Choosing the Lesser-Known Fighter

MMA Betting Tips: Choosing the Lesser-Known Fighter

By Loot, MMA Handicapper,

You know how we feel about systems. They don’t work. A system is a pre-disposed way of looking at a fight. You don’t handicap it, but rather mindlessly line up all the coordinates and look for a match. At no point do we want to take the hard work out of handicapping out in lieu of opting for a system. But there might be one semi-exception.

In MMA, you will often times see a veteran fighter with a solid track record that might even include a world title facing a much lesser-known fighter. The situation is very specialized. You have to look for certain things. First of all, the big name fighter must be a guy whose best days are behind him. Not that he’s washed up. It’s just that when you do an honest appraisal of his career at this point in time–it’s clear his past is brighter than his future.

In the UFC, for example, there are a ton of fighters like this–guys with big names whose actual level of merit in the present sense is outweighed by their name-power. We’re talking about former stars who are still in the limelight, even though they have lost their edge to varying degrees. There can be a lot of betting value betting against those guys, but we have to look for the right spot.


There will be a time when one of those ex-champs or superstars takes on a good fighter, but one whose name-value barely flickers. They’re good fighters, but unlike their more-celebrated opponent, nobody really knows or seems to care. A lot of times, those fighters win and when they do it’s at a nice price.

Look for these specialized situations. The sport is packed with ex-champs and former stars who are still active. Their name rings. But their time may have passed. They can still win fights, but people, namely the betting public, are more or less under a spell. The name power washes over them and they bet these guys at an inordinate rate.

In MMA betting, identifying a fighter whose reputation outweighs his actual merit is key. We want to tap into the public perception and look for gaps in what people think and juxtapose it against the the hard reality. And the reality is that once a fighter starts losing, it becomes easier for him to continue losing. In their primes, they rarely tasted defeat. It wasn’t in their make-up to lose. Then over time, that edge becomes duller and it becomes easier to beat these guys.

As bettors, we look for good value. In general, the better-known fighter’s value will be less. Everyone knows who that fighter is. They know his reputation. There are highlight reels that show that fighter’s reign of destruction. It is almost embedded in our system that this fighter is awesome. So naturally, that fighter gets a lot of respect at the betting windows.

In other words, betting against fighters like that generally offers good value. They are bigger favorites than they probably should be, while their opponent is fetching a better price than what reality would suggest. So when you see a fight listed between two guys and one is much better-known, take a closer look. There might be a good reason why the better-known fighter is favored and why the unknown fighter is not valued. Other times, however, it’s all about name-value and we know that doesn’t win fights.

So look for good spots. You want to see an aging ex-champion, but one who hasn’t been blown out 6 times. By then, everyone knows he’s spoiled goods. We want to see the writing on the wall before everyone else does. And we want to see him facing a guy whose career hasn’t really taken full-flight yet.

In MMA and in the UFC in particular, there has been a lot of champions. There may have eventually been some champions who reigned for a long time, like Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre, but there was a time when the shelf-life of champions was pretty short in this sport. When you become a UFC champion, there is a level of prestige that sticks with that fighter throughout his entire career. Our job is to find the guys who despite a track record of excellence and Hall of Fame-worthy accomplishments, are really just playing out the course of their career. Then when facing an unknown, but hungry and capable fighter–we pounce on the underdog. The beauty of it is that we can be wrong more than we’re right and still end up ahead.

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