MMA is a brutal sport, and training for it is incredibly tough ad demanding. It’s not a wonder, then, that injuries are an unfortunate but frequent part of the lead up to any fight card in the UFC. When injuries happen after the fight card is set organizers are frequently required to bring someone in to replace the hurt fighter on short notice because the fight as already been placed on the card. These last minute fill-is – guys who step up in the last week or two before a fight – are challenging for handicappers to deal with, but they have to much potential as a betting opportunity to just ignore. Here are four questions you can ask to help determine what the right thing to do is as a bettor in situations like this:
Was the fighter training to fight in another bout? – If the fighter was supposed to be in another fight – like if he was scheduled to be on the undercard and has moved up to the main card after the injury – then you know he is going to be fit. He was already on schedule to peak on the day of the fight, so that’s not a concern. It’s far more of a potential concern if he was supposed to fight on a later card and has been bumped ahead, or if he had just fought and is being asked to fight again on short notice. MMA athletes need time to train and get ready to fight at their peak, so if a fighter doesn’t have the time he would ideally have then he may not be able to perform at his best. That preparation is largely physical, but there is a great deal of mental preparation involved in getting ready for a fight as well, and if that is cut short a fighter can be in trouble.
Was he preparing for a similar type of opponent? – If he was preparing for another fight then you need to look at the potential opponent he was going to face. If had been preparing t foght a guy who was a strong striker and his new opponent is also a striker then he is probably reasonably well prepared fr that challenge because that is what he has been training for. If he was supposed to fight a striker and is now fighting a jiu jitsu specialist, though, then that could be a problem because the fighter has to make a big adjustment both mentally in terms of what to expect and physically in terms of what he has to be ready for.
Does he belong in the fight? – Sometimes a replacement in a fight is a perfectly logical guy – someone who would have been a logical opponent anyway. Other times, though, they are forced to grab a guy because he is a warm body even though he doesn’t possess the skills, experience, or talent necessary to legitimately compete at the level of his opponent. When you are handicapping these situations it is very important to assess the level of the new fighter. Has he fought on the main card before? Is he a main card caliber fighter? Does he have a lot of UFC experience? has he been successful at this level? Is he a fighter that the UFC seems interested in promoting and developing? If so, is this fight a good step in his development, or is it too soon for him? Has he fought similar fighters in the past – or even better ones? How has he done against those fighters?
Does he present matchup issues for his opponent? – Up to this point we have focused on the fighter being asked to move up into the fight on short notice. It’s also important to consider what challenges the change creates for the original fighter. He was preparing for the injured fighter, so if the new fighter is significantly different in style he could create a matchup issue. Some veteran fighters are very flexible – they can adjust quickly and easily from one type of fighter to another. Other guys don’t adjust well at all, and it’s those fighters that could find themselves in trouble when they suddenly have to adjust in the middle of their final preparations for a fight so they are ready for a whole new type of fighter.