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Evaluating MMA Matchups

MMA Handicapping: Evaluating Mixed Martial Arts Fighters From a Matchup Perspective

By Loot, Sports Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

MMA, in a sense, is easier than some other forms of sports handicapping--particularly when it comes to the amount of things we have to handicap. We are dealing with two guys, not an entire roster of players. Our analysis is focused on individual athletes. There is a simplicity to that. But that doesn’t mean an MMA bettor can be lazy.

One of the main examples of lazy MMA handicapping that plagues many betting men is the tendency to gauge fighters independently and then bet on the guy who stacks up better in that analysis. We see one guy knocking his opponents out, while the guy he is going to fight is struggling to win decisions. So naturally, we pick the guy who wins more clearly. Or we see a fighter beat a guy who defeated his upcoming opponent, so he must be better, right?

This way of thinking is poison to MMA wagering. We’re dealing with a sport where two fighters combine their strengths and weaknesses against each other. It’s not weightlifting or some other competition where a singular analysis would maybe work better. And that’s where a lot of MMA bettors go wrong--they look at the fighters strictly with an individual appraisal. “Oh, he hits hard” or “He has good takedown defense.” Well, that’s a start. Now, we have to begin thinking along the lines of how those skills figure to play off his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Instead of merely noting that a fighter hits hard, take note of his opponent’s defense and ability to take a punch and combat it. Otherwise, our knowledge of a fighter hitting hard just sits there like a bump on a log--doing nothing to help us win bets. We might rank a fighter higher in our internal meter of greatness based on a good takedown defense. Undoubtedly, that’s a strong asset for a fighter to have. But if he’s facing a guy who doesn’t really gun for takedowns, is our acknowledgement of that trait really bringing us any closer to winning a bet?

Sometimes, we will see a fighter who is not very highly-regarded, or at least not when compared to his opponent. Then the lesser-regarded fighter wins. Happens all the time. What happened? Well, sometimes it was just happenstance. When dealing with fighters of this caliber, winning a fight can come down to things like who happens to land first or who was simply feeling better that night.

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A lot of times, however, it will come down to the meshing of styles. The underdog, while not as high on the MMA pecking order as his opponent, just so happened to have the right set of skills to thwart his favored opponent. Maybe the favorite’s best strike is a cannon-right hand, but that opponent doesn’t get hit with many right hands for whatever reason. Maybe a guy has been succeeding by keeping his opponents on their backs, but his opponent on this given night was the first guy he fought who actually had skills from his back.

The examples could be endless. The point is that when handicapping an MMA fight, it is critical to account for the match-up component of the fight. That’s really what it’s all about. We’re not betting on a situation where the two guys sit at a table and discuss what they’re good at and we choose the guy who has the more impressive MMA assets. It’s a fight. It’s two guys pitting their strengths and weaknesses against each other in an actual fight. Sounds elementary enough, until you see how many MMA bettors just look at it like a beauty contest.

In other words, the tendency on the part of many in the general betting public is to look at the fighters as individual entities operating independently of each other. Like if you were going to get a job with a top company, they would certainly look at the things you can do well. But when a judgment is to be rendered, the criteria would be how well you fit in with the company and how your assets will serve them specifically.

So when we handicap MMA fighters, we need to make sure that we account for how a fighter’s skills or drawbacks might be a smaller or bigger factor based on the specific opponent. Then we’re actually handicapping the fight and not just doing an individual assessment of the fighters.

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MISC.

  • UFC Weight Classes - The UFC is broken down by 8 weight class divisions with heavyweights being the biggest fighters (Maximum weight 265 pounds) and flyweights (125lb Max.) being the smallest fighters. Check out the other 6 classes of mixed martial artists including analysis for each division right here!
  • Famous MMA Fighters - Biographies of mixed martial arts fighters who have graced the octagon and become shining stars of the sport.
  • Famous MMA Quotes and Sayings - Testosterone runs high when fights take place. This creates a slew of memorable verbage from all involved including the fighters, their trainers and the announcers. Oh, and Dana White!
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