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Fightmetric Wants To Know, Would You Like Some Math With Your MMA?

(If MMA were like this, Fightmetric would be perfect.)

Fightmetric wants to change the way you think, watch, and talk about MMA.

Their plan is very simple: they’ve created a litany of categories by which to keep stats in every fight, scoring the action based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative judgments, which they use to come up with a fighter’s TPR (Total Performance Rating), thus measuring his effectiveness and the quality of his performance.

Oh, wait. That isn’t simple at all. It’s really, really complicated.

Here’s the thing about Fightmetric: it’s not a bad idea, just an unnecessary one. I give them credit for being ambitious and creative and somehow managing to push their analysis onto Yahoo! and AOL. And I like that they’re trying to do something new. Seriously, I do. But at the same time, I just don’t see the point.

In a recent article on Yahoo! Sports, Fightmetric’s Rami Genauer performed an impressively thorough analysis of George St. Pierre’s career stats. Turns out, GSP has a median TPR of 90. Can you believe it? 90!

In case you’re wondering, that’s apparently pretty good. At the same time, it’s hard to foresee a time when internet forums will be abuzz with people arguing about the TPR’s of their favorite fighters.

Some of the stats seem legitimately interesting. For example, did you know that GSP is successful in 80% of his takedown attempts? That’s much better than the “average success rate” of 48%. His opponents are successful in taking him down only 17% of the time.

But what does that really tell us, that GSP has good takedown defense? Seems like I knew that just based on casual observation. Sports stats are useful primarily for purposes of nuanced comparison. In baseball, a guy with a .330 average is considered more valuable than someone hitting .280.

But comparing stats in fighting is more difficult because of the variable created by matchmaking. GSP, for example, has spent the majority of his career facing pretty tough competition. A TUF winner who gets fed tomato cans for a year and a half might have even better takedown stats, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a better fighter.

When you think about it in those terms, “average success rate” starts to seem like a hazy phrase. Say what you will about A-Rod, his batting average comes against largely the same pitchers as Robinson Cano is facing, so the comparison holds up.

Another thing that seems troublesome about the Fightmetric system is the use of qualitative data. For example, one factor in the score is damage, which is rated as “light, moderate, or heavy”. That’s fine in Tekken, where we all know just how much life you lose if Marshall Law lands a five-punch combo on you, but it’s slightly tougher in real life.

Some guys cut easier than others. Some guys freak out as soon as things aren’t going their way. Some can walk through fire without a scratch on them and some start bleeding during the introductions.

It’s the same problem with rating how “powerful” a strike is. Fightmetric claims to measure the “distance created” between the two fighters in order to determine how powerful a punch or kick is. In order for that to work, you first need to believe that the more powerful a punch is, the farther it will move a person, and I can’t get on board with that.

Sometimes the most damaging punches are the ones that catch you moving into them. Sometimes a guy moves with a punch to lessen the blow, thus creating more distance but minimizing the effect.

You see where I’m going with this? You can’t always look at a punch and tell how much it hurt. Even if you could, people aren’t robots. What hurts one won’t hurt another. Think about the essential differences between Mark Hunt and James Thompson, for instance.

But even if it did work, the question remains, why? Stats are useful in baseball because the games are so slow and there are so many of them. You need something to talk about, and stats are more fun than discussing our feelings in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium.

Fighting, however, is fast-paced, over relatively quickly, and includes a number of variables (heart, conditioning, intimidating Russian-ness) that can’t be accurately measured or compared.

Percentage of punches landed, takedowns executed or avoided, that’s interesting. But it’s interesting in the way that the sex lives of strangers is interesting, which is to say I’ll look if I’m passing by on the street and the blinds are open, but I won’t go to any trouble to seek it out (I realize now that this analogy was a bad idea, and so I’m moving on).

I guess what I’m saying, Fightmetric, is good effort. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I just can’t see it proving very useful. Then again, I’m the guy who thought Laser Discs would really catch on, so what the hell do I know.

You keep calculating those TPR’s, Fightmetric. Live the dream. I’ll just be over here, watching fights for entertainment value and not caring whether GSP is mathematically superior to Anderson Silva.


Cagepotato Comments

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kamander- April 27, 2008 at 2:55 am
Fightmetric has a lot of useful information. There are always occasions that arise where going back and reviewing some trending is helpful, or entertaining.

Someone mentioned tracking how entertaining fights are. That what tracks. You can click on the stars to rate how good you think a fight or fight card was. April 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm
This article was fucking awesome and hilarious. Fuck fightmetric and fuck them for all the reasons mentioned.

The tekken reference and the "bleeding during introductions" both had me laughing. More articles like this please.
JoseMonkey- April 17, 2008 at 2:53 pm
I think this is a good idea. Though I agree that some of the metrics sound subjective and bogus to me, I reject the idea that there aren't any MMA statistics that are measurable and informative. Using that "light, moderate, or heavy" power nonsense as a straw man to tear down the whole idea of Fightmetrics is silly.

Sure, it's true that a fighter's stats will depend on who they face . . . but that's true of every sport and its stats.
Douchebaggery- April 16, 2008 at 12:32 pm
I found the site very interesting. it was nice to see detailed stats on fights with bs decisions( bisping hamill) etc.
hopefully this will give them some ideas on how to change the flawed scoring system in mma. plus, it's just fun to check out the site
vrax- April 16, 2008 at 3:21 am
I think it's neat to see the analysis of Hughes vs. GSP, then look at Penn vs GSP, then look at Hughes vs. Penn.

