We’ll start with some fundamentals and work down to some more…. unusual suggestions 🙂
Tip #1: This very first point might be a deal breaker for a lot of you. You can make SOME money betting on instinct but really, if you want to make any decent money, you 100% have to be either watching fight tape specifically for the fight or taking really good notes as you watch fights generally and using those notes on future predictions. I bought UFC fight pass specifically for this purpose. If you’re gunna end up making money from your picks, it’s definitely worth the investment. Of course, there are “other resources” you can use, if you don’t have the money for fight pass.
Tip #2: Break down each fighter forensically. I have a list of attributes and effectively turn the fighters into computer game characters. I’m sure a lot of people do this but my tip here is that you can’t just do it for a few attributes like power, chin etc… You have to go nuts. I have about 40 attributes. I don’t literally fill in all these attributes, however, I have them there mentally as a sort of check point.
I also think it’s important to note which of the attributes are going to be key in the bout you are trying to break down. The obvious one is chin. I would suggest very rarely betting on someone with a poor chin. Plus, you can flag them up as a massive potential opportunity if they face someone who’s a bad stylistic matchup. Which brings me to…
Tip #3. Transitions. This, I believe, is pretty much the most underrated part of breaking down a fight. A fighter may have an advantage in certain area but if they can’t get it there, it really doesn’t matter. The most obvious part of this analysis is takedowns. You can’t just look at takedown defense or offense stats, you need to make notes on what type of takedowns people go for. Perfect example would be breaking down Daniel Cormier vs Anthony Johnson. Johnson stuffed 8 of 8 takedown attempts vs Phil Davis, who is a national wrestling champion. So, you might therefore think he’d be hard for Cormier to take down. However, Cormier goes for clinch takedowns and trip takedowns during transitions and Phil Davis was shooting double legs. Totally, totally different.
If you have limited time to research a fight between two guys who are stylistically very different, I would recommend your first bit of analysis was on transitions.
The second most important thing I like to assess is whether a fighter accepts being in bad positions (i.e. pressed up against the cage, or in guard on the bottom). We’ll look at that more in point #9.
We have a notes feature at Bet MMA, which lets you keep as many notes on fighters as you like, all for free, so you are more than welcome to sign up and make the most of that feature. In the near future we’ll also be adding feature for you to rate each fighter for a number of attributes and potentially we’ll even have an automated system to flag up good bets based on your ratings.
Tip #4. Set your own line. I like to pretend I’m the bookmaker and set my own line, first starting with a percentage chance of each fighter winning, then converting that into odds. Once you’ve done that, assume you’re 5% off at least, then assess whether there’s really any value in betting the fight. You can use our odds conversion tool to do that.
Tip #5. Don’t assume people will fight with a good gameplan. Sometimes you’ll think “man, this guy could totally win if he fights like xyz”. I thought that for Mark Eddiva’s fight against Levan Makashvili, in Levan’s UFC debut. Fighters in there debut lose more often than not, because of the UFC jitters. It was also in the Phillipenes and Levan was a last minute replacement. All big red flags. Eddiva was something like +450 and I thought honestly it should have been around +150, because Eddiva was a superior striker.
I ultimately left the pick (correctly), because after re-watching Eddiva’s fights I decided he just couldn’t be trusted to fight a sensible gameplan. I didn’t trust him to fight his way out of bad positions and keep the fight where he had an advantage. In the end he did spend too much time with his back against the cage, drifting his way to a split decision loss. So that brings me to:
Tip #6. Know when to fold on a bet. I used to play poker. If you do 5 hours research on a fight and you think “yeah, this COULD happen”, that’s kinda like putting a load of chips into a hand on the flop… maybe you get suckered into calling all the way to the river because you’re heavily invested and lose even more chips. Basically you don’t have to bet every time you think there’s some value and if there’s a a nagging doubt in the back of your mind, maybe you’re best off just leaving it. Certainly it’s a good idea to leave it for 24 hours and revisit it the day after.
Tip #7. Not every event is the same, so don’t try and make the same number of picks on every card. What’s the point in that? Sometimes you should be making 5 picks per card, sometimes you should make none. This is one of the massive problems with subscription based services who charge e.g. $20 per month to view picks. If you’re charging people a subscription, you have an obligation to make picks and sometimes there’s absolutely no value in doing that.
Tip #8. Bear in mind the stats. There are very signifincantly different patterns in different weight classes. Check out our MMA Stats pages and make the most of them. We’ve got filters for a vast number of different variables such as fighters making their debut, all weight classes, genders, octagon size etc. Generally familiarise yourself with the patterns. Knowledge is power! 🙂
Tip #9. Remember that a hell of a lot of fights (with the exception of heavyweight) end up going to decision. With that in mind, volume of output and accepting being in bad positions are two very important factors. Lots of fighters sit in guard on the bottom or allow themselves to be pressed against the cage. Someone like Charles Oliveira for example, sits in guard for ages. He’s an extremely dangerous fighter but if he doesn’t get a sub, there’s a chance he’ll lose a decision. Clinch control is probably less obvious but more important. Lots of fighters will defend a takedown well but ultimately will not circle away from the cage, so they spend a lot of time in defensive mode, which is a great way to lose a decision. It doesn’t matter how you think a fight should be scored, base your picks on how MMA actually IS scored.
Of course, that above point is assuming you’re going to pick a winner. Why pick a winner? I’ve said this to several people but I believe picking winners is an ego thing whereas picking the over / under (particularly the over), as a less active betting market, is often where the good money is at! You can’t call any betting “sensible” but this is as close to sensible money as I think there is in MMA betting.
Often you’ll get an over 1.5 rounds rather than the usual 2.5 rounds if the odds are a little wider. If you think those adds are picking the correct winner but are way too wide, well then the over is probably a good bet.
Tip #10. Make notes after you get things wrong. What was it that you didn’t see coming? Note it down and don’t do it again.Maybe you fell for….
Tip #11. Commentator coolaid! Some commentators are really bad when it comes to over-hyping things. In my opinion Kenny Florian is the worst but they all do it to an extent. So don’t believe everything a color commentator says – it’s their job to make people sound better than they are. HOWEVER, with that said, do listen to the commentary. I know some people like to watch fights with the sound off… I think that’s a bad idea. You hear a lot of different little bits of info in commentary from fighter belt levels to explanations of mitigating circumstances for previous losses (x fighter had a cold when cutting weight etc). Most bettors and presumably the odds makers too, base most of their odds and betting patterns on hard facts. If you can find mitigating reasons why those hard “facts” are a bit off, like a fighter coming in with an injury or personal problems, that’s probably going to mean the line undervalues that fighter.
Tip #12. Similarly, check the records of a fighter’s opponents, especially if they are new to you / the UFC. Sometimes a fighter has a pretty sweet looking record but the people they’ve beaten have a combined record of 17 wins and 142 losses. You can’t then bet based on this information but this should be a good basis for starting out your research. Have a look at what sort of fighter the person you’re scouting has fought in the past and as an example, if someone’s coming in with a sweet striking record, have they faced and beaten a really good wrestler yet? The early UFC principles still apply so a flashy striker will still get a lot of hype but when they run up against a wrestler, they’re still probably gunna lose.
Tip #13. This is a really random weird one. 🙂 If you have DVRd the fights and want to see if someone has good head movement, watch a bit of the fight in x2 speed. It makes it a lot easier to see if a fighter isn’t moving his head at all, because everything else is moving loads and their head’s staying still.
Tip #14. Dont fall in / out of love with one guy… Just cos a fighter’s won you money in the past, don’t feel some sort of affinity towards them because you’ll tend to over-value him (or her of course). I think that’s probably why a lot of people picked Neil Magny over Demian Maia. He’d made people decent money in the past and that can cloud your judgement. The very opposite applied in his next fight as people then massively underrated him vs Erik Silva. Some people will tell you a fighter’s only as good as their last fight. Complete garbage but be grateful that some people are that into stupid hyperbole, because that sort of nonsense logic means there’s always going to be value in the betting lines! 🙂
Tip #15. And finally…. Bet the dog. Just as a general basis for betting, if you bet the dog, you’re gunna tend to make money. At the time of writing this article, according to our MMA underdogs vs favorites page, blindly betting the underdog (at the best available odds), will net you 9% ROI, which is better than the ROI you get from a lot of professional MMA handicappers! Ignore the really big underdogs, who do tend to lose, and that ROI is increased significantly. The real sweet spot appears to be in the +186 to +150. Fighters in this odds range out perform their odds by 15%, meaning a massive ROI if you just bet on fighters in that odds range.
Hopefully those mma betting tips will help you but remember, don’t go nuts. If you lose money, pack it in and don’t chase your losses. Don’t kid yourself and keep a note of how much you are actually winning and losing.