Things That Can Make a Fighter Perform Better

There are times in even a great fighter’s career where he hits a bumpy patch. It’s not hard to have that happen in a sport like MMA. A fine line separates the successful from the struggling and even those at the top have a tenuous grip. When we watch MMA, we can get carries away with the physical aspect of the game. It’s understandable–the sport is an explosion of physicality. The sport, however, is largely mental. How a fighter performs is often tied to his headspace.

We can see fighters perform with varying degrees of effectiveness from fight to fight. Fighters in a slump that has people suspecting they’re losing their edge can suddenly pop out of it and leave us wondering what in the world were we thinking. Here are some precursors that could signal a fighter is going to break out of a slump:

Rivalries or Personal History: The world of MMA is worldwide, but a lot of guys at the top of the sport (in fights we can wager on) have crossed paths with their opponents. They may have fought before, but beyond that–they might have worked in the same camp. A lot of things happen during training camp and carry over into a fight.

A fighter who fought in the shadow of another fighter might be especially eager to win. Some coaches who worked with fighters are now in the corner of their opponent. It can lead to a fighter gaining renewed focus. They’re human. Football players cut by a team will be gunning extra hard to stick it that team if he gets the chance to play against them. The same dynamic exists with fighters.

Tragedy: Something within the human spirit is galvanized in the face of tragic events. For some fighters, the drain of losing a loved one can sap their strength for a fight. This is not meant as an endorsement to blindly bet on fighters who suffered the loss of a loved one. At the same time, fighters dealing with something like that can develop a healthy disrespect for the damage they are bound to face in the octagon.

When a fighter is overcoming tragedy, what can his opponent do that compares to the pain? The normal pangs of concern for the upcoming fight are drowned out by the sorrow of the loss. You will see fighters looser than normal–more able to execute and less paranoid of returning fire.

Urgency: The general career of an MMA fighter will have its share of ups and downs. Usually, it’s all part of the sport and its participants are given a lot of chances to stay at the top of the sport. Once you reach the top of the mountain in MMA, it can take an awful lot to knock you off the top. Guys can milk a name for a long time in this business.

There are times, however, where a fighter has reached a clear crossroads. Either he wins this or it’s curtains. Not every fighter has such a clear impasse. A lot of guys just slowly fade away from the top heights of the sport. Others, though, actually have everything sort of culminate with one fight–a clear moment where it’s do-or-die.

We need to be careful betting against fighters facing such an urgent situation. With some fighters, they are too far over-the-hill to do anything about it. It doesn’t matter how urgent the situation is because they simply don’t have it anymore. Other fighters, however, have just been on a rough run of performances–tough stylistic match-ups, mental lapses, and just strange twists of fate. With a fire lit under them, they can still do damage.

Before we bet against any fighter, we need to look closely to determine if it falls into the category of “just another fight” or must-win situation. Fighters will tell you they approach every fight with the same level of urgency. In all sports, however, there are certain events that take on a larger meaning and that’s also true in MMA. Fighters can’t reproduce the same urgency for all fights. Gauging how urgent a fight is for a guy to win can maybe win us a couple extra bets a year and spare us from a few losses along the way.