UFC Betting Tips: How to Pick a Live Underdog

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Our UFC betting expert explains how to use fighter stats to pick live underdog winners.

Winner of UFC bout with hands raised.

The safest move in sports betting is to put your money on the favourite. The oddsmakers generally know what they are doing. While that might be the safest move to win a bet, it isn’t the best way to win money. It also isn’t as fun and exciting as hitting on an underdog – that’s where the real money, and exhilarating thrills, are found.

Now, how to do you find yourself a “live dog” on a UFC card? Obviously, all underdogs aren’t built the same. So how do you separate the “live dogs” from the just plain “dogs”. Here’s how.

Crunching the Numbers

Luckily for you, I’ve crunched the numbers on every fight that has taken place in the UFC in 2020 – almost 360 fights in total. You’re welcome. And I’ve found some interesting data that can help answer the above question as to how to pick a winning underdog.

First off, only 33% of betting underdogs heading into a fight win the fight. That makes it imperative to try to zero in on the correct dogs. The typical UFC card has 12-13 fights on it, so that means on average there will be about four betting underdogs coming through. Now, our task is to figure out who those four could be.

Look for the Striking Stats

UFC fighter Trinaldo punches his opponent Miller during a bout in Sao Paulo.

The most important factor in picking a winning fighter in a UFC fight in 2020 is striking stats. Apparently, striking wins fights, plain and simple. Go to the UFCStats.com website and call up a fight card. Call up each fighter’s striking stats. Whichever fighter’s career striking stats are superior to his/her opponent’s go on to win their fight 72% of the time. That’s a huge number. This doesn’t help us any when one of the fighters in a contest is a UFC newcomer – the site only tracks UFC fights – but if it is UFC veterans butting heads, it’s golden.

Ok, so underdogs with superior striking are a yes to bet on. How about fighters who come in overweight? MMA is, unfortunately, still all about weight cutting – drastically cutting water weight in the hours leading up to the weigh-in for a fight in order to meet their particular fight’s weight limit – then rehydrating back to their original weight (or even higher) by fight time. The whole thought is “bigger is better” in a fight. This would lead you to think a fighter that comes in overweight for a fight (aka “misses weight”) would have a distinct advantage come fight night. However, fighters that miss weight in 2020 have only won one in three fights – 33%. Steer clear of any underdogs that come in overweight the day before a fight.

Late Replacements Tend to Lose Fights

Underdog fighter Munhoz wins his UFC bout.

Striking – check. Overweight – not check. How about late replacement fighters, something that has been happening with more frequency during the pandemic. If a fighter is added to a fight with less than a month to prepare for it, they lose 63% of the time. That means any underdog that is plugged into a fight last minute – and normally these fighters are betting underdogs – you should avoid putting money down on them.

The last stat that can help you pick an underdog winner is age. While experience – aka “ring savvy” – can take you far in a fight, it turns out the younger a fighter is, the better. The younger fighter in a UFC fight in 2020 has won 61% of the time. And often these younger fighters will be newcomers and/or unheralded pugilists, meaning they will very often be the betting underdog on the board heading into a fight. Which can be good news for your bank account.

The Numbers: 5 Rules for Picking a UFC Underdog

  • Underdogs only win 33% of their UFC match-ups.
  • The superior striker wins 72% of the time.
  • Fighters who miss weight will lose 67% of their fights.
  • Late replacements lose 63% of their bouts.
  • Younger UFC fighters come out on top 61% of the time.

Now your training is complete, young one. Go forth and make your sensei proud.

Jeff Fox offers expert insight into the world of MMA & UFC betting from his years of experience in the industry. His work has appeared in publications such as SI.com, St Louis Post-Dispatch, SLAM, Fighters Only Magazine & FIGHT!, among many others. Jeff shares his UFC betting tips with MansionBet readers on a weekly basis.

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