If you’re reading this in the United States – Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re reading it elsewhere – Happy Thursday! The UFC is taking a rare week off for the Thanksgiving holiday in the States, so you’ll get no juicy betting tips from me this go around. However, I figured now would be a fine time to revisit some of the stats I track and use to pick winners for UFC fights. I find it interesting to see what is actually important to predicting a winner of a fight, and what is inconsequential.
I did a similar column about a year or so ago, but with far more data in my spreadsheet since that time things have changed, and a clearer picture has emerged as to what you should concentrate on when trying to bet on winners. I’ve been tracking these stats since the start of 2020 and I’m up to almost 900 fights in the database. Let’s dive into some MMA Math!
1) Go With the Chalk – 67% Success Rate
It’s boring and not as fun as hitting on a big underdog but betting the chalk on every fight will win you 67% of your bets. This obviously isn’t a good strategy to make yourself money, however, as over the long haul you’ll end up well in the red. The key is to know which favourites to bet on. One of the rules I generally follow is ‘if in doubt, go with the favourite’. It might seem wiser to go with the underdog if you feel a fight is a toss up, but I follow the stats and trust the oddsmakers – they know what they’re doing.
The flipside is that a third of every UFC fight card, on average, will have an underdog win a fight. Figuring out who these fighters will be, in advance, will net you a nice score. The rest of the stats I consult can help here.
2) Bet on the Superior Striker – 64%
The superior striker, on paper, wins their UFC fights 64% of the time. This number has actually dropped considerably over the past year – it was at 72% in October of 2020. Despite this, it’s still the second-best predictor of success in the cage. How I determine the better striker in a matchup is by visiting UFCStats.com, checking out a fight matchup, then comparing the four striking stats the site tracks for each fighter (Strikes Landed per Minute, Striking Accuracy, Strikes Absorbed per Minute, Defense). Whichever fighter wins the most categories I deem the better striker. Simple, yet effective.
3) Avoid Late Replacement Fighters – 61%
Pretty much every UFC fight card has a fighter stepping into a matchup on short notice (which I deem less than a month preparation for a fight), especially with all the COVID related pullouts we’ve had over the past year. AVOID THESE FIGHTERS. Short notice fighters have only won 39% of their fights since 2020. Normally these are fighters making their UFC debut, often in a different weight class than their natural one and are often overmatched.
4=) Fade Fighters Who Miss Weight – 59%
The whole point of fighters cutting weight is so that they can be bigger than their opponent on fight night (in theory – but everyone cuts weight, and often the same amount, so it’s pointless). So, you’d think that if a fighter misses weight – aka comes in heavy – then they should have an advantage on fight night by being the physically bigger pugilist. Incorrect. Overweight fighters have only won 41% of the time. Wait until the weigh-ins and check out how the fighters look on the scales and whether they make weight before you make your bets.
4=) Go with Youth – 59%
Pretty simple one here – the younger fighter in the cage wins 59% of the time. I didn’t track the stats on this (which I may have to do come 2022), but the bigger the age gap the higher the winning percentage is for the younger fighter (I think).
Other Factors to Take into Account
6) Superior grappling stats – 57%
7) Lands more strikes per minute on average – 53%
8) Taller fighter – 53%
9) Longer reach – 52%
10) A year or more out of the cage – 48% (so bet the opponent here)