Here at WagerBop, we believe that knowledge is power.
And since we’re all about helping our readers become profitable sports bettors, we thought it would be best to hear the insights, stories, and experiences of leading mixed martial arts handicappers.
We spoke to five leading MMA bettors, who have been smashing the sportsbooks (and Daily Fantasy Sports competitions) for many years:
This was plenty of fun!
The consensus seems to be that watching lots of tape, implementing smart money management techniques, and avoiding backing heavy favorites (due to the volatility of mixed martial arts) are just some of the primary keys to success.
Why? Well, you’ll have to hear it from the MMA betting experts!
And if you’re new here, remember to head on over and check out our MMA tips section!
Note: We refer to these handicappers by their alias or Twitter handle, and not their real names.
Expert MMA Betting Tips and Advice
- Tracked 39% ROI on 260+ mixed martial arts bets
- Created MMA Tycoon (a statistical MMA management game)
- 85% hit rate on straight fight picks (66 of 78) at average odds of 1.57
- You can follow Mike on Bet MMA and Twitter
What’s your general process when studying tape and reviewing film of a fighter?
The objective is to build up a detailed picture of as many fighters as I possibly can.
Eventually, I will get a feel for how good people are and have imaginary rankings in my head. Then, whenever a matchup is made, I’ll be like “oh, Fighter A is way better than Fighter B as an instinct.”
I’ll also get an understanding of which fighters are reliable and unreliable. If you stick to fighters who are reliable, you won’t go wrong.
When watching tape for specific fights, I make sure to keep really good notes in Bet MMA’s note section on each fighter’s profile page.
In terms of specifics, I was looking at some notes posted on Twitter the other day, and I was itching to tell this guy a few things. There was no mention of range or head movement, just what types of strikes were thrown.
Range is really important. If someone has a big overhand, it doesn’t matter if the other fighter operates from a foot further out than them. You can watch the fighters’ feet and get a gauge from how far apart they are.
Other important things are cardio and chin, checking leg kicks (never bet someone who doesn’t check leg kicks against a kicker), clinch control, and general urgency to get back to their feet.
In general, you can build up red flags on fighters and try not to bet anyone who has any red flags. But if you have to, make sure they don’t matter in this particular matchup.
Also, don’t just watch the fight, watch the fighter that you are scouting.
Be deliberate in your approach and purposefully study their head movement or footwork for moments at a time and then make notes on it.
Don’t just try and get a general feel.
What have been some of the biggest betting opportunities you’ve realized and cashed in on with confidence?
Big confidence and big gains do not go together.
Some people are better than me at hitting long shot plays, but the key is to have good record keeping. You need to know for sure that it’s making you money, and you are not just remembering the big wins and forgetting all the losses.
I am more of an incremental gains type of person than a “big opportunities” guy.
I would suggest not to go chasing significant gains but be perfectly happy with decent incremental gains.
If you’re betting things at long odds, then I certainly don’t think you can do so with any great confidence. If an option is +800 or something similar, you might think there’s still a better chance of the odds, but it’s always going to be a + number, and you will have less than a 50% chance of this outcome occurring.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to MMA betting?
Less is more.
If you lose a bet, then you need to win at odds of more than even to get your money back. That’s not an easy thing to do, so I aim never to be wrong. That obviously means betting a lot less than other people, as I’m sticking to high confidence bets.
I recommend figuring out your best approach by keeping good records. People will confidently tell you that this way or that way works the best; it might be for them, but it might not be for you.
Also, if you can, have accounts with as many bookies as you can. Over a significant period, it will make a massive difference to get slightly better odds on every bet.
Regarding who to bet on, find fighters who have a narrow range of performances and who are intelligent and stick to a gameplan.
There’s nothing worse than betting someone who should be winning but they fight like an idiot. This may be a professional sport but there are still fighters who don’t watch tape, and there are still camps who clearly have no idea how to put together a sensible gameplan.
- Watch as many fights as you can to develop better instincts (read more: placing an educated bet)
- Be deliberate when watching a fight, study the footwork or head movement of a particular fighter
- A disciplined approach is a good one, stick to small incremental gains and don’t chase big wins
- Less is more – stick to betting on high-confidence selections
- Open accounts with many different sportsbooks to access better odds
- Tracked 14% ROI and 142 unit profit on 590+ MMA bets
- 49% hit rate on straight fight picks (156 of 165) at average odds of 2.32
- Started handicapping MMA in 2015
- You can follow Gugabe on Bet MMA and Twitter
What are some of the things you’re looking for when placing a straight bet?
With straight bets, I prefer to bet on underdogs since MMA is such a high volatility sport.
There has been a 10% ROI in playing every fighter that closes between 2.10 and 2.60 over the last five or so years, even if the strategy has flagged this year.
There’s too much craziness in MMA to justify playing heavy favorites, especially when we don’t see enough of guys to really track their development between fights or get a full understanding of their games. Recently, I was shocked by Patrick vs. Holtzman, for instance, since there was no film on Holtzman showing that sort of range-striking/takedown defense focused approach.
What do you understand about MMA betting now that you wish you knew when you first started?
Willingness to cash out or hedge is one of the main things I’ve learned since I started betting.
Don’t get overinvested in a pick, and be willing to continually reevaluate through a fight where your guys are at.
For example, I got out on Alexander Volkov after round two for a good profit against Derrick Lewis (at UFC 229), and I don’t think I would have done that two years ago.
Also so far as hedging is concerned, try to create a ‘top 3’ for predicted outcomes of a fight. Try and hedge off your big plays with likely points of failure.
When was the last time you unloaded and cashed in on a particular bet with confidence?
My biggest bet of the year so far was Brett Johns vs. Aljamain Sterling for a variety of reasons.
I fervently believe that the groups understand nothing about the ‘levels’ of grappling, and can frequently over-value relatively flukey subs or submission wins on the regionals. The Soto win was about the least meaningful a submission can be, in the sense that it was an unorthodox one.
Wrestling is also something that’s frequently misunderstood. Trusting a European fighter’s wrestling to hold up when it’s usually built on grit and cardio and inferior competition is a way to lose money.
I also try to focus more on the ‘method’ of fighters over their results. I’ll happily take a guy on a losing streak who’s been doing the right thing and getting ‘caught’, over somebody that’s not showing a fully-rounded process and fluking wins.
For every time I get continually punished by a Brian Ortega or Derrick Lewis, I tend to make enough off fading a Brandon Moreno or someone else who’s been overinflated after a series of low-percentage finishes.
Wrestlers are usually my preferred bets or guys who are predictable stylistically.
I know that Darren Elkins is going to give me grit, cardio, determination, and a ton of pressure, so it helps the pre-fight process boil down to ‘How will the other guy react to that set of attributes.’
For instance, I’ve made a lot of money this year off Jeremy Stephens since he’s so consistent in his approach and what he offers.
- Because MMA is highly volatile, there’s no reason to bet on heavy favorites
- Don’t become overinvested in a selection and consider hedging or cashing out when appropriate
- Wrestling and grappling is often misunderstood
- Try to ignore ‘fluky’ submission or KO/TKO wins
MMA Vegas Pete
- Tracked 22% ROI and 153 unit profit on 335+ MMA bets
- 62% hit rate on straight fight picks (144 of 232) at average odds of 1.91
- You can follow Pete on Bet MMA and Twitter
You have an outstanding record of betting non-UFC events such as PFL. What are you looking for when betting on these events?
Lots of hard work goes into it.
I cap PFL the same way that I do the rest of MMA that I bet on, but my reads were sensational (9-0 on PFL events).
Basically, I look at the card and pick which fighters I think will win. I have a real skill for seeing talented fighters and turning them into money trains.
I spotted a lot of talented fighters early in the PFL season who are relatively unknown, and this made for a very profitable PFL run.
I like to say, “always trust your gut, visualize the fight.”
After picking out my fighters with my initial gut leans, I then do my fight research to confirm my feeling.
I have a whole checklist that I go through before I place a bet.
Watching tape is very important, but I also check recent interviews, their social media pages, and I can get an even better read after seeing weigh-ins and staredowns.
When it comes to betting on the UFC, why do you think that it is important to distance yourself from the consensus opinion?
It’s best to trust yourself and ignore all outside noise – at least for me.
I try to ignore all of the outside noise when placing my bets, so I don’t really pay attention to what the public or the consensus opinion is.
Can you share a little on the importance of money management when betting on MMA? What’s your style and what do you recommend?
Money management is vital in this game if you want to be successful.
My style is very aggressive, but I have a 75% event win rate, so I’m able to be a little riskier since I hit my bets at such a high rate – especially those bets that I’m very confident in.
I bet on a 1 to 7 unit scale with 7 being a max bet.
I recommend proper money management to everyone, but it all comes down to what works best for you. We all have different styles in this game.
- It pays to study the relatively unknown fighters, as they can prove to be very profitable
- Gain as much information as possible from a variety of sources – tape, interviews, social media, weigh-ins, etc.
- Money management is critical to success when betting on MMA
Oracle MMA Picks
- Tracked 38% ROI and 139 unit profit on 85+ MMA bets
- 71% hit rate on straight fight picks (36 of 51) at average odds of 1.91
- You can follow Oracle MMA Picks on Bet MMA and Twitter
You guys have an excellent record betting straight picks. Is there anything, in particular, you are looking for when placing this style of bet on MMA?
What we look for in straight picks is value.
It’s easy to win on big favorites, but long term it’s not a viable strategy because MMA is a very high variance sport.
Generally, when we break down a card, we try to find 1-2 spots that we like with odds that suggest the fight will be close. Usually, that falls between -166 all the way up to + money odds range for our straight picks. Our average odds for straight picks is -109 with a 41% ROI.
Being able to call close fights is, in our opinion, what separates great MMA bettors from average ones.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with betting chalk as long as the price is right. We tend to fit these kinds of plays in parlays of two.
You need to know when to take what the bookies give you and when to pass on the traps and that only comes with experience.
Can you explain the importance of money management and why it’s crucial when betting on MMA?
Bankroll management is a critical component of any successful long-term bettor.
We try to limit ourselves to 5 units for our most confident bets and 13 units per event in total (with some rare exceptions).
Doing so minimizes the risk of big swings that are bad for your bankroll long-term and also protect you from the occasional disaster night where everything seems to go wrong for you. And believe me in MMA no matter how good you are there are plenty of those nights (thanks to our beloved incompetent judges and other factors at play such as elevation, weight cuts, late notice replacements, undisclosed injuries etc.).
We see many people that bet 30+ units per event and have massive swings in their bankroll. What these people don’t realize is that first of all no serious bettor with a high enough unit size would be comfortable risking that much on a given night and second of all these big swings mean that your unit size takes a big hit every time you have a -20 or -30 unit swing.
Even if you win your next bets, it’s going to take a while for you to get back to your previous unit size. That explains why some bettors that are up +100 units but have done so steadily without big swings will have a larger bankroll than someone who is up +120 units but with huge swings along the way.
It’s cliché but true: don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. This will serve you well long term.
What’s one general rule or piece of advice that you’d want to share with someone who is looking to become a better MMA handicapper?
Don’t chase losses.
Bad nights are inevitable in this game, but you always have to remember it’s a long-term endeavor. Chasing losses is a sure way to turn your -10 unit night into a -50 unit month, so stay disciplined.
Another one would be to trust your gut and don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion on a fight before you have formed your own. There is too much noise available especially if you’re part of the MMA betting community, so you have to know how to stay committed to your analysis.
Last but not least, always bet on wrestlers is a good general rule to follow when in doubt (we didn’t follow our own advice with our bets on Till and McGregor and look what happened 😂).
- Predicting close fights is what separates great MMA bettors from average ones
- Restrict your per-event betting total (don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket)
- Be disciplined and don’t chase losses (read more: the emotional side of betting on sports)
- Trust your gut and bet on wrestlers
- @suntszu is a Daily Fantasy MMA player who wagers $3k-$5k per UFC slate
- You can follow @sunstzu on Twitter and listen to him on the The Daily Fantasy MMA Podcast
What are the three biggest MMA betting opportunities you’ve seen over the years that you cashed in on? Can you explain your confidence and reasoning?
Chase Sherman, Chase Sherman & Chase Sherman!
Seriously, I could have bought a car off of the money I made fading Chase Sherman. A perfect combination of a bad fighter with no head movement, who has enough of a social media presence and fanboy following that he attracts “stupid money.”
On a more general note, I look to take advantage of bad stylistic match ups. I had Khabib as a virtual lock to beat Conor purely based on style factors. I also had Diaz over Conor (first fight) and Tate over Holm.
One other global consideration is being able to time when a fighter is transitioning into a gatekeeper role. A perfect example would be Ovince Saint-Preux vs. Dominick Reyes (at UFC 229).
What do you find are the noticeable differences between an average MMA bettor and a successful one?
The casual bettor is generally not as tuned into what I refer to as “the narrative.” This can include camp changes, new coaches, life events, etc. Essentially, anything that you are not going to determine by watching film.
Another thing is that I am “old school” in that I am not a “unit” player. I speak in terms of $. I feel that it adds an extra layer of transparency when people know the actual amount of your wagers.
- Styles make fights – try to identify stylistic opportunities
- Consider “the narrative” when placing bets – camp changes, life events, etc.
WagerBop wants to send a huge thank you to:
Twitter links above!
We hope that this article enhances your MMA betting strategy.
Have an opinion? We’d love to hear it in the comments section.