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Mixed Martial Arts Betting: Learning the Basics

SBD Staff Writer

by SBD Staff Writer

Updated Feb 26, 2021 · 1:20 PM PST

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For people who love to throw bets down on team sports, gambling on mixed martial arts might seem like a foreign concept.

If you have a firm grasp on how to bet on sports in general, wagering on MMA will come quickly and easily. For those of you who aren’t as proficient, not to worry. We’ve created this how-to guide to introduce you to the main concepts of MMA betting, including how to read MMA odds and the different types of bets you can make.

We’ll go over what you need to know to get a solid grasp on how to bet on the MMA, including the importance of MMA scheduling, moneyline betting, round betting, over/under round betting, exact round betting, method of victory betting, and parlay betting.

The Importance of MMA Scheduling

The first thing we should point out about MMA betting is that the scheduling is significantly different from professional leagues like the NFL, NBA, and NHL. In those leagues, there is a set schedule for the entire season.

Even in October, you know exactly when and where the Warriors will be playing come next March. However, you won’t be able to wager on March games, or even November games, in October. Unless you’re making a futures bet, you can generally only wager on a team’s next game.

In MMA, there is no set schedule for the year. Each fight is negotiated and scheduled, one at a time, by the promotions (like the UFC and Bellator) and the fighters.

However, the fights are generally scheduled months in advance, and you can usually bet on the biggest fights as soon as they are scheduled. In fact, you can often bet on rumored marquee fights before they are set in stone. In such instances, sportsbooks will specify that the fight has to take place by a certain date. If it does not, all wagers are generally returned. But make sure you read the fine print on these types of bets before you make them, as per your sportsbooks’ rules.

While big-name fighters only enter the octagon two or three times a year at most, MMA’s increased popularity has led to a commensurate increase in the number of MMA events. The UFC, which currently has its own streaming site (UFC Fight Pass) and a TV deal, promotes fights almost on a weekly basis. Other MMA organizations, like Bellator, hold events on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. When you add it all up, there are always MMA fights that are ready for your betting dollars.

Before you go risking those dollars you worked so hard to obtain, you need to understand the general nature of MMA betting and the different types of bets you can make. So let’s get started on the meat and potatoes.

Moneyline Betting

Similar to other sports, the odds for MMA fights can appear in various ways on a sportsbook. Much of continental Europe uses decimal odds, whereas fractional odds are popular in the UK. In the US and Canada, the most common way to display odds is via the “moneyline” (also known as “American” odds), which will appear as follows:

In the example above, the odds tell us a couple of different things. First, they indicate that McGregor is the favorite and Diaz is the underdog. The favorite will always have negative odds (in this case, -270), and the underdog will (almost) always have positive odds (in this case, +210).

The bigger the discrepancy between the odds, the bigger the favorite.

Second, the odds indicate the potential payout of your bet. The number next to the minus (-) sign is how much you have to bet to make $100. The number next to the plus (+) sign is how much you stand to make on a $100 bet.

In the example above, you would need to bet $270 on McGregor to earn $100, while a $100 bet on Diaz would earn you $210.

Moneyline betting is attractive, especially for new bettors, because of its simplicity: just pick a winner between the two combatants.

However, there are many other ways to bet on MMA, like round betting and method of victory betting. It’s usually harder to win these bets since there are more potential outcomes, but the potential payout can also be much greater. Let’s look at each of the different options in a little more detail.

Round Betting

Most big sportsbooks will offer two distinct types of “round betting” for big MMA events:

  • Over/Under Round Betting
  • Exact Round Betting

We will go through both in detail below. First, though, remember that unlike boxing matches, which can have up to 12 three-minute rounds, mixed martial arts fights are limited to three five-minute rounds or five five-minute rounds for title fights and main events. For a full over of round betting, check out our guide that breaks down all the different types of round betting options.

