MMA Betting Basics: The Myth Of Betting Large Favorites

When discussing MMA Betting strategy with fellow gamblers, I often hear them bring up one rather annoying myth: you should never wager on large betting favorites. I strongly disagree with this belief, and since it seems to be rather popular, I’m going to put it to rest. Whenever people warn me to avoid betting a large favorite, I simply ask them to give me a logical reason for doing so. The answer is always one of two things: they either mention some of the larger upsets in Mixed Martial Arts history or say some vague, generic phrase, such as, “No one should be a huge favorite.” Neither of these reasons is logical. I’ll start with the former. The thought process here is that large favorites lose unexpectedly, and therefore, they are never worth betting since they require a high risk for a low potential reward. They quickly bring up examples like the first meeting between UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre and No. 1 contender Matt Serra, where the champion lost as a 1-10 betting favorite, or -1,000 (bet $1,000 to win $100), or the established Antonio Rogerio Nogueira losing as a 1-16 favorite to the unknown Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. While there’s no denying large favorites do lose, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as some would lead you to believe. Those two upsets both occurred more than five years ago and, since then, tons of favorites who were at least -500 (1-5) have fought. How many of them have lost? Not many in comparison to the amount who won, and that’s what’s important. Sure, in that span there were upsets like Ryan Bader going down to Tito Ortiz as a -800 betting favorite, but there were still many more large favorites who came out on top – enough to make up for the occasional loss. More so, if you have the ability to dodge the relatively rare upset, betting on large favorites will be even more profitable. And that’s really what betting is all about, right? Researching and analyzing fights, then seeing if the current odds warrant a wager. If there is some upset potential, you either stay away from that favorite, or maybe even bet the underdog. If you’re just blindly betting a side, whether he is the favorite or the underdog, that’s just asking for trouble. You must always compare the likelihood of each fighter winning with the lines that the sportsbooks offer. This brings me to the other reason some gamblers say betting large favorites should be avoided, that no MMA fighter should be a large favorite. Some even say in situation like this, you should always bet the underdog. To put it bluntly, betting – or betting against – a fighter solely based on his odds is incredibly idiotic. Let’s say UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was scheduled to defend his title versus none other than myself. The oddsmakers would surely open Jones as an absolutely massive favorite. Would these people then bet on me because no favorite should ever be that big, ignoring the fact that I have essentially zero chance at even being competitive? That analogy is a bit extreme, I know, but the point stands: blindly betting based solely on odds, rather than the matchups themselves is foolish. Sure, you might hit the occasional +500 underdog, but if you lose on 10 others in between, you’re losing money, which is what many of these bettors do. In short, betting sizable favorites can be an incredibly smart strategy, as long as you pick your spots. Having a rigid plan to always avoid certain types of bets is not smart at all. Just like an elite fighter, a high level gambler has to be adaptable to any situation. Sometimes fading a -600 favorite or chasing a +450 underdog is a wise play. But to simply avoid or bet a certain side, no matter the situation, will do nothing other than cause you to miss out on potential profits – or worse, lose money.

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