Noticing Troubling Signs

MMA Betting: Noticing Troubling Signs

By Loot, MMA Handicapper,

This gets back to the topic of needing too much evidence that fighter is starting to lose his grip. A fighter needs to be on his back unconscious multiple times before we want to acknowledge his possible erosion as a fighter. But before the hurricane came wind and rain. Ignoring it can make you lose money on favorites and not capitalize on good underdog picks.

Fighters in this sport can lose it all in an instant. An opponent needs to land one good punch or knee or crank your neck and it can all start going downhill. So trying to time it can be a costly endeavor. But when fighters are on a good run of victories or are even champions, it really is just a matter of time before things go south. How many undefeated MMA fighters do you know who are retired? How many losses will the typical very good MMA fighter retire with? As a bettor, it can be very profitable to look for signs.

Fighters can have off-nights. The case of Anderson Silva is a curious one. He struggled massively against Chael Sonnen in a title defense, only to pull a rabbit out of the hat late to save his title and preserve his long winning streak. Some may have taken it as a sign of Silva losing a bit of his edge. But if you went with that thought and starting betting against him, you would have been disappointed, as he has since scored some dominant stoppage wins, including a conclusive rematch against Sonnen.

But sometimes the signs are there and a bot more clear. BJ Penn was a tremendous fighter–a real winner. But approaching his two fights with Frankie Edgar, there were signs that his dominance was coming to an end. It was so vague that one would surely have been justified in taking Penn against Edgar in the first match. But even after Edgar beat Penn, we were still making excuses for him.

We figured he underestimated Penn. Or maybe he didn’t train hard enough. Maybe he just needed to get used to Edgar’s style. But when Penn lost the rematch, it was clear that Edgar just had his number and that Penn had reached a point in his career where he was no longer vintage BJ. Well, why didn’t we see that after he lost the first fight? It’s true that older fighters often come back stronger in rematches. But sometimes, losses are actually bad signs. But they need to be acknowledged as such or it could cost you some losing wagers.

Watching Weigh-Ins

Sometimes you might want to bet on an MMA match early. The line comes out and you see a number you like and jump on it. Totally understandable. There are other times, however, when you might want to see the weigh-in. Cutting weight in a big part of this sport. These aren’t jockeys, where the horse is doing most of the work. A man who is a shell of himself is really up against it in an MMA match. That’s a big warning sign.

Sometimes it won’t matter. Two fighters are matched who never had significant weight issues. But if there is a little hesitation–just wait. Those who bet on James Irvin to beat Alessio Sakara surely wish they had waited until the weigh-in, when Irvin showed up looking like a ghost. And it would have been a good idea to wait, with Irvin dropping from light heavyweight to middleweight for the first time. Always be extra alert when fighters are dropping weight classes, especially when they didn’t seem overweight at all in the first place.


You see cagey horse players at the track checking out horses in the paddock area. They’re looking for certain physical signs–sweat, distress or whatever it is that horse players look for. That takes a real veteran eye to decipher those signs. But we’re people. We know people. We know what to look for. We know how a certain fighter looks. So when he shows up to a weigh-in looking different, red flags should rise.

Look for a dried out and listless physique. Watch out for hollowed-out cheeks or a suddenly-morose expression. Look to see if a normally boisterous fighter is being unusually quiet. See if the fighter is drinking a Gatorade a nanosecond after he steps off the scale. These things could indicate a weight struggle. And depending on the situation, it could make you rethink your betting position.

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