Posted by on February 1, 2020

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A first-round finish in the UFC happens more often than you would think.

There is a long history of dominating performances in the world of MMA. This gives us 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 for the following reasons:

Here are some questions that will be answered in this blog post: 

  • Do most first round finishes happen by knockout or submission?
  • Do female UFC fighters average more first round finishes than male UFC fighters?
  • When a fighter is a big favorite, are they more likely to stop their opponent in the first round?
  • Which weight class in the UFC has the highest first round finish percentage?
  • What is the average amount of first round finishes per UFC card?

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. 

#1 – Most 1st round finishes happen by knockout

1st round knockouts are more common in the UFC than first round submissions.

Within the first 5 minutes of a UFC fight, you are 1.8x times more likely to see a knockout than a submission (on average). The picture below helps to illustrate that number.

stats on 1st round finishes in the ufc

The importance of this data lets us know how often a first-round submission or knockout happens per event.

A first-round knockout happens (184/101) 1.8 times per event and a first-round submission happens (101/101) 1.0 times per event.

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 can’t get the knockout. If they do, then continue to analyze the possibility of making a “Wins in Round 1” bet.

Why do first-round knockouts happen more than first-round submissions?

One reason is that the UFC employs more fighters with knockout ability than submission ability.

Another reason is that the evolution of the sport has given fighters better preparation to avoid submissions more than knockouts.

It’s also worth noting that a fighter only has a split second to defend against a punch, but submissions are usually more nuanced.

#2 – Male UFC fighters average more first round finishes than female UFC fighters

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:

  • A bettor should give more preference to male UFC fighters to finish their bout in the first round than female UFC fighters.
  • Assume there is a ~16% chance that a female UFC matchup won’t make it out of the first round.

The number 2 point is valuable in that it gives pause to the notion that all female matchups go to decision.

Think about that 16% stat before placing a decision prop at -350 odds.

How are women getting so many first-round finishes?

The most common way is by submission.

Out of the past 32 first round finishes by female UFC fighters, 12 of those were by KO/TKO and 20 were by submission.

What is the most common submission by female UFC fighters that win in the first round?

The most common submission is the armbar.

Out of the 20 submissions mentioned above, 10 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.

#3 – When a fighter is a big favorite, they are more likely to stop their opponent in the first round

27.9% of the time, a matchup with a big favorite will end in the first round. Imagine 10 UFC matchups that all involve big favorites, from those 10 matchups, more than three (2.8) don’t see a 2nd round.

In comparison, a matchup without a big favorite will only get 21.3% out in the first. In looking at 10 UFC matchups without big favorites, a little over two (2.1) of them will get that first-round knockout or submission.

Is this statistically significant? Yes. A 6.6% difference is enough for me to assign a preference.   

How do big favorites finish their fights in the first more often?

Let’s look at one example.

Weili Zhang (-550 favorite) defeated Jessica Aguilar in the first round via armbar.

In this matchup, Zhang had the following advantages:

  • Youth Advantage – Zhang was 29.3 years old and Aguilar was 36.5 years old.
  • Finishing Ability Advantage – Zhang had finished 15 of 18 opponents while Aguilar only finished 10 of 26.
  • Home Field Advantage – the fight took place in China where Zhang is from.
  • Athleticism and Physicality Advantage.

All these factors and more were embedded into that -550 betting price.

It makes sense with all these perceived advantages that a first-round finish would be more likely to occur.

If you had a bunch of advantages over somebody in a sport, would you be more likely to win by dominant fashion?

More lessons learned from Zhang vs Aguilar

Below is a GIF of the finishing sequence from Zhang.

The ending sequence between those two, sheds light on what skills are preferable when choosing/betting a fighter to win in the first round. Those skills are:

  • Top control – is a fighter able to keep their opponents back pinned to the canvas?
  • Ground and pound – does a fighter throw vicious elbows and hammer fists when they have their opponent on the ground?
  • Transitional grappling – can a fighter consistently secure a dominant position?
  • Submission ability – how fast can a fighter change to a different submission attempt? How threatening are those submission attempts?
Bjj Armbar GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

#4 – UFC light heavyweights are the most likely division to get that early finish

Pictured above is a graph that ranks each division in the UFC by how often they finish their opponents in the first round.

The women’s featherweight division only has a sample size of 11 fights, so we’ll consider that too low to glean any meaningful data from.

Next on the list is the UFC light heavyweight division.

In the past 98 light heavyweight matchups, 36 of them were stopped within 5 minutes. That is an astonishingly high percentage.

Light Heavyweight 1st round finish percentage is 36.7% and all other divisions combined equal 22.3%.

What is surprising to note here is that the men’s flyweight division is 4th on the list. I expect this to lower as the sample size gets closer to 100.

It’s worth noting that the division with the lowest first round finish % is the women’s bantamweight division.

If this trend continues, questions will arise as to why this division lacks the requisites needed to get a first-round stoppage victory.

#5 – Assume there will be 2 first round finishes per UFC card

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 133 UFC cards, there have been 4 that had zero first round finishes.

Now, 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 2 first round finishes.

The takeaway from #5 is that when breaking down a card, assume there will be 2-3 first round finishes.

You can narrow down which two will occur from picking a matchup in the men’s divisions. In considering the data above, it would be wise to pick a light heavyweight matchup to get that 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 133 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.

Final recap

  • You can bet first round props on 5Dimes.
  • Statistically, male fighters finish their opponents in the first round more than women.
  • When female fighters do get a first-round finish, it is most likely by submission, and their most common sub is by armbar.
  • Big favorites are more likely to finish their opponent in the first round.
  • Light heavyweight is the most likely division to get a first-round finish
  • 57.1% of the time, there will be either 2 or 3 1st round finishes on a UFC card.
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