Below is a list of 25 questions that are designed to help filter out as many losing wagers as possible. The goal of these questions are to come up with a systematic approach that helps improve your winning bet percentage. The utility of this list is that it exists as a reminder of what to look for when attempting to predict who is going to win a fight.
In an effort to keep this article fairly short, I have only provided further explanations to questions that I figured needed it.
To obtain a ballpark figure, there is SLpM (strikes landed per minute) data on Fightmetric for each UFC fighter. The issue with those numbers is that it doesn’t grade the quality of strikes. The spectrum of quality is either “significant” or not. So, a kick to the thigh counts the same as a hard overhand right that rocks an opponent.
The best way to determine striking volume is to watch previous contests from a fighter and pay attention to their striking tendencies. Are there long periods of inactivity or do they consistently land more punches than their opposition?
When a fighter knocks out a foe, does it take an avalanche of strikes before the referee jumps in to wave off the fight, or does it take one power shot to completely shut the lights out.
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An example of one punch KO power is represented well in Anthony Johnson. An example of a fighter that takes an overwhelming amount of strikes to get a TKO is Michael Bisping. Both of these KO/TKO victories have the same result, but one punch KO power is more dangerous and intimidating.
To help answer this question, see which fighter has the higher decision win %? If both competitors have nearly identical decision records, analyze which fighter usually wins by a larger margin on the judges scorecards. Does one fighter win by split decisions and the other has a few 30-27 dominant victories? Give preference to the fighter that typically wins in the more convincing fashion.
When judging athleticism, look at their reflexes, strength, and agility of a mixed martial artist. Does a fighter react quickly to their opponent’s attacks? One method of gauging the level of athleticism is to compare a fighter to Yoel Romero. Do they resemble his explosiveness?
Another way to phrase this question is: who is less likely to bruise, get cut, or bleed during the match? This is particularly important when judges are scrutinizing little details to finalize their verdict on who they deem as the winner and the loser. Imagine a face bloody and bludgeoned contrasted by a face that is unmarked. When examining those two faces, it is easy to validate a decision to call the unmarked face the winner.
A good stat that helps differentiate chin strength is KO/TKO loss %. If a fighter has competed in 30 fights and has only lost one fight by KO/TKO, his KO/TKO loss % is 3.3% (1/30).
The best way to determine chin strength is by seeing how a fighter reacts to getting hit. If they start blinking their eyes rapidly, it means they got hurt.
“World class gyms make world class fighters” as detailed in this article that covers the best MMA gyms. There is the exception where champion level fighters train at small gyms, but this is few and far between. I personally give a slight 2-5% advantage to a fighter that trains at a renowned gym when they are set to battle against a fighter who trains at an unknown place. It doesn’t mean I’ll always consider them as the favorite, it means I give them a 2-5% higher chance of winning than I would have in the absence of that information.
One example that comes to mind is when Kai Kara-France fought Paiva at UFC 234. Kara-France was fighting near his home country. UFC 234 took place in Melbourne, Australia, which is about a 4 hour flight from his training center in Auckland. Kara-France received a very gratuitous decision win that wouldn’t have transpired in other areas of the world.
A front-runner is a person that either finishes their opponent in the first round or loses. Their ability to perform drastically goes down every minute past the first round.
After a fighter wins by a first round stoppage, the odds become inflated in their next fight. This is a good opportunity to bet against them. I have collected data from UFC Fight Night 113 to UFC Fight Night 145 (64 UFC events) that shows that when a fighter wins by a first round stoppage, they usually lose their next fight. Their record is 67-70 (48.9 win %) in that time span mentioned above.
By using the word old, I’m referring to a fighter that could experience a sharp decline in physical ability, in-between the present and his last fight. When a fighter gets into their late thirties, father time will begin to erode their athletic gifts.
I have fallen victim to this trap. When I was watching tape on Song Kenan, I ignored how terrible he looked in his regional footage. He showed zero takedown defense, low striking volume, and poor cardio. Against my better judgment, I still bet him against Morono. I paid the price for neglecting those red flags.
Which fighter is challenging an opponent that is head and shoulders above all of their previous opponents?
One instance that exemplifies the question above is Montel Jackson vs Ricky Simon. Jackson had never fought an opponent that possessed the relentless wrestling tenacity that Simon had. In analyzing that matchup pre-fight, it was easy to see that Jackson was taking a bigger step up in competition level than Simon was.
Before Darren Till lost at the hands of Tyron Woodley, he was receiving a huge promotional push from the UFC. This special treatment resulted in him getting an opportunity to engage in a striking contest with karate expert Stephen Thompson, in his hometown of Liverpool.
The contest was mainly a stalemate besides one late knock down scored by Till. The scorecards could have gone either way.
What potentially tipped the scales on the winning scorecard? It could have been that Till was fighting in his hometown, as indicated in question number 14, or it could have been all of the interviews, documentaries, and promotional content that the UFC created for their Fight Pass platform, before the fight.
Did Darren Till’s perceived marketability give him any advantages towards his decision victory over Stephen Thompson? Who knows, but it’s possible.
At the end of the day, with everything else being equal, when the announcer is revealing the judges’ scorecards, I would prefer to have my money wagered on a fighter that the UFC is heavily marketing.
Countless fights have been lost by horrible fight IQ.
Bad fight intelligence consists of:
In this article by Bleacher Report, it states that “extreme dehydration also has potentially lethal neurological consequences. Depletion of the fluid that surrounds the brain not only renders fighters more susceptible to being knocked out, but it also carries with it the risk of more permanent consequences” (MMA: The Dangers of Cutting Weight in Mixed Martial Arts).
When you know a fighter is extremely big for a weight class, you should downgrade their probability of winning.