA gamblers, and those looking to learn more about mixed martial arts, and how to leverage that knowledge into betting success. 

Types of bets available on UFC fights

From money line (or flat) betting, to round betting to prop betting, sports books offer a variety of options for essentially every UFC fight on every UFC card. 

Money line wagering and how to read UFC odds 

The standard and most common betting option for the UFC is money line, or flat betting. This is simply an odds based betting structure in which the sportsbook will offer the bettor the option to lay odds on a favored fighter or take odds on an underdog. Odds are offered at the cost/return per $100 wagered.  

For higher profile fights, betting lines are often released weeks or months leading up to the fight, and odds will change in real time as a higher volume of wagers get placed on a particular fight. For champions such as Amanda Nunes or Jon Jones, odds for their fights will certainly be available weeks, if not months in advance of their scheduled fights. For fights garnering less interest and less exposure, lines are often not released until fight week or the week before the card. There is no hard rule as to when to expect lines for UFC events to be released. Round betting and other prop betting odds are generally not released until roughly the middle of fight week for any given fight. UFC fight weeks generally follow the schedule of media interaction through Thursday, weigh ins on Friday and fight night on Saturday.  

Over/under round betting

Round bets are essentially the wagering totals of MMA fights. While an NFL or NBA game will see totals based on total points scored and MLB games will have totals based on total runs scored, MMA fights have their over/under wagers based on rounds. The first thing to understand about round betting is that the vast majority of UFC fights are scheduled for a maximum of three rounds. Only main event fights and title fights are extended to a maximum of five rounds. With this in mind, round betting totals are offered with odds at over or under X.5 round. In this scenario, X is the expected round in which the fight ends. For example, a fight expected to end in a finish quickly will see a round betting line offered at 1.5 and odds will hypothetically have to be laid on Under 1.5 rounds with the expectation the fight ends in the first round. Another example would be a three round fight expected to go the distance, a fight like this would see a total listed at over under 2.5 rounds. A wager on over 2.5 rounds would require odds to be laid in this scenario. It is important to note that round timers have no bearing on a round betting wager. The five minute clock for any given round is irrelevant and once a round starts, it is assumed that round is completed for round wagering purposes. Simply put, one second or four minutes and fifty nine seconds work exactly the same for these wagers. 

Inside The Distance (ITD) and Going The Distance Bets

These are perhaps the most simplistic of UFC betting options. Sportsbooks will offer a line or odds on whether the fight ends ITD or sees all scheduled rounds completed, which is referred to as going the distance. For example, if a fight is -150 to end ITD, it would be approximately +120 on the come back(underdog) to go the distance. This simply means if the hypothetical fight above has a stoppage for any reason, whether it be by knock out (KO), technical knock out (TKO), submission, disqualification or no contest, the ITD wager would be a winning wager. If the fight goes the distance and goes to the judge’s scorecards, wagers on going the distance would be the winning wagers. 

Parlays

Parlays or parlay betting are simply combining two or more wagers into a single wager to receive more favorable odds in the case all wagers included in the parlay are winning wagers. Any loss in a parlay would make the wager a losing one. An example of a UFC parlay would be wagering on both Fighter A -200 and Fighter B -200. The return on a two fighter parlay at these odds would be approximately +125. If both Fighter A and Fighter B win, a two fighter parlay would return $125 for every $100 wagered. In the case either Fighter A or Fighter B were to lose, the parlay would be a losing wager.  

Prop betting

Prop bets in MMA are wagers in which a specific outcome (generally deemed a lower percentage outcome) is predicted in return for a more favorable rate of return from an odds standpoint. These wagers can include method of victory, round betting, that a fight will be a draw or even how many fights will end ITD on a given fight card. 

July 12, 2020; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Alexander Volkanovski of Australia celebrates after his split-decision victory over Max Holloway in their UFC featherweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via USA TODAY Sports

Round betting

A round bet is whether a fight will start a specific round and is a very simplistic and self explanatory bet. The lower the number of the round, the higher the odds the bettor will have to lay for the fight to start said round. The opposite is true for odds on a fight to not start the given round. 

Method of victory betting

Method of victory wagers are ones on which the better wagers on a fighter not only to win the fight, but also a wager on which the method of victory must also be properly identified. In return for the specificity of the correct wager, the bettor receives improved odds, often drastically improved over a flat bet. 

KO/TKO

KO/TKO (Knock out/Technical knock out) bets are on a fighter to incapacitate their opponent via strikes or damage, rendering the opponent unable to continue. From a gambling standpoint, there is no distinction between KO and TKO. Predicting this specific outcome often returns at a significantly greater rate than a flat bet would on the same fighter. 

