Mar 10, 2021
Mar 10, 2021

How often does the favourite win in UFC?

How is the favourite for a UFC bout decided?

Is always choosing the favourite a viable UFC betting strategy?

Does the favourite win more often in certain divisions?

How often does the favourite win UFC title fights?

How often does the favourite win in UFC?

UFC events are the consistent highlight of MMA betting, at which the sport’s most talented fighters face off in highly publicised bouts and occasionally challenge each other for titles. While a multitude of components can lead to the odds favouring a combatant ahead of their opponent, how often does the favourite comply with pre-fight expectations and emerge victorious?

How are favourites for UFC bouts decided?

For every bout at every UFC event, Pinnacle offers a Money Line market for the winner of the fight. Determining a favourite for this market – and indeed, the extent to which they are favourite – will often involve reviewing the two fighters across several key metrics, such as their form, fighting style, divisional ranking, and physical attributes.

Exterior factors may also influence pre-fight expectations, including but not restricted to: whether one fighter will possess home advantage for the bout; when and if the fighters were required to travel for it; injury records; and any recent changes among either combatant’s training and coaching staff.

Among the sample size used for this article (which is outlined in further detail below), the average closing likelihood of victory assigned to the favourite ahead of a UFC bout was 62.43%. This implies that most commonly, the favourite is expected to win by a palpable but not overwhelming extent.

Is always choosing the favourite a viable UFC betting strategy?

For the purposes of this article, Pinnacle’s closing odds for each of the 558 bouts at the 50 UFC events spanning Fight Night 186 on February 27, 2021 back to UFC 245 on December 14, 2019 were collated. The favourites for each fight were grouped according to their likelihood of victory as dictated by the closing odds:

Win rates of favourites in UFC fights by likelihood of victory

Likelihood of victory for favourite in closing odds

Win rate of favourite











As detailed in the table above, 370 of the 558 UFC bouts during this timeframe were won by the favourite, equating to a win rate of 66.31%, or almost exactly two-thirds. Notably, this win rate is almost 4% higher than the betting market’s prediction of 62.43%.

This may be because the favourites broadly tended to perform in line with their likelihood of victory according to the closing odds with one exception. Favourites who entered their fight with a 59.99% likelihood of victory or less posted a win rate of 60.55%, thereby narrowly exceeding betting market expectations.

Overall, these stats appear to confirm a somewhat proportional relationship between a UFC favourite’s closing likelihood of victory and how often they actually go on to win the fight. This is also testament to the ability of Pinnacle’s odds to provide a decent collective gauge as to exactly how likely a favourite is to win their UFC bout. This suggests that our Margin Calculator could prove a particularly useful tool for MMA Money Line betting.

However, the question remains as to how this actually translates to profit and loss. Let us imagine that 100 UFC bouts were held, of which 66 were won by the favourite, and the favourite’s average closing likelihood of victory was the aforementioned 62.43% with a 3% margin for the bookmaker. This would mean that the favourite’s closing odds were 1.555 and the underdog’s were 2.584.

According to these conditions, placing a €10 bet on the favourite for each of the 100 fights would a produce a mere total profit of €26.30. This suggests that while the favourites tend to post strong win rates within UFC, the incentive from a betting perspective firmly remains attempting to identify occasions when the betting market has thoroughly undervalued a fighter’s chances of winning.

Do UFC favourites win more often in certain divisions?

The practicality of the table above is inherently negated by the fact that it groups together a large spectrum of varying fighters who utilise different styles and compete in different divisions, meaning blanket comparisons could be misleading.

With this in mind, below is the same data organised by the win rate of the favourite for each UFC division:

Win rates of favourites in UFC fights by division


Number of fights

Win rate of favourite

Women's Featherweight












Woman's Strawweight



Woman's Bantamweight












Light Heavyweight









Women's Flyweight






Excluding Women’s Featherweight bouts (which entailed too small a sample size to be genuinely useful), the favourites posted the best win rate (77.78%) in the Flyweight division and the worst (60.29%) in the Featherweight division. Notably, Flyweight is the UFC men’s division to have witnessed the fewest champions (three), perhaps thereby also implying that it is among the least competitive.

However, the most striking takeaway is the sheer extent to which the favourites’ win rate varies among different divisions. Indeed, favourites in the Flyweight division can boast a win rate of over 15% higher than favourites in Catchweight, Women’s Flyweight, and Featherweight bouts.

Naturally, this has important conations from a betting perspective. If we were to repeat our previous hypothetical experiment betting on 100 Flyweight bouts with the assumption that the favourite won 78 of them, our overall profit would be a considerably more encouraging €212.90.

On the other hand, betting on 100 Featherweight bouts with the assumption that the favourite won 60 of them wouldn’t even produce a profit at all, and would instead result in a loss of €66.

This highlights that an important aspect of UFC betting is considering the specific dynamics of the division the fight involves and its tendency to witness shocks. Indeed, the gulf in quality between the champion and #15-ranked fighter of one division could be considerably greater or tighter in comparison to another.

It is also worth remembering that on rare occasions, a UFC fighter may decide to switch weight classes and divisions, which can make it more difficult for a bookmaker to assess their chances of winning a fight. As a consequence, entering the bout the fighter may be particularly undervalued or overvalued by the betting market, if it is struggling to accurately predict how they will fare in their new weight class.

How often does the favourite win UFC title bouts?

Perhaps the last big question to consider on this front is how often the favourite wins the most significant UFC fights of all: title bouts.

Across the 558 fights analysed, 24 were title bouts, of which the favourite won 20 to record a win rate of 83.33%. Among the 24 fights, the defending champion won on 12 of the 14 occasions they were favourite, whereas the challenger took the belt on eight of the 10 instances they were favoured by the odds.

In the 50 UFC events up to Fight Night 186, the favourite won 20 of the 24 title bouts.

Title bouts are intended to feature tight contests comprised of a defending champion facing off against somebody who has exhibited impressive enough form to warrant a shot at the belt, meaning this can arguably be considered a surprisingly high win rate for the favourites.

A potential reason for this is that the UFC landscape is presently balanced between particularly dominant champions and highly competitive divisions in which the belt constantly switches hands. The likes of Amanda Nunes, Valentina Shevchenko, and Kamaru Usman are broadly revered as the best fighters in their division and thus understandably instilled as strong favourites whenever they enter the octagon.

Elsewhere, nine of the 12 UFC divisions have witnessed at least one change in belt holder since the start of 2019, suggesting that a challenger successfully beating a defending champion is far from unprecedented and the fighters’ individual prestige counts for less within their odds.

Overall, favourites for UFC bouts can be relied upon to win a sizeable majority of the time, although the exact extent to which they do so depends on what angle you are analysing the fights from.

As per many other sports, while stats about favourites and how often they win can help inform your predictions, they do not reduce the importance of what should be your primary goal of attempting to uncover value among the odds.

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