Since it’s official birth in the 1990s, mixed martial arts have become the fastest-growing sport in the world. With the growth comes an increased interest in betting on the sport.
If you have bet on boxing, then you should have the basics down for betting on mixed martial arts. However, things can get a bit more challenging considering that number of ways a fight can be won, the disciplines practiced by fighters and the overall lack of knowledge when it comes to the nuances of MMA.
We want to bring you some clarity so you can make an educated wager if and when you decide to make a bet on mixed martial arts.
MMA can be one of the most challenging sports to bet considering that one punch can end a fight and there are no “squash” matches in MMA promotions. Unlike boxing, most fights are reasonably competitive, which yields a fair share of upsets. That is the reason you’ll see much closer lines than you’ll see in boxing.
Rather than fights that can last 12 rounds with 3-minute rounds, MMA fights generally go for three 5-minute rounds or five 5-minute rounds in championship fights. There are also several weight classes in MMA: flyweight (125 pounds), bantamweight (135), featherweight (145), lightweight (155), welterweight (170), middleweight (185), light heavyweight (205) and heavyweight (265).
In boxing, you have two ways to win: (T)KO or decision. In MMA, a third wrinkle is added with submissions. The variety of ways a fight can end could present a challenge if you don’t properly research the fighters heading into a fight. Disciplines are particularly important when it comes to figuring out who to bet and why. For the most part, fighters are strikers (punches and kicks), wrestlers (heavy focus on takedowns and grounding the opponent) and grapplers (submission focused strategy). Depending on how good the fighter is at their discipline, it can make a huge difference on fight night. Wrestlers are typically good at controlling the pace of a fight and keeping strikers off their feet, while grapplers specialize in the ground game and can neutralize a wrestler’s greatest strength. But strikers can take advantage in the striking deficiency of grapplers and wrestlers. As the sport has evolved, fighters have become good at multiple disciplines, so you have to educate yourself on a fighter’s strengths and weaknesses heading into a fight.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s go over how to bet on a fight.
Like boxing, the most obvious thing to bet on is the winner of the fight. This happens primarily on what is called the moneyline, where a single bet can be made. If you’ve bet other sports, you know how the moneyline works where a team is assigned a value. Favorites are on the minus side (-125 means you would need to wager $125 in order to make $100) while underdogs are on the plus side (+220 means that a $100 bet would yield $220).
Aside from that, you can bet on the total rounds a fight can go. An oddsmaker will set the line at "over" or "under" a specified number of rounds. It could be 1.5 rounds for fights where a knockout or submission is expected, or 2.5 rounds where a fight may be expected to go to a draw. There really isn’t a safe way to bet unless you understand a particular fighter’s style. Conor McGregor has been known as a knockout artist who tends to finish his opponents with a devastating striking attac,k while a fighter like Georges St-Pierre focuses on utilizing his wrestling skills to win rounds and the decision. Knowing a fighter’s trends will assist greatly when it comes to making a bet.
MMA tends to see more finishes than boxing because of the 4-ounce gloves that are used and the multiple ways to win. But it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that a number of fights on any given night can all go the distance. Again, do the research and figure out if a fighter likes to find a way to finish or play it safe to win by points.
It is also important to pay attention to how a fighter prepares. If he trains with an elite gym (Jackson Winklejohn MMA, American Top Team, American Kickboxing Academy) it could give him/her a distinct advantage heading into a fight. Also, injuries play a major role in a fight. Keep an eye on a fighter’s history of health issues.
As you can see, there are a number of ways to bet a fight and there are even more prop bets that can be wagered. But these are the basics to get you started and hopefully earn some cash with a few smart bets.