Mixed martial arts (MMA) is chess with muscles: a sport that combines numerous fighting styles, physical prowess and awesome technical skill to offer audiences frequently unpredictable and always entertaining matches, all while offering punters a meaty challenge.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the biggest arena for MMA, and offers several bouts a month for enthusiasts to scrutinise. UFC has earned a considerable following over the past few years. Despite a slow start as a fringe event, UFC eventually found mainstream appeal through a series of shows where competitors fought it out to earn a six-figure UFC contract. The show attracted thousands of new fans, and now events are put on throughout the world. What's more, the big pay-per-view fights even attract similar viewing figures to those of boxing.
UFC bouts take place in an eight-sided cage, with fights lasting for between three and five rounds of five minutes each. There are eight weight divisions, ranging from flyweight to heavyweight, and matches can be won in a number of ways: submission, knockout, technical knockout and judges' decision.
This makes UFC betting much like betting on boxing. 'Styles make fights' is the mantra of the latter, and in UFC this is an even more obvious factor in deciding a match. Mixed Martial Arts lives up to its name, with fighters being drawn from numerous disciplines including boxing, kick-boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jujitsu, judo and wrestling. This large range of styles tally up against each other differently, so to avoid getting caught out, make sure to check a fighter's record against different kinds of opponents, rather than just the calibre of fighters they've beaten in the past.
Like boxing, bouts range from matchups between up-and-comers and old hands looking to (re)build a reputation, to massive grudge matches and title bouts. If you're new to MMA, a quick glance at the match winner market will indicate whether the match falls into the former or latter category. For example, Ladbrokes rated Chris Weidman as 5/4 to win his hotly contested grudge match against former Middleweight champion Anderson Silva (8/13). Meanwhile, 2013 newcomer Miesha Tate was rated as 11/2 to beat Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey (1/10). Sometimes the short odds represent a quick and easy route to folding money, but more often than not we need to work harder to find value.
The key to doing this is comparing form and style, with the aim of either identifying an underpriced underdog or an alternative market to place your bets.
Ronda Rousey is a good example of a potential contender to bet on in more detailed markets. Having won all of her amateur and professional fights by submission in the first round, placing a bet on her to win in the first round in the round betting market seems a sensible way to significantly boost your odds. Alternatively, her 100% submission record makes the method of victory market equally tempting. Both of these usually offer odds of four to ten times the winner market.
Of course, the alternative to putting cash behind a clear trend is to seek that elusive fighter whose style and potential counterbalances what has come before; in this example, that means finding a response to Rousey's explosive, grappling style.
Spotting the underdog that can pick apart a favourite is not without precedent either, as the Weidman vs Silva grudge match proves. Many, including the bookies, expected Silva to continue his unbeaten run, but his weaknesses against Weidman's wrestling skills were brutally exposed in his second round KO back in July 2013.
Method of Victory is one of the biggest markets in the sport, allowing you to bet on which way you think the match will be decided. Ladbrokes UFC betting offers a double chance market for Method of Victory, giving you the option to hedge your bets by selecting, for example, Decision/Submission rather than just one or the other. The odds on offer will naturally drop, but it will increase your chances of winning in comparison to opting for a single outcome.
Where matchups are more even, or the fighters are of unknown quality, seasoned punters may want to consider the total rounds market, which offers an over/under on how far the fight will run for odds in the vicinity of evens. Ladbrokes also offer round betting groups, which allows a bit of leeway for those who predict an early(ish) or late(ish) victory, and take bets on whether a fight will go to a decision: particularly valuable if you foresee a cagey, hard-fought battle.
There's also the chance to bet on how long the fight will last. Most three round fights offer the market of Over 2.5 Rounds, so you can bet on whether the fight will go on beyond this point, or whether a winner will be declared sooner. This is a good bet for close match-ups that are likely to last longer, as well as one-sided encounters where backing Under 2.5 Rounds can enhance your odds instead of just betting on the heavy favourite to win. If you’re confident that the match is going to be a tight contest, you might want to go for markets that allow you to bet on the fight to go the distance, or on the fight to go to decision.
Some bookmakers also allow you to couple the markets, so you can bet on a certain fighter and their method of victory, and in some cases when they'll seal that victory. Obviously the odds are longer here as it’s difficult to call two or three markets at once, but these can be fun bets to make a fight more interesting, and you’ll see big returns if you call it right.
So with some research into the various fighting styles, and how they interact in the octagonal ring, MMA betting becomes an exciting and profitable journey into strategy and style. To try it out for yourself, head over to Betfair today. If you think you’ve got an eye for sizing up a pair of fighters, visit Bet365 Sports today for the full range of ways in which you can bet on upcoming UFC fights.