As betting on mixed martial arts becomes more and more popular there are more people out there who are getting serious about betting on it successfully. That means that betting on the sport – which is still very new compared to betting on other sports – is getting more sophisticated all the time. As people get to understand the sport better one of the distinctions they quickly make is the difference between betting on the main event on a card and betting on the rest of the fights – the undercard. Here are three ways in which the two types of fights are different from a betting perspective, and how you have to adjust when betting them:
Public attention – The public pays far more attention to the main events than they do to any other fight on the card. The main event is where the biggest name fighters are, and it’s the one fight on the card that is all but guaranteed to have two big names in it. It’s usually the fight that the whole card is named after, and it is the one that gets all the attention and all the hype. If there is one thing we know about the betting public it’s that they flock to where the attention is, and they bring their money with them. That means that the betting volume for main events – especially ones featuring big stars like Georges St. Pierre or Brock Lesnar – is dramatically higher than it is for the other fights on the card. You know well what happens when the public bets heavily on an event – the oddsmakers compensate for it. The public loves a favorite, and will usually bet on the favorite with reckless abandon. The oddsmakers are fully aware of that, and will likely adjust the odds accordingly. The more the action comes in on the favorite, the more aggressively they will move lines to try to balance action and limit their exposure. That means that when you are betting on the main events you have to be very aware of where the public sentiment is, how popular the fight is, and what impact that is all going to have on the outcome of the game. You also need to time your bets accordingly – it could make sense to bet a popular favorite early before the price gets even worse as the bets come in, while betting an underdog often makes the most sense just before fight time.
Media attention – Because MMA is getting more and more popular all of the time, more and more media outlets are looking to cover the sport to cash in on that popularity. It’s a new sport in popular terms, though, so there is more demand for MMA content than there is supply of people who are qualified to comment accurately and effectively on what is going on. As a result, a good deal of what is written and said about MMA is, to be kind, garbage. It’s just not right. Most of that ‘insight’ is focused on the main event, with much less talk surrounding the lesser fights. That media attention has a couple of meanings. First of all, you need to be very careful when you are reading anything – and especially anything about the main event – to be sure that it doesn’t just sound good, but that it actually makes sense. In other words, you can’t trust anything until you have shown yourself that it is legitimate. Having a few trusted sources for insight and analysis is crucial for handicappers. One quick way to assess how good a source is is how much detail they get into about the fights on the undercard. It’s relatively easy to steal other people’s ideas about the main event and sound legitimate, but much tougher to do so for the undercard, so if there is good undercard analysis then the writer probably knows what they are talking about. Second, you need to be aware of what the media attention is saying and what impact that could have. If the media attention is heavily focused on one fighter then the public will be focused on that same fighter, and the odds will be skewed accordingly.
Fighter experience – Main events are often title fights. The UFC does not give title shots to fighters who haven’t earned them. That means when a fighter is in the main event they have not only typically fought several times, but they have fought in increasingly high profile fights in front of the bright lights. That means we can rely on their past record to tell us how they are going to handle this situation. Because they are getting a title shot now we can typically also assume that they are in or near top form. On the undercard fighters may also be experienced and proven, but quite often at least one fighter in a fight is taking a step up in class. That means that there is a lot of speculation involved. You also can’t be as confident about the shape fighters are in and their preparedness for a lot of undercard fights.