A first round finish in the UFC happens more often than you would think. There is a long history of dominating performances, which gives a lot of data on how to predict them. The reward for learning these betting tips is that a first round finish prop usually pays around quadruple your wager. That can add up fast. First round finishes are also valuable in advancing a fighter’s career, improving the chances of a fighter getting a $50k bonus, and gives MMA DraftKings players 90 points.
Here are some questions that will be answered in this blog post:
If you are interested in betting on first round props, after receiving these betting tips head over to 5Dimes and apply what you learned. You can also watch UFC on ESPN without a cable subscription by using Sling. Get a free 7 day trial now.
First round knockouts are more common in the UFC than first round submissions. Within the first 5 minutes of a UFC fight, you are 1.6x times more likely to see a knockout than a submission (on average). The picture above helps to illustrate the numbers.
The importance of this data lets us know how often a first round submission or knockout happens per event. A first round knockout happens (105/57) 1.8 times per event and a first round submission happens (63/57) 1.1 times per event. There has also been 1 DQ (disqualification) win in the first round, which happened in the fight between Walt Harris and Mark Godbeer (during the timeline specified in the above picture).
The statistics also indicate that when placing a “Wins in Round 1” prop bet that a preference should be given to fighters who have shown knockout power more than fighters that haven’t. When considering on whether to confirm that round one bet, the first question that should be asked is – does fighter x have knockout power? If the answer is yes, then ask if they also have the submission ability to stop their opponent in the first round, if they are unable to get a knockout. If they do then continue to analyze the possibility of making a “Wins in Round 1” bet.
The reason for why knockouts are more common is something that I can only hypothesize about. My guess is that UFC employs more fighters with knockout ability than submission ability. There is also a possibility that the evolution and history of the sport has given fighters better preparation to avoid submissions more so than avoiding a flurry of devastating punches. A fighter has a split second to defend against a punch, but submissions are usually more nuanced.
It seems obvious that men finish their opponents in the first round more than women, but there are still some takeaway points with this information. Here they are:
1. A bettor should give more preference to male UFC fighters to finish their bout in the first round than female UFC fighters.
2. Assume there is a ~18% chance that a female UFC matchup won’t make it out of the first round.
3. Women are not as far behind as you would think, when it comes to steam rolling their opponents
The number 2 point is valuable in that it gives pause to the notion that all female matchups go to decision. Think about that ~18% statistic before placing a decision prop at -350 odds.
The number 3 point deserves some more elaboration. Men average getting 26.1 first round finishes out of 100 matchups. Women average getting 18.1. Therefore, the gap between the two is only 8 first round finishes out of 100 matchups. This gap is surprising considering that the 26 first round finishes scored by male UFC fighters includes all of the male UFC divisions. With heavyweight and light heavyweight fighters trying to knock the heads off each other, one would presume the gap mentioned above would be wider, but the statistics show that is not the case.
How are women getting so many first round finishes? The most common way is the armbar. Out of the past 19 first round finishes by female UFC fighters, 14 of those are from submission. Out of those 14 submissions, 8 of them came via the armbar. The ability to execute armbar submissions so frequently is what is helping women contend with men in the probability of getting a first round finish. Written below are the 8 armbar finishes.
1. Wu Yanan def. Lauren Mueller via armbar in the first round
2. Weili Zhang def. Jessica Aguilar via armbar in the first round
3. Mayra Silva def. Gillian Robertson via armbar in the first round
4. Joanne Calderwood def. Kalindra Faria via armbar in the first round
5. Montana de la Rosa def. Christina Marks via armbar in the first round
6. Rachael Ostovich def. Karine Gevorgyan via armbar in the first round
7. Gillian Robertson def. Emily Whitmire via armbar in the first round
8. Sarah Moras def. Ashlee Evans-Smith via armbar in the first round
Big favorites finish fights, and those matchups end quickly.
33.1% of the time, a matchup with a big favorite ends in the first round. Imagine 10 UFC matchups that all involve big favorites, from those 10 matchups, more than three (3.31) don’t see a 2nd round.
