Anything can happen in MMA, right? You’ve heard the cliché ad nauseum over the years. You’ve probably uttered it a few times yourself.
And betting on MMA? Such a crapshoot. In a sport where everyone has a puncher’s chance, you can lose your money literally seconds into a fight.
Reed Kuhn is out to dispel this MMA myth through statistics and quantitative analysis with his new book Fightnomics. One of the many things he uncovered was a betting trend that could, Kuhn said, change the way we look at MMA gambling forever.
“This is like uncovering the forward pass,” he told FOX Sports.
The rarity of being left-handed makes it valuable when it comes to competition. From an academic standpoint that’s fascinating.
- Reed Kuhn
Basically, he has proven this: Age, stance, reach and pace are the biggest factors going toward who wins a fight. When one fighter has an advantage in all four of those categories, there is an exceedingly good chance he will win – and the Las Vegas betting lines don’t always bare that out.
“They always tend to outperform what the market says,” Kuhn said of those four things. “The market is not correctly valuing them.”
The thing that most surprised Kuhn was how much of a factor age is. The older a fighter gets, the book shows, the more likely he is to be knocked out. So, bets on fights with older competitors are more likely to end inside the distance – another nugget that’s useful for bettors.
As far as stance, Kuhn, who has an MBA in strategy and decision sciences from Duke, proves in his studies that the “Contra-Southpaw Disadvantage” does exist. In other words, right-handed fighters have a hard time facing lefties, simply because they aren’t used to it. Left-handed fighters have an advantage because of that and are smart bets against righties.
“The rarity of being left-handed makes it valuable when it comes to competition,” Kuhn said. “From an academic standpoint that’s fascinating.”
"You’re welcome for all the money I’m going to make you."
Pace is a factor because of judging. Because it’s easier to pick up by the naked eye, Kuhn said, judges are more likely to score rounds for the busier fighter, even if he isn’t necessarily the more effective fighter. A fighter’s output isn’t always looked at by fans an analysts prior to fights, but it’s an important factor on trying to predict – or bet on – a winner.
Reach is the most obvious of the four things. It’s the one most likely to be spoken about by the Joe Rogans and Kenny Florians of the world when they’re on TV breaking down matchups.
When you factor in those four things, there’s one UFC champion you think of more than any other. Kuhn was presenting at a sports seminar recently and one of the topics was “What does the ideal fighter look like?”
“It looks a lot like this,” Kuhn said, “and I hit the button and it was a picture of Jon Jones.”
Those little trends – like differences in reach – can shine, because they are the same weight.
- Reed Kuhn
That’s not to say Jones is going to win every fight when he has an advantage in age, stance, reach and pace. But statistically, he’ll certainly win most.
“He’s up there,” Kuhn said. “He’s a super freak. Sometimes that’s what it is. Champions sometimes aren’t the single most talented player in the sport. … MMA is a size adjustment sport. Those little trends – like differences in reach – can shine, because they are the same weight.”
So, the next time you make a bet, you better be cognizant of those four categories. It could make a massive difference in your wallet.