Over/Under Round Betting

If you have a strong sense that a fight will either end quickly or go to decision, you may want to bet the over/under on rounds. In this type of bet, the sportsbook will post a round total (the number of rounds until the fight ends by KO or decision), and you need to predict whether the fight will last longer or shorter than the round total given. The wager will be displayed as follows (or in a similar fashion):

Looking at the example above, if you bet the over and the fight lasts until the 2:31 mark of the third round, you win! If you bet the under, the fight has to end before the 2:31 mark of round three in order for you to collect.

You’ll note that the over and under both have odds attached to them in parentheses. Often, they will have identical -110 odds, but not in this case.

In the example above, the sportsbook has decided that one outcome (the over) is slightly more likely than the other. Thus, you have to wager slightly more on the over in order to win $100. In other words, the over is the favorite.

Let’s look at another example to make sure you’ve got the theory down pat. Say two very aggressive fighters are squaring off and your sportsbook sets the over/under at 1.5 rounds.

In this example, each outcome is deemed equally likely (hence the identical -110 moneyline for the over and under). To win the over bet, the fight must pass 2.5 minutes of the second round. To win the under, the fight needs to end before the 2.5-minute mark of round two.

Exact Round Betting

Several MMA sportsbooks will allow bettors to put money on the exact round when the fight will end. The payouts on exact-round bets can be quite lucrative as there are many potential outcomes.

Depending on which sportsbook you use, you may be able to get even more specific and pick which fighter will win and in which exact round. Once again, the potential payout will increase because you are being more specific about the outcome.

As per usual in sports betting, increasing the degree of difficulty on a wager will always increase the potential winnings.

Method of Victory Betting

In addition to betting on when fights will end, you can also bet on how fights will end: decision, knockout, submission, even disqualification. This is known as “method of victory” betting and these wagers usually include the following options:

  • Inside the distance: One fighter, doesn’t matter who, finishes the fight by KO or submission within the rounds allocated
  • Fight ends by submission: One fighter, doesn’t matter who, wins by submission
  • Fight ends by KO: One fighter, doesn’t matter who, wins by knockout or technical knock out
  • Fight ends in a decision: neither fighter ends the fight and the winner is determined by the judges’ scorecards

You can often bet on the type of decision, as well:

  • Unanimous: all three judges agree on the winner
  • Split: two judges score the fight for Fighter A, and the other scores the fight for Fighter B
  • Majority: two judges score the fight for Fighter A and the third scores it a draw

Again, the more specific you get with your wager, the greater the payout will be.

Parlay Betting

A “parlay” is any bet that is tied to multiple wagers. There are other names that sportsbooks use for these types of bets, like accumulators or multipliers, but parlay is the common parlance in North America.

A common MMA parlay would involve betting on the outcome of two or three fights on one card. Say Conor McGregor is facing Nate Diaz in the main event for the night, and Georges St-Pierre is facing Robert Whittaker in the co-main event. The odds for the fights are:

You want to bet on McGregor to beat Diaz, but you also want a bigger potential payout than his -270 odds are offering. If you have a strong inclination about who will win between St-Pierre and Whittaker, you can bet on the outcome of that fight and generate a bigger potential payout as well.

However, you will only win your parlay bet if all of your selections are correct. If McGregor wins but your pick in the second fight loses, you lose your entire stake. That’s why you need to think very carefully before including too many picks in a single parlay. The payout on a five-fight parlay will be massive, but the chances of getting all five correct—even if they’re all favorites—is low. Just look at what happened at UFC 217, when three favorites lost their title belts!

Still Looking to Brush Up on the Fundamentals?

Betting on each individual professional sport or league, regardless if its the more niche MMA or the biggest league in the world in the NFL, has its own idiosyncrasies and nuances. That’s why we’ve created a catch-all resource for how to bet on sports. Now that you know the fundamentals of MMA betting be sure to check out our list of sites, that cater to the benefits of betting on combat sports.

If you’re looking for more detailed explanations of the different types of bets you can make on sports and exactly how they’re graded, check out our 101 guides to sports betting.


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