Analyzing MMA Fighters After a Layoff

MMA Handicapping: Analyzing Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Coming off of a Layoff

By Loot, MMA Handicapper.

When handicapping MMA fights, we often stumble upon the fact that a fighter has been inactive. It can be a little tricky to figure out how to factor that into our whole analysis. All inactive periods are not of the same ilk. When handicapping a fighter coming off a spell of inactivity, it is important to look closely to see what is behind it.

Sometimes, it’s obvious. A fighter coming back from retirement is normally going to suffer from the time on the shelf. During their time away from the sport, their mind became accustomed to the idea of not fighting and it can be hard to bring it back. In addition, they are usually older fighters and after an extended time away from the sport, they are often no longer viable.

Other layoffs are not that long. A fighter can just so happen to not fight for the better part of a year for what appears on the surface to be no particular reason. Others are taking off time for specific reasons–dealing with injuries or recovering from a surgery, recovering from a bad knockout, or because of suspensions or life-related issues.

Some MMA fighters, even the best ones, are inactive just because of bad luck. Shows get cancelled, opponents fall out, or any number of things come up to nix a fight. This is less of a concern, as these fighters have at least been staying sharp in training and are usually experienced enough to weather a layoff.

When dealing with layoffs related to negative things, we need to be more careful. If a fighter needed some time to get his head together after a particularly bad knockout loss, you might want to see how he responds first before backing him with a wager. Some fighters bounce back nicely, while others are never quite the same and the time off did little to help.


A fighter bouncing back from a bad injury is a dicey proposition. You see guys in MMA come back from really bad injuries all the time, seemingly as good as ever. Others, however, lose a step every time they go under the knife. Injuries, as they start piling up, is a possible sign that a fighter is breaking down. It’s one of many reasons fighters have short shelf-lives at the top. Not many athletes have bodies that are perennially immune to the grind of MMA fighting and training.

A suspended fighter is another iffy deal. If a fighter is suspended for a banned substance, it can go one of two ways. They may come back chomping at the bit to get back in the good graces of the fans and his organization. Then again, the very fact that a fighter is taking a banned substance raises questions about his character and therefore his viability as a guy you would back with a wager. A fighter who tests positive for PED could be better for it, though it reveals a certain level of mental weakness. Meanwhile, a fighter who tests positive for marijuana brings his character into question. Who would risk their MMA career for a little hippie lettuce?

There is no sport where a layoff theoretically helps. There is a chance that some time off might help refresh some guys–especially veteran fighters who just need a breather after a demanding series of fights and training camps. But for the developing MMA fighter or for the one who has not really gotten to the top, not fighting is a bad thing.

The bottom line is that we should individually analyze each fighter’s specific situation. There is no roadmap or conversion chart to help figure out any of this. The only thing we can really do is exercise caution where it’s warranted. If we see a fighter has been off for a while and might be a question mark upon his return to the octagon, we should consider waiting to see how he looks before backing him with a bet. Or we could even try to time an upset pick by going against him. Whatever the case, the inactivity factor is rearing its head more and more and it can be a tricky part of our handicapping.

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