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Good and Bad Signs With Unknown Fighters

MMA Betting: Good and Bad Signs With Unknown Fighters

By Loot, MMA Handicapper,

A lot of times, we see a fighter on the betting board for the first time and are faced with the job of making sense of him. Will he be up-to-snuff? Or is he another in a long line of fighters who got to a certain point before hitting a wall? There are some signs we can look for that will give us better insight.

It's a strange way to gauge a fighter's level of success, but making it onto the betting board is a pretty good sign. There are thousands of MMA fighters and only a select handful are thought of as being good enough to be a in a fight where betting action is warranted. It's just that before they do, there might be precious little information we have at our fingertips to use in rendering a judgment.

Before a fighter reaches a point where you can bet on him, he was likely fighting in lower organizations where you couldn't watch the fights on TV. Or his level of competition was so poor, that it's extremely difficult to make any worthwhile observations. That's when we have to look off-the-grid a little bit for evidence.

A key concern is to analyze where and with whom he trains. There are MMA camps spread out all over the world. This isn't to imply that good fighters can't come out of nowhere because they do. But generally, you would like to see that a fighter on the verge of "making it" has worked with top-quality people. In a different fighting sport, like boxing, this isn't as much of a concern, with most boxers working independently of each other. MMA is more tight-knit, with top MMA practitioners usually mixing it up in training camp.

There are some fighters who may be the stars of their gym, but it's just that there is no one there good enough to truly test him. Contrast that to a guy who is surrounded by top talent. He's constantly sharpening his skills against some of the top fighters in the world. A lot of these guys go into fights knowing they probably encountered tougher opposition during training camp. Another kid might be just as talented, but he isn't battle-tempered because the guys he works with in the gym are not terribly formidable.

All this means is that when you see a new fighter, either in the UFC or in any organization that gets a lot of TV coverage, you should feel better if you know he works with top-quality people. The coaches are better, the competition is steeper, and the preparation more suited to succeeding at the top levels of MMA. With other fighters, we are dealing more in the element of the unknown. We might think he can do it, but unlike the guy who works with top-notch people, our level of certainty is tenuous at best.

Most athletes who succeeded in other areas usually end up with a top training outfit, like a Division I wrestling champion, for example. When dealing with more unknown fighters, however, we should still look for certain things in their past, even if they're not with a top camp. What we want to see is success in another form of combat, whether it be wrestling, karate, amateur boxing, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


It's not easy to be terribly confident about a guy with no athletic past to speak of who suddenly turns up on the betting board. He is not part of a top gym, he hasn't beaten anybody worth mentioning, and on top of that--he has no background to suggest that he will be a force in MMA. He's already 30 years old and only has a small handful of low-end MMA fights on his record, where he could have been beating Orange Julius employees and parking lot attendants for all we know. He might end up being a good fighter, but over the long-haul, making speculative bets like that will probably end up costing us. We should be armed with a little more information.

It's a lot easier to handicap fights with known quantities. When wagering on more unknown commodities, we have less information and therefore, less insight. That doesn't mean there aren't certain signs to look for. A little research can help arm us with at least some strong clues as to how an unknown fighter should be expected to perform.

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