I stated in the first article of this two part guide (finding value in UFC lines in theory) that the key to long term success in betting involves being able to consistently identify when value exists in the betting lines. This involves comparing the odds that a bookie assigns a fighter of winning with your own beliefs, and then betting accordingly. What I didn’t touch on was how to actually find value in the lines. Here are a few basic, but crucial tips you should follow for finding value in ufc lines.
There is no bigger cardinal sin in betting than putting money on or against someone you have never seen fight. This is because it is going to be nearly impossible for you to form an opinion about each fighter’s actual chance of winning, and therefore impossible to identify value. Often what happens is that a fighter will have a ton of hype, and based on the hype alone he will be the favourite regardless of how much information exists on his opponent.
A recent example of this would be Gerald Harris vs Maiquel Falcao at UFC 123. The people betting on Harris were effectively buying into his hype, and most betting on Falcao were doing so less because they knew a lot about him, but more because they thought Harris was becoming too big of a favourite against an unknown commodity. As it turned out, those betting on Falcao happened to be right, however I would argue that both sides exposed themselves to unnecessary risk.
As a small caveat, I would say that massive underdogs have historically done better than their odds would suggest, and that the only exception to betting on a fighter you’ve never seen would be on a massive underdog that there is very little information on. (ie: Pierce vs Larson, Sokoudjou vs Nogueira, Alexander vs Jardine)
After one fighter beats another, the wrong conclusion to make is “Since fighter A beat fighter B, fighter A is better than fighter B”. There is not perfect parity in MMA results, and you can look to anyone who bet big on Marquardt against Sonnen, or bet big on Stout against Stephens for victims of this fallacy.
Instead, you have to ask yourself why fighter A beat fighter B. Besides demonstrating himself to be the better fighter on the night, he has probably demonstrated superiority in at least one discipline: submissions, wrestling, or striking. So, while “MMAth” is generally not advised, it can be a strong tool when you’re dealing with single disciplines. For instance, Ross Pearson outstruck Dennis Siver, Dennis Siver outstruck Spencer Fisher, and then very recently Ross Pearson outstruck Spencer Fisher. The outcome of the Pearson/Fisher fight should have been rather obvious to anyone who had watched the first two aforementioned fights considering it was likely to take place in the standup realm.
The final reason why results should not be stressed is because the winning fighter may not have necessarily displayed himself to be the superior fighter at all. One obvious example of this is with poor judging. While Leonard Garcia may have the win on paper, most feel that Nam Phan would win in a rematch, and hence Phan is the favourite in that fight. Another example of results not being too important relates to quick finishes. Maciej Jewtuszko recently upset Anthony Njokuani, however no information could actually be derived from that fight regarding their relative skill sets.
I would argue that this should be the heart of your analysis before placing a bet. When a fight is announced, most individuals quickly make a prediction about what they believe is going to happen, and are often way too confident in this prediction. If you don’t believe me, check out the forums regarding the Shogun vs Jon Jones fight. Instead, you need to ask yourself how either fighter wins, and how likely you think each outcome is.
While I hate to do this in retrospect because hindsight is 20/20, a perfect example of this is in relation to the Dennis Siver vs George Sotiropoulos fight. Sotiropoulos was on a big win streak and fighting in his hometown. It was supposed to be a formality that he would find a way to take Siver down and submit him. Analyzing the matchup in retrospect however, a Siver win was perfectly conceivable. Sotiropoulos had shown relatively poor striking and wrestling in the past, and Siver was certainly the superior striker. The -380 line really made no sense from a rational point of view, but it was justified by the idea that Sotiropoulos was supposed to win.
I ask that you do not fall into this trap. There are no guarantees in this sport, and no fighter is ever a 100% lock. When you are putting your money against a fighter, it is very important that you exhaust all the possible ways that fighter wins the fight, and why you are confident that those outcomes are less likely than the odds suggest.
Art Aronson is a tenured bottom-line professional sports handicapper. He is the best ROI handicapper in the business. He is not your typical handicapper.
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