UNDERSTANDING MMA BETTING LINES
The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) has grown into a worldwide phenomenon in just a matter of decades. Since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event in 1993, the Las Vegas based promotion has become the premier brand of mixed martial arts and promoted events internationally. MMA is not only extremely popular with casual fans but with sports betting enthusiasts as well. MMA betting is a newcomer at many online and land based sportsbooks but already accounts for a decent percentage of the overall wagering handle.
If you understand boxing betting at all, you’ll have no problem picking up the intricacies of MMA betting since they’re essentially identical in format. Likewise, once you understand MMA odds you’ll be all set to bet on the next big boxing event. MMA has grown beyond its former status as a ‘niche sport’ and now every decent sportsbook in the world takes action on major events with many offering betting options on lower profile promotions and cards as well.
Every fight has a winner and a loser (draws are very rare in MMA) and so moneylines are the perfect way to bet on the outcome of a mixed martial arts event. Like any moneyline proposition, there’s a favorite and an underdog. For example, here’s the betting line from an upcoming UFC main event:
DANIEL CORMIER +250
JON JONES -300
To bet on this matchup you just have to decide who you think will win the fight. To bet on favorite Jon Jones, you must lay -300 for every 100 you want to win. Another way of putting it—you have to bet $3.00 for every $1.00 you want to win. To bet on underdog Daniel Cormier, you’ll lay 100 and receive +250 should he win. In other words, every $1.00 you bet will return $2.50 should Cormier pull the upset.
Since MMA and sports betting attracts an international audience, it’s important to remember that moneylines are simply one way of expressing betting odds. This type of moneyline is known internationally as ‘American odds’ since it is most commonly used in the United States. In Europe and the rest of the world, you’re more likely to see fractional odds or decimal odds at the sportsbook. Decimal odds are known as ‘European odds’ and fractional odds are known as ‘Traditional’ or ‘British Odds’. These names notwithstanding, both formats are common throughout the world.
No matter the format, they all mean the same thing. For example:
DANIEL CORMIER +250 = 3.50 = 5/2
JON JONES -300 = 1.33 = 1/3
If you’re betting online, odds conversion won’t be an issue. Every decent online sportsbook offers the option to view odds in the format you’re most familiar with. Even so, it’s not a bad idea to understand how odds are displayed in different countries around the world.
Another way to bet on mixed martial arts is the total rounds bet, also called the ‘over/under rounds’ bet. MMA events are either 3 or 5 rounds—3 rounds for most fights, 5 rounds for championship or other major bouts. For each fight, the sportsbook will post a round total and the bettor must decide whether the fight will go ‘Over’ or ‘Under’ the posted round total. Usually there is a moneyline involved to reflect the likelihood of a fight ending early or going the distance. Let’s take a look at the total rounds prop in the Cormier/Jones matchup from above:
DANIEL CORMIER OV 4.5 -150
JON JONES UN 4.5 +130
MMA rounds are five minutes long with a rest period of one minute between rounds. Since the total is set at 4.5 rounds this means that the fight must end at 2:29 of the fifth round or earlier for the ‘Under’ to win. The fight must end at 2:31 of the fifth round or later for the ‘Over’ to cash. Should the fight end exactly at 2:30 of round 5 the totals bet is a ‘push’ or tie and all bets are returned.
And don’t forget the moneylines involved—you’ll have to lay -150 to win 100 on the ‘Over’ (or $1.50 for each $1.00 you want to win). A winning ‘Under’ bet will return +130 for every 100 bet (or $1.30 for every $1.00 bet).
In addition to the two most common types of MMA bets outlined above many sportsbooks offer a variety of proposition bets. We’ll look at some of the prop bets for the Cormier/Jones fight.
CORMIER/JONES GOES 5 ROUND DISTANCE -155
CORMIER/JONES DOES NOT GO 5 ROUND DISTANCE +125
This is a variation on the ‘total rounds’ prop but in this case you’re betting whether or not the fight will go the distance and end in a decision. Notice that the moneylines are slightly different from the ‘over/under’ round bet. If you like the fight to go the distance, you can bet the OV 4.5 ROUNDS -150 for a slightly better price. You can also get a slightly better price if you think the fight WON’T go the distance by betting the UN 4.5 ROUNDS +130 though you do expose yourself to the risk that the fight ends by stoppage after 2:31 of the fourth round.
You can also bet on each fighter winning by a variety of methods:
JONES WINS INSIDE THE DISTANCE +180
CORMIER WINS INSIDE THE DISTANCE +695
This means that the fighter you choose must win by KO, TKO, submission or DQ before the end of the fifth round. If the fight goes to the scorecards, both of these bets lose.
JONES WINS BY DECISION +125
CORMIER WINS BY DECISION +425
In this case, the fighter you choose must win by decision. If the fight ends in a stoppage both bets lose.
You can find prices on every permutation of the fight result including the type of decision (unanimous vs. split/majority), type of stoppage (KO/TKO vs. submission) and what round a stoppage occurs in. You can even find a ‘stoppage only’ line where all bets are returned as ‘no action’ if the fight goes to the scorecards:
ALL DECISIONS = NO ACTION
And if you’re looking for low risk/high reward you can bet that the fight will end in a draw:
JONES/CORMIER ENDS IN A DRAW +17500
Not every sportsbook will offer every type of proposition bet so if you’re looking for a specific position on a fight you may have to shop it around.