MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts, a full-contact sport of combat composed of bits and pieces of combat sports and fighting styles from around the world. It is unique among the fighting arts in that it allows grappling (similar to wrestling), punching (similar to boxing), kicking, and many other legal forms of striking at the same time.
Originally a disorganized Brazilian sport, what we know today as Mixed Martial Arts came to the United States from South America in 1993 with the formation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. These days, UFC mixed martial arts events sell out major stadiums around the world, drawing millions of TV viewers and lots of sports betting action as well.
Pros & Cons of MMA Betting
UFC is the newest of the pro sports events with big TV deals and global sponsors, but by the year 2006 (just over a decade after its premiere in America) the major UFC events were earning more money via Pay Per View than boxing events. The sport has now eclipsed boxing as the most popular pugilist sport in the world’s biggest sports viewing market.
That popularity and freshness, combined with the simplicity of the odds and the limited number of pro fighters, makes placing bets and picking favorites easier than in sports with larger athlete pools.
Unfortunately, true handicapping in any combat sport is difficult – more factors influence the outcome of a boxing match or MMA event than most other sports, and with little in the way of statistics (compared to a sport like baseball), handicappers have a rough go when it comes to picking UFC winners.
Types of Mixed Martial Arts Bets
Here are the most popular ways to wager on the MMA. The first selection a bettor must make is whether the pugilist they wager on will win outright, via knockout, or via submission.
An outright win means that a fighter wins the bout. It doesn’t matter how the bout is won; by decision, by submission, etc. So long as the athlete a bettor wagers on win, they earn a payout based on normal odds.
A knock-out win means that a fighter wins a match specifically via a knock-out. Wagers on the knock-out win can be on a fighter to knock-out OR to not knock-out the opponent. If one fighter stops the contest early, he is considered to have been knocked out for the purposes of this bet. This is a tougher bet to win, because not all fights are won by knock-outs. Again, regular odds will be given for this, but differing from the outright odds a little to reflect the increased difficulty of the bet.
A win via submission means that a fighter has won a contest because the other guy in the fight submitted. This is similar to a knock-out wager in that the opposite bet can be placed as well.
The good news for bettors considering UFC wagers – all three of these types of wagers (and every other type of line made for the MMA and UFC) follow a very simply numerical system.
Reading MMA Odds
Bookmakers set an underdog and a favorite on all MMA lines. The underdog is always indicated with a “+” sign followed by a number, while the favorite is listed following a “-“ sign and a number. Unlike a spread on a football game where one team is getting a certain amount of points (ex. Saints +7), in MMA fights the line on the game is what’s called a money line.
In a given MMA contest, the odds will be represented something like this:
Georges St. Pierre (-245)
Thiago Alves (+185)
In this fight, GSP would be the favorite (as indicated by the “-“ sign), and at -245, bettors have to put up $2.45 to win $1. A wager of $245 is required for a bettor who wants to back him for a win and earn $100. If GSP were to lose though, that bettor would lose the full $245.
A wager on Thiago Alves at +185 is a bet on an underdog (as indicated by the “+”) sign. A successful wager on him would earn $1.85 for every $1 wagered. Punters who wager $100 on a victorious Thiago stand to earn $185. If Thiago were to lose the fight, punters who wagered on him would lose their original $100 bet.
MMA Betting Tips
Bettors just starting out in the world of UFC and Mixed Martial Arts wagers should focus on four factors as part of their beginner’s strategy.
- Injury – Like soccer and football, MMA fighting is a violent sport full of constant injury updates. Seeing an athlete get hurt in a match – and seeing athletes fighting while hurt – is common. The key to handicapping a contest is to judge the severity of the injury as well as the athlete’s toughness.
- Recent Performance– All contact sports, especially combat sports, are highly emotional events where streaks and recent performance are a good indicator of future performance. It makes a big difference whether the fighter is coming off a win or a loss. If a fighter has a long winning streak – they are likely to come out with a lot of momentum and win the bout.
- History Between Fighters –MMA is an individual sport, but history between opponents is just as important in this league as in the NFL or NBA. Understanding the trends in the results between two fighters is key to smart handicapping.
- Odds at Different Books – If you are going to bet on mixed martial arts, and want to make some money doing it – a great idea would be shop for odds. All of the online sports books give odds on the biggest martial arts fights. There may be a difference that’s worth taking an advantage of, an arbitrage opportunities are still common in this young and not well understood combat sport.