Not in a very useful way, just for the sake of entertainment.

Also wtf distance created? Anyone can test this metric and prove it is ridiculous. Kick a guy in the balls. Is he hurt? YES. Does he move way? NO - leans forward grabbing his nuts - moving closer to you. That's just silly.

And it isn't just things like kicks to the balls, fun as they are, but every strike will create a particular auto-kinematic (auto-kinesthetic with static force,[no follow through]) reaction dependent on target and vector. For example attacks which have a line of force that strongly intersects the spine will cause the victim to pivot and step away at an angle. But the hit itself could be a shive to the chest - doing little or no damage at all.
Joe Son- April 16, 2008 at 2:06 am
"There are many benefits to statistics, if they can be successfully done"

Um, gazwinder, isn't that what the article said? IF they can be successfully done? That's a big if. You seem a little too sold on fightmetrics, dude.
Armchair Athelete- April 16, 2008 at 1:58 am
Its easier to be differential than it is to intergrate. (lim/x->infinity)=GSP. Now, class, for your homework assignment, you'll need to use the fightmetrics to define a confidence interval of the probability of GSP punching Serra's head into the purples at the Bell Centre +/- 2.5% 19 times out of 20. Assume Normal Population.
Well yea but (troll job)- April 16, 2008 at 1:41 am
also I thought the last thing we wanted in MMA was a bunch of assclowns in clip on ties with calculators telling us which fighters are the best and why. Like all those football/whogivesafuckball reporters who get paid for their "educated opinion". I get mad enough at the UFC hype machine telling me my favorite fighters are "midcarders"
Well yea but- April 16, 2008 at 1:38 am
ok so I did a "Fightmetric" calculation for Kimbo, and apparently he's the best fighter on the planet:

in every fight kimbo has been in, none have reached the second round. 100% chance of finish.
He's never been taken down, so his take down defense is perfect, 100% of takedown defended.
He's KO/TKO'd all his victims, 100% KO rate.
He's never been damaged. 0% damage rate.
He's Never lost. 100% win ratio.

DAMN. that's even better than fedor. War kimbo bitches :P

teehee math is fun, but I still flunked it :(
Well yea but- April 16, 2008 at 1:29 am
When 2 unknowns step in the cage it will be useful to look at some stats and see what they are like,

Those stats will be based on their performances (probably) against lower level competition so the whole system will be nuked. A dude who does well in indys and smokers may rock the house, but his competition will be fugged. So even though his stats may be awesome, like the classic "He's never been taken down" it may all be because of his (lack) of competition, while a dude who fights in the UFC or Dream or something may be taken down in all his fights but his competition is much higher. if they want to properly calculate that their probably going to need a variable factor in there somewhere..Then again I could be totally wrong, I did fail math after all. Anyone have any clue what I'm getting at and can help me out here?
gazwinder- April 16, 2008 at 1:16 am
C'mon, give it a chance. Don't just sit there sounding like a high and mighty MMA expert that can see exactly everything in every minute of every fight. Fightmetric is trying to create something additional to what we see that you can choose to use in your own analysis or not. This article as a very condescending tone to it and it sounds like you're scared that soon you won't be able to impress your less knowledgeable friends with your fighter analysis as they will be able to look at some stats and get a general idea of fighters strengths and weaknesses. I don't think, based on the attitude that somes across in this article that you have the intelligence to understand in depth stats about MMA fights. Of course we won't be able to predict the outcomes or the styles of fights based on stats, that is the same for ALL sports, but I think it will be very useful to highlight many of the small differences between fighters that make them better. When 2 unknowns step in the cage it will be useful to look at some stats and see what they are like, and it will help us to track improvements in a fighters career. There are many benefits to statistics, if they can be successfully done, you don't have to read them if you don't want to. Fightmetrics is attempting to enhance our beloved sport which is still in a developing phase, the last thing we need is someone criticising an announcement (it was only announcement, right!?)in a holier than thou, I'm such an underground purist MMA legend, childish way.
interesting- April 16, 2008 at 1:04 am
theoretically you could use this data to figure out weak points in your game? This is the only practical use for this system I can see, why make something so complicated with everyone jus does the old "27-30" fight scoring.
Alex- April 16, 2008 at 12:49 am
When jose mourinho went to chelsea (english football team), people said much the same about his american-style obsession with metrics and the unlikely team choices he made using statistics instead of eyeballing it like most football managers did at the time.

And then chelsea started stomping all the other teams in the premiership, and all the other managers started using metrics to pick their squads. :D

It might not make much difference on the surface (although it's interesting), but it might make a big difference for match-making, picking sparring partners, tactics etc.

I agree with you about the subjectiveness of the scoring, though.
seaswell- April 16, 2008 at 12:45 am
i think the most important point is that you simply can't quantify many aspects of fighting like you can baseball or basketball.

however, there are fight statistics that i would be interested in seeing - for instance, what are the chances of sitting next to the drunk guy at the fights who shouts "stand them up!" five seconds after a fight goes to the ground? 100%?
Black03Marauder- April 16, 2008 at 12:06 am
This system will bring about a new age of people arguing on cagepotato, making every comment section 400 comments long.

If fightmetric wanted to make a system like this that was actually practical, it should be a system that gauges how entertaining a fight is rather than %of punches thrown to left bicuspid.