Your Guide to Understanding UFC Underdogs

As the old saying goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” Nothing could be truer when it comes to the world of mixed martial arts.

There’s something exciting, almost romantic, about backing UFC underdogs. Like when Stockton fighter Nate Diaz put an end to Conor McGregor’s 15-fight winning streak. It was a massive upset for UFC fans and there was a lot of money to be made by backing Nate, but how often do UFC underdogs prevail victoriously?

In this guide, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about underdogs in the UFC and how you can spot the next fighter ready to beat the odds.

What Is an Underdog?

Of the two fighters, the underdog is the one viewed as least likely to win the fight. As a result, you’ll get bigger returns on a bet if they win. When you’re looking at UFC betting odds the favorite will be represented by the minus sign (-) and the underdog will be represented by the plus sign (+).

Let’s use Connor Mcgregor (+125) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov (-155) as an example. In this fight, Connor is the Underdog, and Khabib is favored to win. The juice, which is the amount of money the sportsbook collects for Khabib to win, is $55. That means you’d need to bet $155 to win $100.

However, if you bet on the underdog Connor Mcgregor and he won, $100 would give you $125. Betting on an underdog carries more risk, but the returns are greater.

How Often Do Underdogs Win in UFC

Underdogs are called that for a reason. They’re less likely to win a fight. However, anything can happen in the cage. Underdog wins occur around 30% of the time in UFC fights making them a risky bet.

However, it’s much harder to win big money by simply betting on a favorite to win. To make money by betting on a favorite you have to start being specific, such as betting on the method of victory or the exact round the fight is decided. Take a look at our article on betting tips to help you get started.  

This is why it can make sense to bet on the underdog.

The Biggest UFC Underdog Wins

The UFC has seen some crazy upsets. When two people are facing off in the cage, anything could happen. It only takes one punch to connect or one submission and favoritism goes out the window. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest UFC underdog wins.

Agapova (-1400) vs Dobson (+950)

In August 2020, Mariya “Demonslayer” Agapova faced off against Shana “Danger” Dobson. Agapova was a massive favorite to win the fight, but when Agapova took Dobson to the ground in round 2, Dobson quickly reversed the position and won by KO/TKO.

Betting $100 on Dobson to win would have offered a return of $1050!

Rousey (-1400) vs Holm (+830)

Back in 1995, Holly Holm was responsible for the #2 biggest upset in UFC history when she faced off against Ronda Rousey at UFC 193. Rousey was the women’s bantamweight champion with a record of 12-0. 

Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey was known for getting the job done with 8 finishes within the first minute of round one. However, in this particular fight, Holly Holm managed to survive round one, and then win by KO in round two dealing out Rousey’s first loss. 

St. Pierre (-1300) vs Serra (+850)

The 2007 fight between George St. Pierre and Matt Serra is considered the biggest upset ever in UFC history. Going into the fight, everyone thought that St. Pierre was an easy win. Everything about his fighting style made him far superior to Serra on paper.

During the first round, it became apparent that George was having some trouble with Serra’s height and fighting style. He was missing most of his head kicks and straight punches. Then, around three minutes into round one Serra caught him with a right hook which sent St. Pierre to the floor. Serra followed up with ground and pound and took the victory 3:25 into the opening round.

Nunes (-1125) vs Pena (+700)

Just last year, Amanda Nunes faced off against Julianna Pena for the co-main event at UFC 269. Nunes was a huge favorite to win, but Nunes submitted her in round 2 with a rear-naked choke. $100 on Juliana Pena to win would have made you a $700 profit.  

Barao(-1000) vs Dillashaw (+650)

T.J Dillashaw vs Renan Barao is viewed as the third greatest bantamweight fight in UFC history. When Dillashaw stepped into the ring to face Brazilian champion Renan Barao, no one thought he could pull it off.

What proceeded was 5 rounds of absolute war that resulted in Dillashaw taking the belt halfway through the final round when referee Herb Dean stopped the fight due to some vicious ground and pound.  

How to Pick UFC Underdogs

So, the big question is, how do you pick a live dog over a dead dog? Are there any ways you can spot an underdog who might just prove to be a tricky opponent for the favorite? The good news is “yes!”

When you’re looking for a live dog you need to pay attention to the style match-ups. They are a few that can help you pick a good underdog fighter.

Now and again you’ll get a favorite who has a track record of not being so good at stopping takedowns. If the underdog is a strong wrestler with a solid ground game then there’s a good chance they can take the fight to the floor and dominate the fight from there.

Another reliable quality to look for in an underdog is if they fight in a southpaw stance. Many fighters struggle against southpaws for the sole reason that they’re more right-handed fighters than they are left-handed fighters. If you can find a favorite who is known to struggle against southpaws, and the underdog is a southpaw, then back them.

Failing that, you can always back the better striker. At the end of the day, all fights start on their feet. If the underdog is a reliable striker then there’s always a good chance that they can slip that KO in anytime.

Time to Back the UFC Underdogs

When it comes to betting for an outright winner, backing the UFC underdogs can give big returns. But don’t forget that they’re the underdog for a reason. If you’re planning on betting on the underdogs then you must do some research. Don’t just put your money on a fighter because the odds are mouthwatering.

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