The heart-pounding, head-slamming action that MMA has to offer is more popular than ever, largely thanks to the growing number of online sportsbooks letting MMA fans to turn their love of the sport into cold hard cash. With legal MMA betting already available in many states with others soon to follow, millions of fight fans can now jack up the excitement of a Saturday night card by placing a wager right from their phone or computer.
MMA betting has long been legal in Nevada and has recently been legalized in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Online sports betting has been an economic boon for those states and many others are soon to follow after the Supreme Court lifted a decades-long ban on sports betting outside of Nevada.
There are several basics to know before you log onto a sportsbook and start putting actual cash on the line, so here is a quick primer on how MMA odds work and the different types of bets you can place.
How Do MMA Fights Work?
MMA is not limited to the UFC and organizations like Bellator are quickly growing in talent and popularity. The rules are pretty similar across the board, though.
Most fights are three 5-minute rounds. Main events and championship fights are usually five 5-minute rounds. A fighter can win by knockout, technical knockout (when the referee stops the fight after determining a fighter cannot defend themselves any longer), or submission. If the fight is not stopped, it goes “the distance” and the ringside judges score the fight. For the most part, the winner of each round gets 10 points per round and the loser of each round gets 9 points or fewer. The points are added up and the winner is crowned.
Occasionally, there will a disqualification, draw, or no-contest. These are relatively rare but a bad DQ can definitely cost you some major money.
Most fans will watch the main card on pay-per-view and maybe an hour of the undercard but MMA cards actually last much of the day and usually feature eight to eleven fights. That means you have to get your bets in early if you want to bet on the early fights, which sometimes start as early as 1 pm when they are in the United States and at all sorts of start times when the events are held overseas.
MMA Betting Odds
MMA betting odds are very straight forward. A moneyline is attached to each fighter and it indicates both how likely that fighter is to win and how much money you could win on your bet.
Take the following matchup for example:
Jon Jones -400
Daniel Cormier +300
The minus sign indicates the favorite and the plus sign indicates the underdog. If you bet on Jones, who is the heavy favorite, you would have to wager $400 to win $100. On the other hand, a $100 bet on Cormier would win you a cool $300. Many matchups will be considerably closer, so you will often bet something like $150 to win $100 or vice versa.
Other sports have an “over/under” that allow you to bet on the final score. The MMA version of the over/under allows you to bet on how long the fight will last. Most three-round fights have an over/under of 1.5 rounds, so 2 or more rounds will win the over bet and less than one round would win the under bet. Five-round fights typically have an over/under of 2.5 rounds. The over and the under will have its own moneyline attached based on how likely the fight is to be stopped or go the distance. So you may see a line like (O1.5 -140, U1.5 +135). That means your $100 bet would win $140 on the over and your $100 bet would win you $135 on the under.
MMA Betting Tips
There is no set MMA betting strategy guaranteed to make you rich but a good place to start is learning as much about the fighters as possible. It helps to be familiar with a fighter’s past bouts but it can be hard to follow the dozens of fighters in each organization especially as events air more and more frequently. Luckily, sports sites like ESPN have finally embraced MMA and offer a wealth of stats and analytics that allow you to learn far more than you ever could from simply watching a fight.
It’s also best to start slowly and bet on one or two fights that feature fighters you are familiar with or have researched rather than making blind bets on a the entire card. Once you are more accustomed to betting, you can start stacking your bets on each card and even across various organizations.
One popular strategy to consider once you have a hang of the basics is betting against the public. It’s not that the public is always wrong but rather sportsbooks will adjust their odds when there is heavy public betting on one specific fighter. That means by the end of the week, the odds are likely considerably different than they were early before the rush of public bets on a single fighter. That means it’s important to watch how the odds change from the beginning of the week leading up until right before the bell. Many sportsbooks will even let you bet on the winner after the fight has started. In these cases you will be offered very different odds than the pre-game line and these odds will continue to change until the final bell.