Dealing with Styles

MMA Betting: Dealing with Styles

Always Look to the Style Match-Up

The tendency in individual sports is to assess a fighter based on a singular notion of how good he is. Inside your head, you have an abstract scale of greatness. Maybe Jon Jones is a 98. Stipe Miocic is a 94. Conor McGregor is a 94. Maybe Yoel Romero is an 89. And so on.

If a fighter is in a bout where he ranks higher on your imaginary “bad-ass scale,” the tendency is to assume he will win the fight. Often times, that is true, but it falls into the category of faulty handicapping. In an MMA fight two fighters combine to create one situation. It isn’t some kind of pose-down of styles, it’s a meshing of styles. It’s about how each fighter’s style will play off each other–which fighter’s style will be better against his opponent.

Not many sports share this dynamic. In sports like tennis, for example, styles play a role. But it is still tennis and all the things that stay the same on the field of play from match to match. In MMA, the opponent is the field of play to a large degree. The variation from one fight to the next can be staggering. In a sport like tennis, you can face a variety of different styles, but the game doesn’t just get turned on its head. In MMA, a fighter can face a situation that almost makes it seem like a completely different sport altogether.

“Styles make fights” isn’t just an empty expression uttered by old-timers. It should be the guiding principle in all your MMA wagers. Get away from analyzing fighters as individual entities and focus more on the possible combined result that the two styles and fighters will create.

In life, we all have our strong and weak points. There are situations where we shine and others where we tend to not be at our best. MMA fighters are the same way. And by the time a fighter is at the point where you can bet on him, there are some established strengths and weaknesses. You’ve seen it time and again–a fighter beats everyone decisively then shockingly loses. Many of those defeats are genuine upsets–where there were really no warning signs suggesting that would happen. In most cases, however, you can make more sense of it and point to instances in the past that make it seem less impossible. Instead of noticing it after the fight, try to pinpoint style problems for fighters before it happens.

This takes work. You won’t be able to remember, for example, that a fighter is a sucker for a left uppercut or that he struggles in stand-up against fighters operating from a southpaw stance. Here’s an idea. Get some cheap notebooks. For each page, list observations you make about a fighter. After a period of time, you’ll have accumulated enough information to help make winning wagers. Understanding styles is a big part of it.

Analyzing Styles Within Styles

Over-generalizing a fighter’s style can lead to some betting miscalculations. Try to be more specific when breaking down a fight. It’s not enough to say a fighter is a striker or a submission artist. What are their exact strengths and weaknesses? What does their track record indicate about what they’re susceptible to or against what styles they thrive? But try to be more pointed in the analysis. If a guy is bothered by strikers, what specific shots or moves trouble him? Is the striker he is facing good at those specific punches, kicks, elbows, or knees?


This is especially true in the area of submission fighters. You might see that a guy has lost a handful of fights via submission facing a fighter with a lot of submission wins–and you know what the tendency is. A lot of times, that will suffice as decent analysis. But there’s a good chance that most of a fighter’s submission wins came in the form of something that never troubled his opponent. A guy might be an arm-bar guy facing an opponent who is more vulnerable to rear-naked chokes. If something jumps out during your analysis of a fight and seems like an observation that is almost too good to be true–probe a bit further.

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