In comparison, a matchup without a big favorite will only finish in the first round 22.0% of the time. In looking at 10 UFC matchups without big favorites, a little over two (2.20) of them will get that first round knockout or submission.
3.31 versus 2.20. That shows that matchups with a big favorite are ending in the first round at more than 1 fight per 10 matchups (3.31 – 2.20 = 1.11).
How do big favorites finish fights more often in the first round? For some more betting tips, let’s take a look at one example.
Weili Zhang (-550 favorite) defeated Jessica Aguilar in the first round via armbar. In this matchup, Zhang had a youth advantage (29.3 years old vs 36.5 years old), a higher finishing rate % (Zhang had finished 15 of 18 opponents while Aguilar only finished 10 of 26), home country advantage (the fight took place in China), athleticism advantage, and a physicality advantage. All of these factors and more were embedded into that -550 betting price. It makes sense with all of these perceived and calculated advantages that a first round finish would be more likely to occur in this matchup than one that is more closely contested.
What is important to note is that Zhang was a +525 to finish Aguilar in the first round. A +525 has an implied probability of 16.0%. Considering that 18.1% of all female UFC matchups end in the first round, the odds would have been in the favor of the wagering party. Not to mention that Zhang previously had 9 first round finishes in her past 18 fights (50% first round finish rate).
Below is the finishing sequence from Zhang. She got a body lock takedown and then fatigued/overwhelmed her opponent with top control and elbows. After disheartening Aguilar with several vicious elbows, Zhang advanced into the mount position. After advancing too high on Aguilar’s upper body, Zhang used her transitional grappling instincts to secure another dominant position with a triangle choke. Aguilar was defending it well by clasping her hands together, but Zhang was quickly able to switch to an armbar. After that, the fight was quickly over. This ending sequence sheds light on what skills are preferable when choosing/betting a fighter to win in the first round. Those skills are:
1. Top control – is a fighter able to keep their opponents back pinned to the canvas?
2. Physicality – has a fighter been able to outmuscle their past opponents?
3. Ground and pound – does a fighter throw vicious elbows and hammer fists when they have their opponent on the ground?
4. Transitional grappling – can a fighter consistently secure dominant positions?
5. Submission ability – how fast can a fighter change to a different submission attempt? How threatening are those submission attempts?
Pictured above is a graph that ranks each division in the UFC by how often they finish their opponents in the first round. As you can see, the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions top this list. In the past 49 light heavyweight matchups, 20 of them were finished in the first round. That is an astonishingly high percentage.
What is surprising to note here is that the men’s flyweight division has a higher first round finish % than the middleweight division. I expect this to change as the sample size gets bigger for the flyweight division.
Too add some more secret betting tips, it’s worth noting that the division with the lowest first round finish % is the women’s bantamweight division. It’s not worth pointing the finger at a culprit (main cause) after only 19 matchups (which is what is recorded on the bar graph pictured above), but if this trend continues, questions will arise as to why this division lacks the requisites needed to get a first round stoppage victory.
When looking at a UFC card, there is usually around 11-13 fights on it. Out of all those fights, most of the time there will be 3 first round finishes. When breaking down a card, assume there will be 3 first round finishes, unless there is some compelling evidence to convince you otherwise. You can narrow down which three that will be from picking a matchup in the men’s divisions. Considering the data above, it would be wise to pick a light heavyweight matchup to get that first round finish.
Above is a chart of how often a certain amount of first round finishes happen per UFC card. In order to easily understand the meaning of that chart, I’ll give a brief description. For the first row, it is basically saying that out of the past 87 UFC cards, there have been 3 UFC cards that didn’t have a single first round finish.
In case you are wondering which UFC card had 7 first round finishes in it, the answer is UFC Fight Night 114. In the past 87 UFC cards, it is the only card that produced 7 first round finishes. I imagine there must have been an unbearable amount of filler commentary and commercials during that fight card.
1. You can bet first round props on 5Dimes.
2. Male fighters finish their opponents in the first round more than women.
3. When female fighters do get a first round finish, it is most likely by armbar
4. Big favorites are more likely to finish their opponent in the first round
5. Light heavyweight is the most likely division to get a first round finish
6. Most likely there will be 3 first round finishes on a UFC card
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