Submission

Submission (Sub) bets are on a fighter to incapacitate their opponent due to a submission hold or choke. A fight ends via submission when an opponent either taps out, goes unconscious or has the referee step in due to damage done to a specific body part due to the submission hold. Like KO betting, these wagers often return at a much greater rate than a flat bet on the same fighter. 

DQ

DQ (Disqualification) bets are true long shot bets with a massive rate of return. They are self explanatory in that the wager would be for a fighter to win via disqualification, which is quite a rare outcome. 

Decision

Decision bets are on a specific fighter to win via the judge’s scorecards after the fight has gone the distance. These bets return at a greater rate than money line betting on a specific fighter but generally not quite at the same rate of return as KO or sub betting. Decisions come in three versions. A unanimous decision means all three judges scored the fight for the same fighter. A majority decision means two judges scored the fight for the same fighter while the third scored it a draw. A split decision means two judges scored a fight for one fighter while the third judge scored it for their opponent. 

Combo betting

Combo Bets are the greatest rate of return wagers available in MMA. These are wagers combining both method of victory and round of stoppage. The specificity in these wagers are what bring the rate of return. 

Draw

Draws are long shot wagers on which the bettor wagers a given fight will result in a draw, or tie. Draws occur in MMA when the fight goes the distance and the three judge’s scorecards in combination deem the fight a draw. This is a fairly rare occurrence in MMA. 

Live betting

Live betting in MMA is wagering on live odds provided by sports books as a given fight takes place. These wagers are perhaps the greatest edge a bettor has against the sports book and are often prime opportunities for value bets on both favorites that are more likely to win than the current live odds offering suggests and underdogs that are more likely to win than the line suggests or more likely to win than their opponent while returning a plus figure. The advantage for the bettor on live bet wagers is the level of subjectivity that comes with live odds. 

Strategy 

Weight cutting

An important facet of MMA wagering is being aware of how difficult or easy it was for a fighter to make the weight for their respective weight class. Watching the “weigh in” live streams on Friday mornings is the ideal way to be aware of this. If unable to watch a full stream, the bare minimum homework a bettor should do is reviewing images of each fighter on the scale. This generally applies to every weight class except heavyweight as the heavyweight division is the only one in which fighters often way significantly less than the maximum allowed on “weigh in” day. 

How lines can change

There are a multitude of factors on line movement of an MMA fight. The most significant, as with all sports, is the amount of wagers and dollars wagered on a specific side of a fight. Other factors could include weight cutting issues, news cycle occurrences, travel issues and corner/coaching/team issues. 

Fighting style and background

MMA fighters bring different styles and years of training different martial arts disciplines to the table, and quite obviously not all styles are the same and match up differently. A lifelong wrestler will pose a different challenge than a lifelong Karate practitioner just like a lifelong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo practitioner will pose a different challenge than a life long Muay Thai practitioner. 

Some fighters and fighting disciplines are more fine tuned for standing and striking while others are more fine tuned for grappling on the feet or on the floor. Stylistic differences make for a lot of fun in predicting which fighter’s skill set will be able to dictate where and how, and arguably mostly importantly, at which pace the fight takes place. Strikers want to stuff takedowns and keep fights standing throughout while wrestlers and BJJ practitioners want fights to get to the floor early and often. Understanding the skill set of each given fighter and how each opponent has previously dealt with a similar skill set is a nice edge for bettors to have and the bit of homework and research can go quite a long way for bettors creating their bet card for a given fight night. 

Regardless of fighting discipline, fighters approach MMA with different mindsets. Some fighters are more apt to finishing or being finished early, emptying the gas tank and throwing everything they’ve got at their opponents, often bringing an ITD win or gifting one to their opponent once their gas tank has run dry. On the other hand, other fighters prefer a longer fight with a slower pace and often see their fights go to a decision. Having a general sense of the pace each fighter will come out with and how their opponent will be able to deal with said pace is an important facet to MMA betting. 

Another piece of the puzzle for successful UFC wagering is understanding fighter records and that not all records are created remotely equal. Once a fighter reaches the UFC, fights in smaller regional promotions must be taken with a grain of salt. A string of wins for Fighter A in a small promotion against inexperienced competition can often be less impressive than a close split decision loss against a true UFC caliber fighter. Understanding the level of competition previously faced can go a long way in understanding and predicting future outcomes for any given fighter. 

Betting on MMA and UFC fights is a bit different from other sports. It is simply not as numbers and data driven as most every other sport is. Gathering as much of the information listed above could be the difference between a winning player and a losing player. 

We will also be here to help at Line Movement with some film tape review and thoughts on each fight from some of the brightest minds in the industry, as well as myself. Check back as often as possible for the greatest possible edge.

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