I’ve been betting on mixed martial arts for years now and the industry is better than it has ever been. There is rarely a week without multiple MMA events to bet on. With so many potential fights to bet on handicappers have been able to focus more on the sport.
MMA Betting Markets Explained
Money Line – Bet on a Fighter to Win
Example: Chris Weidman –240 vs. Lyoto Machida 200
This market is the most common and only requires you to pick the winner of a fight. When the odds on the favorite exceed –300 it’s often best to look at alternative markets or combine multiple favorites on a parlay, which we’ll discuss later in the guide.
Over/Under – How Long Will a Fight Last
Example: Over 2.5 Rounds –160 vs. Under 2.5 Rounds 120
I bet on a lot of over/under bets in MMA. Often fights will feature two fighters will similar styles. If two wrestlers fight each other I’ll look at betting on the over, as it’s likely they’ll lay on each other most of the fight. The under is ideal when two finishers are fighting.
Method of Victory – How Will a Fight End
Example: Quinton Jackson to Win by TKO/KO 245
This is a great market to become familiar with. You have to bet on the exact method that a fighter will win. In the upcoming Jackson vs. Lawal fight you have to pick the winner of the fight and how the fighter will win the fight (TKO/KO, Submission or Decision).
Inside the Distance (ITD) – Will a Fighter Win by Stoppage
Example: Quinton Jackson Wins ITD 190
Not sure if a fighter will win by TKO/KO or submission, but positive they’ll win by stoppage? Save yourself the hassle and bet on the fighter to win ITD. The odds aren’t as good as predicting the method of victory, but your winning percentage is likely to increase.
Round Betting Props – What Round Will a Fighter Win in
Example: Quinton Jackson to Win in Round 1 400
I want to list every UFC betting market in this guide and betting on the exact round a fighter will win is one of them. However, I don’t bet on this market ever and I’ve been betting on MMA for years. Picking the exact round a fighter will win in is difficult to handicap.
Points Handicap – Fighter Must Cover the Spread
Example: Jamie Varner –2.5 Points Handicap –110
I don’t bet on this market much, but I know it’s popular amongst my friends who bet heavily on MMA. If you bet on Varner –2.5 he’d have to win the fight by stoppage or win a decision by 3 or more points (If he won a decision 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 he would cover).
Fight Bonus Props – SOTN, KOTN & FOTN
Example: Daniel Cormier to win KOTN 800
Looking for a nice payout while betting on MMA? The fight bonus props are an exciting market. Each UFC event a fighter is rewarded with a knockout of the night bonus (KOTN), submission of the night bonus (SOTN) and fight of the night bonus (FOTN).
Only a few bookmakers offer this market, but it’s very popular. I like the KOTN/SOTN markets the best. Some cards are tougher than others and should be avoided, but with the high payout odds you only have to win a small percentage of the time to make money.
To Parlay or not to Parlay in MMA Betting
Personally, I only parlay money line favorites 90% of the time. A lot of chalk wins in MMA and parlay betting becomes essential, as you’ll want to avoid betting big favorites straight up. One bad night of betting huge favorites can deplete months of profits.
Let’s look at the upcoming UFC 173 card quickly. Let’s say we look at the card and like Barao –900, Cormier –1000, Lawler –320 and Varner -170 to win their respective fights. Betting these four favorites SU isn’t ideal due to the amount you’d have to risk.
To win $40 on each fight you’d have to risk roughly $955 total by betting them SU and if one of the two big favorites happens to lose you would lose a large amount of money. By parlaying the four favorites you could bet $100 to win $155 and your risk is limited.
MMA Betting Strategies & Tips
The best tip that I can give you is to watch as much as MMA as possible. As you become more familiar with the fighters you’ll know when to bet on them and when to fade them. However, it’s possible to be successful without ever watching a single fight as well.
Shop Lines – MMA lines still differ greatly between bookies, which is good news for us. In fact, there are opportunities regularly to arb a fight and guarantee a profit instantly weeks before a fight if you analyze the lines often enough.
Bet Favorites Early – UFC 173 is upcoming and if you look at the odds history for the main card you’ll notice that the five favorites have seen their odds increase since opening. For example, the odds on Barao have gone from –450 to –900.
Know the Fighter – Do you like Roy Nelson to win his next fight? When Nelson wins he wins by TKO/KO. His last 11 wins are by TKO/KO. So why bet on him on the ML rather than method of victory? Always consider alternative markets.
Research – Sites like FightMetric do a great job providing MMA handicappers with useful statistics. It’s important to look for edges that a fighter has against his opponent such as height, reach, stance, striking, defense, takedowns, etc.
Study Losses – Every bettor looks at how a fighter has done recently, but most don’t look at the losses. You can pick up on trends by studying losses. Does a fighter have a weak chin and loses often by TKO/KO against power strikers?
Motivation – Don’t allow potential motivation to sway your decision, but in a close fight it can be useful. Is a fighter close to being released/fired? Is a fighter close to a title fight? Is a fighter coming back from a lengthy injury?
Bankroll Management – Don’t get into the habit of betting favorites over –200 often SU. Don’t bet on every fight just for action. Don’t place a wager unless you have found an edge in the market based on your handicapping.
Underdogs – A lot of underdogs win, especially in the UFC. In other promotions chalk tends to dominate more often, but in the UFC there is a lot of value in underdogs. One tip is to fade big name fighters that are on the decline in their career.
Betting on MMA is really simple, as the number of markets to bet on is limited and most are correlated to each other. The number of resources for handicapping fights has increased as well, which means there is no excuse not to know everything about the fighters.
Little things such as reach can play a huge role. If you have two fighters that like to stand and bang, but one of them has a 7’’ reach advantage who do you think is likely to win? My money is on the fighter that can keep his opponent at a distance with his reach.
UFC is still easily #1 in the industry and likely always will be while Bellator is a clear #2. World Series of Fighting (WSOF) has recently signed some talent with name recognition as well. There are also many international promotions that the bookmakers post odds on. For the best promotions and odds when betting on MMA, make sure you check out our recommended sportsbooks below: