Betting on MMA – The Ultimate Guide to MMA Betting
Hello and thanks for checking out my MMA betting website! My name is Jason Rothman and I am author of the book Betting on MMA: Easy Money From the Toughest Sport. I created this website to go along with the book and to show MMA fans that the methods I lay out in the book are valid, that they work, and that they are great guide to MMA betting.
On this front page of the website I highlight the most important aspect of MMA betting which I call the paths to victory approach to MMA betting. And I also highlight my MMA betting checklist on this front page. In addition to the front page, my site is loaded up with tons of MMA betting content. I have articles on MMA betting advice, fight breakdowns and predictions, and also some links to some great MMA betting resources. I also have links to an MMA podcast that I do called the Rothman MMA Podcast. The podcast is available on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can listen to the most recent episode using the audio player on the right side of the page.
And finally, if you are interested in the book it is available on Amazon.com in the US, UK, Canada, and Germany. And the eBook (the same exact thing as the paperback) is available worldwide for instant digital download right here. Enjoy the MMA betting content on my website and thanks for checking it out!
The Paths to Victory Approach to MMA Betting
The Paths to Victory approach is one of the most important aspects of MMA betting. It is often criticized because of its simplicity, but the criticism is nonsense. The power of the paths to victory approach is indeed in its simplicity, and its power is very real. Reading this article and applying my Paths to Victory approach will make you a more profitable MMA bettor.
THE PATHS TO VICTORY APPROACH
“If you know the Way broadly, you will see it in everything.”
At first glance, mixed martial arts is an incredibly complex sport. Fighters must be well versed in hundred of techniques from a number of striking and grappling disciplines. In addition to the martial arts; nutrition, conditioning, and weight cutting all play prominent roles in the sport as well. But like many seemingly complex things in life, when you breakdown MMA, you will find it is surprisingly simple. MMA is simple in the sense that there are only three ways for a fighter to win the fight. He can win by submission, knockout (or technical knockout), or by decision. There are only three ways to win a fight! Keeping this fact in mind is essential when breaking down MMA fights.
In order to win an MMA bet, obviously, the fighter you bet on must win the fight. And the fighter you bet on only has three ways to win the fight. He can win by submission, knockout, or decision. These are his three potential paths to victory. When breaking down a fight, the first question to ask is, how can my fighter beat his opponent? Examine your fighter’s skills and his opponent’s weaknesses, and determine how your fighter can win the fight. Determine his paths to victory. Can he submit his opponent? Can he knock his opponent out? Can he win a decision? How likely are all three scenarios?
After you have determined your fighter’s paths to victory, you need to reverse roles and examine the opponent’s paths to victory. You ask the same questions. Can the opponent submit my fighter? Can the opponent knockout my fighter? Can the opponent win a decision? How likely are all three scenarios? As simple as it seems, asking these questions and determining how each fighter can win the fight will put you ahead of 99% of the other MMA bettors. MMA fans often get caught up in their emotions, the excitement, and the hype and they fail to fundamentally breakdown a fight and examine how each fighter can win the fight. Determining the paths to victory for each fighter, every time you breakdown a fight, is the most important thing you can do to get an edge on the competition!
The best fights to bet on are fights in which your fighter has multiple paths to victory, while the opponent has no likely paths to victory. Styles make fights and sometimes a fighter will have only one path to victory or no paths to victory. These are the scenarios you are looking to take advantage of. This is what I was referring to in part one when I spoke of low risk opportunities. If the fighter you are betting against has literally no realistic way to win the fight, then you have almost a riskless opportunity. At this point, the only risks you are up against are unlucky risks that you have no way of knowing about. These risks include your fighter coming into the fight injured, getting injured during the fight, or the opponent landing a fluke knockout. Regardless of unlucky risks, a fight where the opponent has no paths to victory is potentially a great bet. As we learned in part one, whether or not it is an actually betting opportunity depends on if the odds are off and if there is profit potential from the bet. That is the reward side of the risk, reward equation.
A perfect example of the paths to victory approach was when Matt Hughes fought BJ Penn for a third time at UFC 123. Let’s examine this fight using my paths of victory approach. How could BJ Penn win the fight? I believed that Penn had three ways to win the fight. I thought there was a likely chance that he would knock Matt Hughes out. I thought there was also a likely chance that he would submit Hughes on the ground. And if the fight went all three rounds, I saw Penn being able to win at least two rounds convincingly since he had an enormous advantage both on the feet and on the ground. How could Hughes win the fight? He couldn’t. Hughes had no paths to victory. I did not think Hughes could take Penn down, I thought he would be out struck on the feet with no chance of knocking Penn out, and I gave him no chance to submit Penn on the ground. In this fight, we had a situation where Penn was capable of winning using all three paths to victory, while Hughes had no paths to victory.
This was as close to a riskless situation as there is in MMA. The risk side of the risk, reward equation was taken care of, but what about the reward side? Were we getting the proper reward for the risk we were taking by betting on Penn? In this case, yes, we were. The money line odds on BJ Penn winning were -110, which is 52%. Since Penn had three paths to victory and Hughes had none, I gave Penn around a 90% chance of winning the fight. We were being rewarded for taking a 50% risk, when in reality we were only taking a 10% risk. So not only was betting on Penn a low risk opportunity, it was also a high reward opportunity. As we learned in part one, these low risk, high reward opportunities are the fights we want to bet on. I bet Penn big, he knocked out Hughes in twenty-one seconds, and we won the bet.
Thinking about how each fighter can win the fight, their paths to victory, is the most important thing you can do when you are breaking down a fight. The Penn, Hughes rubber match is a great example of how profitable the paths to victory approach can be. Using the paths to victory approach, I determined that Penn had multiple ways to win the fight, while Hughes had no way to win the fight. I was able to spot as close to a risk free situation as there is in MMA betting.
The paths to victory approach sometimes shows you when a fight is very predictable. But it can also show you when a fight is unpredictable. Sometimes each fighter will have multiple paths to victory, and trying to predict a winner in these fights is often a fruitless pursuit. When each fighter has many ways he can win the fight, you are often just playing a guessing game. Focus on the fights where one fighter has multiple paths to victory, while the other fighter has none or just one path to victory. These are the fights you will be able to predict with stunning accuracy. And when you can predict fights with great accuracy, you can make money betting on MMA.
The key to breaking down fights is figuring out how each fighter can win the fight. It is cliché, but styles do make fights. Often there will be fights where one fighter is at a severe disadvantage and has no way to win the fight. And similarly, sometimes a fighter will only have one path to victory. If a fighter only has one path to victory, it can be very difficult for him to win the fight.
These one path to victory situations include the following:
The fighter who can only win by knockout. An example of this was when Quinton Jackson fought Jon Jones. Jackson had one slim path to victory, and that was to get a knockout on the feet. Jackson could not take Jones down, hold him down, and work ground and pound consistently enough to win three out of the five rounds. Nor could Jackson work the stand up and out strike Jones for three out of the five rounds. Jackson could not win a decision. Jackson was also not going to win with a submission. So Quinton’s only path to winning the fight was to knock Jon Jones out on the feet. And really, his only shot to do this was in the first two rounds before he got fatigued. So Quinton Jackson had one path to victory in this fight, and that was to get a quick knockout. While one path to victory is better than none, only have the ability to win by knockout puts a fighter at a severe disadvantage.
The second one path to victory situation is when a fighter can only win by submission. An example of this is when Damian Maia fought Anderson Silva. Maia was not going to out strike Silva, or wrestle and hold down Silva for three of the five rounds, so a decision win was not likely. Maia was also never going to knock Silva out. His only path to victory was by submitting Silva, which was very unlikely since he would not be able to consistently take Silva down. A fighter, whose only path to victory is a submission, is at a large disadvantage, especially when they cannot consistently get takedowns.
The final one path to victory situation is when a fighter can only win by decision. An example of this is when Chael Sonnen fought Anderson Silva for a second time. In this fight, the chances that Chael would knock Silva out on the feet or finish him on the ground with strikes were unlikely. And a submission win was even more unlikely. All Chael could do, would be to hold Silva down for at least three rounds and get a decision win. Chael could have won the fight this way, but since it was his only way of winning the fight, he was at a large disadvantage. Silva could win the fight by decision. He could do that by out striking Sonnen on the feet for three rounds. Silva could also win the fight by submission. And finally, Silva could win the fight by knockout. Chael had one path to victory, while Silva had all three. Fighters whose only path to victory is by winning a wrestling-based decision, can and do win a lot of three round fights. But these guys run into big problems when they face very dynamic fighters, especially in long, five round fights. When I say dynamic, I mean fighters who have multiple ways of finishing a fight. The problem with a wrestling based decision against a dynamic fighter, is that the wrestler, Chael in this case, has to go three or five rounds without getting submitted or knocked out. The wrestler has to fight perfect every single second of the fight. But the dynamic fighter only has to fight perfect one time in the entire fifteen, or twenty-five minute fight. The dynamic fighter just has to find one opening and he can finish and win the fight.
Often times in a classic clash of styles fight, many MMA fans and pundits will be simplistic and decide that the wrestler wins a decision and that the dynamic fighter can win by a submission of knockout. Since each fighter has a way to win the fight, the fans and pundits decide that it is an even affair. They are usually wrong. In most cases, the dynamic fighter has a big advantage. The wrestler has to be on, and fight perfect, for the entire fight to get the win. But the dynamic fighter has the entire fight to find just one opening, pounce, and finish.
The two Silva, Sonnen fights are a perfect example of this. In the first fight, Sonnen won twenty-three minutes of the fight, but then screwed up for a split second and got chocked out. In the second fight, Sonnen took Silva down in the first round, stayed on top, and won the round. But in the second round, Sonnen screwed up by throwing a spinning back fist. He left himself open for a split second, and Silva, the dynamic fighter, saw his opening and finished the fight. Most times, the dynamic fighter has the advantage. Remember this when you are breaking down fights.
I hope that after reading the paths to victory section, you can see just how powerful a tool this approach can be. It is the most important concept in the book. As essential as the paths to victory approach is to breaking down fights, many fans and pundits forget to actually examine how each fighter can win the fight. When betting on MMA, you are looking for situations where the fighter you bet on has multiple paths to victory, while his opponent has none, or just one unlikely path to victory. When your fighter has multiple ways to win the fight, while his opponent has none or just one, you have a low risk situation. These are the fights you are looking for. Before every single bet, make sure you analyze each fighter’s paths to victory. When you use the paths to victory approach, you can make stunningly accurate predictions. You will see evidence of this in the examples at the end of the book. The paths to victory approach is a winning approach, and it is the most important aspect of breaking down and predicting fights.
– > > For more MMA betting advice check out Betting on MMA: Easy Money From the Toughest Sport on Amazon.com or download the eBook version to begin reading right now.
The MMA Betting Checklist
Yesterday I finally got my hands on a copy of Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin. I say finally because it’s one of those books that has been on my radar for a year, but I just never took the time to order it. After glancing through the book it is hard to imagine how it won’t make me a wiser, happier, and more successful person. I can’t wait to read it!
One of the last sections of the book covers the power of checklists. I am not sure where this appreciation for having a checklist comes from in the value investing world, but I have seen Munger talk about it, financial blogger Joshua Kennon, and now it appears again in this powerful book by Bevelin. Seeing the importance of checklists brought up at the end of Seeking Wisdom inspired me to finally write down a checklist for MMA betting.
After thinking about it for some time last night, the following is what I came up with as an MMA betting checklist. As with all checklists, this one will never be finished and will always be open for additional improvement. But the following is what I have come up with so far. Use this checklist every time before you place an MMA bet. Some people may object and say I have been betting on MMA for years, and I know what I am doing. I don’t need your silly checklist. But to them I would respond that even the most seasoned airplane pilots use a checklist each and every time they fly. The pilots know how susceptible we are as humans to being overconfident and careless. Having a checklist in MMA betting will help combat our human biases and shortcomings. The checklist will be a part of every single one of my MMA breakdowns going forward, and I advise you to do the same.
Margin of Safety
Am I getting at least a 15-20% of margin of safety? If not, why am I betting this fight?
In my book Betting on MMA: Easy Money From the Toughest Sport I explain why having a margin of safety is so fundamental to having success at MMA betting. If you consistently bet without a margin of safety you will lose money, so as a consequence I always want to have a significant margin of safety when I place an MMA bet. Significant means 20% or greater, but often 15% will be enough of a margin of safety when other key factors are in place (i.e. you are betting against a fighter with no likely path to victory).
Paths to Victory
Is the paths to victory analysis heavily in my favor? Does my fighter have a one or more likely paths to victory? Does the opponent have no likely paths to victory? If the opponent does have a likely path to victory, is there a good chance my fighter can avoid it?
Nothing is more important than the paths to victory approach when it comes to trying to predict MMA fights. The approach has been criticized for its simplicity, but I am convinced that the approach is so powerful because of its simplicity! You can read more about the paths to victory approach to MMA betting here.
Have I covered all of the important intangibles? Are they mostly to my fighter’s advantage? Are any of the intangibles reason enough not to bet on this fight?
The fundamentals of converting the odds, the margin of safety, and the paths to victory approach are the most important aspects of MMA betting, but the intangibles also matter. It is in the intangibles that the total story of the fight (also referred to as the mosaic) comes together and helps us get a clear picture of what is going on in a fight matchup. And sometimes one intangible, or the sum of multiple intangibles, will be so serious that it will be cause for deciding not to place a bet. An example of this is when a fighter looks soft and unlike his normal self at the weigh-ins. Two examples of this are Cain Velasquez in his first fight with Junior Dos Santos and more recently with Alistair Overeem against Antonio Silva.
The Great Fighter Rule
Am I betting against an elite, great fighter? Do I have a good reason to be doing so?
Recently I made a new rule to never bet against great fighters. These fighters are the elites of the elite; guys like Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Cain Velasquez. The standard rules don’t apply to these guys, and as a result it is very difficult to handicap their fights when you are considering betting against them. If you are betting against one of these elite fighters you better have a damn good reason for doing so. Reasons might include a massive margin of safety, or a sever style disadvantage like Georges St-Pierre would face against Anderson Silva at 180 pounds.
Difference in Odds
Is there a logical reason why there is such a drastic difference between my odds and the market’s odds?
Usually the market will be correct about a fight. When you bet on MMA you are competing with the general MMA fan base and usually they are fairly correct about fights. So when you come up with a difference between your odds and the market’s odds you need to find a logical reason as to why that difference exists. Usually it has to do with hype distorting the market’s opinions about one or each fighters’ chances to win the fight.
Reasons you should not be betting.
Are there reasons why I should not be making this bet?
This question is a good check on our natural inclination as humans to act (or bet in the case of MMA betting). When you ask yourself this question consider your biases towards or against each fighter. Ask yourself if you did all your homework. And ask yourself if you have gone down the checklist and if everything adds up.
One Final Check
Tomorrow after the fight, can I look myself in the mirror and be okay with losing money on this fight?
Anytime you gamble, even if you only gamble when you have the odds in your favor, you will sometimes lose money. As a gambler this is something you must accept and deal with. One good check to have before placing an MMA bet is to ask yourself if you can look at yourself in the mirror after the fight and be okay with having lost money on this bet. Sometimes the answer will be yes, but other times you will find that the answer is no and in these cases you should not bet.
Examples of this question going both ways are as follows. A case of yes for me was when I bet on Glover Teixeira to beat Quinton Jackson. My handicap was that the only way that Quinton Jackson could win was with a lucky knockout punch early in the fight. I put the odds of that happening at around 10%. I accepted that this could happen, but I knew that it was not likely to happen. I decided that I was okay with the bet and that if I happened to get unlucky and Quinton won by knockout I could look myself in the mirror the next day and bet okay with it.
An example of not being okay with losing money on a bet was when I was breaking down the Matt Riddle vs Che Mills fight from last weekend’s UFC on FUEL TV 7 card. The paths to victory lined up in Riddle’s favor and the price to bet him was acceptable as well. The reason why I did not bet on him was because I could not look myself in the mirror after losing money on this fight and be okay with it. I knew that I did not know all of the intangibles on this fight and that I was basically speculating. In addition to that, I did not like the idea of risking money on a guy like Riddle. He is a bit to reckless and unstable for my tastes, and that was evident in the fight when he was egging on Mills to brawl with him in the second and third rounds instead of taking Mills down and continuing to win the fight with his takedown approach. If I had lost money by betting on Riddle I would feel sick the next day looking at myself in the mirror because I should have known better than to bet when I don’t know all of the intangible and because I should not have been betting on a guy as reckless as Riddle.
After The Fight
Knowing what I know now, would I make this bet again?
Hindsight is always 20/20 and decisions look much clearer and much more black and white after we know the results. Take a few moments to reflect on each bet the day after the fight and consider what you did right and what you did wrong. See if there is anything you can learn from your betting efforts and try to improve going forward.
– > > For more MMA betting advice check out Betting on MMA: Easy Money From the Toughest Sport on Amazon.com or download the eBook version to begin reading right now.
Download the eBook instantly: