Betting on mixed martial arts, and the UFC in particular, should be very attractive to people who are drawn to betting on underdogs. Because the sport uses moneyline betting it is far from uncommon to see underdogs going off at very high potential returns, and upsets are a big part of the sport. Of course, you can’t just blindly bet on all underdogs and hope to make a profit – it can’t be that easy. There are some situations in which you are far more likely to find a potentially profitable underdog than others. Here are five such situations to be on the lookout for:
A favorite drawing massive public action – The UFC does a very good job of promoting their stars and making their best fighters look very good. When those fighters fight, then, it is very common to see them go off as very heavy favorites. A lot of UFC bettors are only casual fans, so they are going to be far more on reputation than anything else, and that means they will be heavily drawn to the favorites. Many times, though, the underdog isn’t nearly as outclassed as the odds would suggest that they are. When a heavy favorite is drawing a significant majority of the bets on a fight then you can be confident in most cases that the odds are higher than they otherwise should be on that fighter. That in turn means that the underdog probably faces more attractive odds than you might otherwise expect. The underdog won’t always be attractive just because they are facing better odds than they probably should, but if you can normally make a case that the underdog has a solid chance then betting on them could become even more attractive at inflated odds.
An underdog with strong history outside of UFC – Many UFC bettors are not general MMA bettors, and they don’t follow the sport outside of the UFC pay-per0view and broadcast events. Though there are fewer and fewer other top level organizations out there there are still some very good fighters toiling outside of the UFC. When a fighter comes to the UFC to fight for the first time they often won’t get a lot of respect from bettors – especially if they are against a UFC veteran – unless they are heavily promoted. If you do your homework, though, you might find that the fighter is actually quite impressive and more than capable of giving his opponent a tough match on the biggest stage.
An underdog ready to make their step up in class – One of the easiest ways to find an attractive underdog is to look for a guy taking a big step up in class. If a guy is fighting a much tougher level of fighter than he normally does then he’s not going to get a lot of respect from the public – especially if the favorite is an established, popular fighter. Sometimes, though, a guy is clearly more than ready to take that leap in class and be competitive. If the guy has been dominating his earlier fights, has been showing rapidly improving form in each fight, or is a young fighter who is clearly developing physically then he could be better than the competition he has been facing, and attractive as a big underdog.
A favorite who showed signs of declining form – MMA is obviously a brutal sport, and it can be very hard to stay sharp for a long time. Some guys can stay at the top for years, but for many guys their arc is much shorter. The reputation of a fighter will often outlast their top level performance by a fight or two. If a favorite has not looked as sharp in recent fights – less decisive victories and struggles against styles he used to handle well, for example, then it could be a time to search for value by betting against him. The UFC will continue to promote a guy as a top level fighter as long as he is winning, so the public will usually be slow recognizing that a guy has lost a step or three.
Out of whack odds – Sometimes the odds in a fight just plain don’t make sense. Let’s say for example that you look at a fight and after handicapping it you feel like the favorite has an edge, but that the underdog is certainly capable of winning. Perhaps you would give the favorite a 60 percent chance of winning, while the underdog has a 40 percent chance of pulling off the upset. When you look at the odds, though, the favorite is at -500, and the underdog is at +300. If the thought of winning a bet that pays 3/1 40 percent of the times you make it doesn’t make you drool uncontrollably then you need to work on your math. That might seem like an extreme example, but in high profile fights with popular favorites it actually isn’t that uncommon at all. With every fight you look at, then, you need to understand what the odds say about the likelihood of a win, and compare that to what the likelihood is in your eyes. The difference between your perception and the posted odds could be attractive even if it is far less extreme than the example.