Fighting to the Level of the Opposition

MMA Betting: Fighting to the Level of the Opposition

By Loot, MMA Handicapper,

It can be difficult for MMA bettors to determine what a fighter is capable of, especially when that fighter only fights to the level of his opposition. We might think he is only capable of reaching a certain ceiling, when in fact he just hasn’t fought anyone worthy enough to bring the best out of him.

As we journey down the betting path, we will see a ton of fights where one fighter has fought at the top level, while his opponent has not. Or we simply think a fighter is better than his opponent based on what we’ve seen in the octagon. It could all be a mirage. With a lot of good fighters, they need to have the right opponent to bring out their best. Against other fighters of lesser quality, they never needed to unveil their full bag of tricks or their opponent was just incapable of providing the type of competition that would allow his full scope of talents to surface.

In all areas of sports, we hear that a team, player, or fighter only performs to the level of the opposition. Sometimes, it’s a detriment–a case of laziness or complacency. Other times, the level of the opponent is the prevailing factor in deciding whether or not those abilities even come out. Let’s say you’re really good at chess. If you’re playing a clueless beginner, your expert chess playing will not really have an opportunity to manifest. It would take another player of equal or superior skill to create a landscape for you to showcase your full scope of talent. Beating stiffs will offer a glimpse of what you’re capable of, but no one will really know for sure until you match up with a really good player.

With MMA wagering, that translates into bettors being in the dark a lot of the time. We see an underdog in a big fight. What is he capable of? Looking at how he performed against inferior fighters, while helpful, is in no way a compass upon which we can rely to guide us to winning wagers.

As bettors, we get caught up in what we see, as opposed to things that lie underneath. It’s not the things you can see that will give you an edge in MMA betting as much as being able to determine what exists just under the surface. With enough experience, you can begin to sense when a fighter possesses another gear or two, though it’s not coming out in the fight you’re watching.

There are many techniques, ranging from stand-up to the ground-game, that require a certain level of skill to bring out of another fighter. Some guys are great punchers, but need to be in against a dangerous fighter who is willing to exchange for it to come to fruition. Against an opponent who is only good on the ground and is looking to avoid punching sequences, a fighter might not be able to show what he has in his repertoire. Or perhaps a fighter’s best ground-game only comes about when he’s fighting a guy who threatens him on the ground, as well. His best moves come as a result of countering his opponent’s attempts. If no one pushes him to that point, you might not be able to accurately gauge his true abilities.

They say great fighters need other great fighters to be great. It’s easy with established stars. We know how they fight and if they perhaps only perform really well when dealing with ultra-threatening opposition. With fighters who are in the young stages of their career and have not yet been to the mountaintop, we are in the dark. We don’t really know until we know.


We sometimes misgauge a fighter because he beats his opponents so easily and with so much room to spare, that we figure he is a championship-level fighter. That could be misleading. In some cases, a fighter winning by such a big margin suggests he has a lot of upside. Then again, maybe he’s just beating a bunch of lower-end fighters or guys who are over-the-hill. Sometimes, the guy who actually has some close fights on his road to the big-time is overlooked. Bettors figure he struggled with so-and-so, therefore he shouldn’t be able to compete with a much better fighter. It’s important to remember that a lot of fighters need to fight a great fighter to show they are special.

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