The betting public loves perfection – or at least the appearance of perfection. That’s why a fighter who is undefeated heading into a fight in the UFC always draw a little more attention than a fighter in his position typically would otherwise. In virtually every case, a fighter is eventually going to lose a fight. The level of competition is so high in the UFC, and the sport so difficult, that even the best fighters lose from time to time. For bettors that first loss can create a handicapping puzzle. Because a fighter has never lost before you can never be sure how they are going to respond to the setback, so you can’t be sure what the best course of action is when it betting on them in their next fight. Here are eight questions to ask to help you determine what’s the best approach:
Who did they lose to? – No loss is an ideal loss, but there are some losses that are clearly better than others. There is really no shame in losing to another top level fighter – another undefeated fighter, or an experienced, successful fighter on the rise. That kind of setback can easily be overcome in the future if he really was as talented as his record suggests. If, on the other hand, they lose to a fighter that they should easily have been able to beat then it’s a much bigger concern, and you have to look closer at what happened, and what could be to come.
How did they lose? – There are some ways to lose that are more acceptable – or at least less concerning – than others. The biggest potential issue is if a fighter loses because an opponent attacks what was supposed to be a strength for the fighter. For example, if a fighter is known for his defensive skill on the ground, then it would be a real concern if he was beaten on the ground with reasonable ease. Not only would you have to question whether the fighter is as good as he was perceived to be, but you would have to question his confidence after the setback.
Who had they beaten? – Any undefeated record is going to draw plenty of attention. There are some undefeated records that are a lot more impressive than others, though. If they had achieved their record by beating up on weaklings then that is far less impressive than if they had beaten top level fighters. If their unbeaten record really wasn’t indicative of their performance then it could easily have been misleading.
Did they face any changes before the fight? – You need to consider whether anything changed for the fighter before he suffered his first loss. Did he have to go up or down in weight class? Did he change where he trained or who he trained with? Was there a longer or shorter gap between fights than he is used to? The more you can understand about these changes, the better the chances that you can explain what happened and have an insight into what might happen next. This is especially valuable because the public might miss out on these changes and not correctly deal with the fighter as a result.
Were they healthy? – It’s hard to get an accurate picture of the health of a fighter unless there is an obvious problem. Though you can get some insights from media reports or occasionally interviews after the fight. If the fighter wasn’t as healthy as he could be going into the fight then that could go a long way to explaining the loss. If the fighter is healthier next time around then the effort and the result could be more positive.
What’s next? – When a fighter loses for the first time you can learn a lot from how they bounce back. Do they sign up for another fight quickly, or do they take a longer than expected layoff before their next outing? Are they up against a similar or higher level of opponent than the one they lost to, or have they taken a step back? The timing and choice of opponent can tell you about how the loss is being perceived by the fighter and the UFC, and that can be very valuable in terms of mindset.
What’s their demeanor like? – This can be tough to tell for sure because we obviously don’t really get to know the fighters and what they are like. We can get some sense of how the fighters are responding, though, by their attitude in interviews right after the fight and further down the road. If they are positive and motivated despite the loss then they could be much easier to trust then if they appearing to be pouting, trying to blame others, or generally seem frustrated or negative.
What’s the media’s response? – The media has a big impact on how the betting public reacts to a fighter. If the media is positive about the fighter despite the loss – they applaud his effort and still remain optimistic about his future – then there is a good chance that the public will remain optimistic about the fighter as well. If the media questions the loss, the effort of the fighter, or the skill of that fighter, though, then that could have a big impact on how the public views the fighter next time out. As with any case in sports betting, smart bettors need to be aware of what the public thinks so they can understand how the public sentiment could affect how the lines are set and how they move.