Smiles are for losers: Study shows that MMA fighters who smile before fights don't do well

Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

A study by psychologists at the University of Illinois and Cal-Berkley of 152 UFC pre-fight photos from 2008 and 2009 shows that the fighters who smiled at their opponent at the pre-fight staredown were more likely to lose.

From the department-of-confirming-things-you-probably-suspected-but-had-no-evidence-for comes a new study by psychologists at the University of Illinois and Cal-Berkley claiming to prove that UFC fighters who smiled at their opponent at the pre-fight stare down performed worse than their straight-faced opponents.

Via Outsports:

The researchers first had trained coders rate the intensity of the smiles of 152 Mixed Martial Arts fighters in the posed pre-fight photos and then compared these ratings to objective performance statistics from the fight, retrieved from Fightmetric.com. Outcome variables such as effective striking, effective grappling, takedowns and knockouts were analyzed for both fighters.

As expected, smile intensity predicted both the outcomes of fights as well as the more detailed measures of in-fight hostility. Interestingly, the smiles predicted both reduced hostility from the smiler as well as increased hostility from his opponent. In other words, it seemed both fighters were attuned to the information being communicated in the pre-fight smile. These results held even when controlling for existing differences in skill (i.e. the betting odds of the fight) and strength (height and weight). Though don't go drastically altering your gambling strategy just yet -the betting line still did a better job overall in predicting fights compared to just smile intensity.

Now that we know this, it's amazing that Pat Barry or Dan Henderson ever won a fight.


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