Steroids in MMA
Which MMA Fighter Will Test Positive For Steroids Next?

Tag: CagePotato Databomb

The BANG Effect: A Statistical Look at 2013′s Most Improved MMA Team [DATABOMB]

(Duane Ludwig [right] with one of his star pupils. / Photo via Sherdog)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

An unlikely new coaching star, Duane “Bang” Ludwig has surged to the forefront of the competitive MMA coaching landscape after a fortuitous change of scenery. Ludwig is the obvious candidate for 2013′s “MMA Coach of the Year,” and few would question this, despite little fan awareness of his coaching prowess just one year ago.

Ludwig certainly had a tough 2012 that included three consecutive UFC losses, each one by first-round stoppage, the last of which added a fight-ending and career-threatening knee injury to the insult. But almost immediately after beginning the lengthy rehabilitation process, Ludwig got an unexpected phone call from Urijah Faber, and the creator of the Bang Muay Thai system suddenly migrated from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado to Sacramento, California.

Since Ludwig’s arrival at Team Alpha Male in December of 2012, his team’s fighters have been posting wins and highlight reel finishes at an unlikely pace. It’s even more unlikely, literally, when you consider the low share of TKO finishes that normally occur in the smaller weight classes where most Alpha Male fighters compete. The MMA media have been quick to point to the undeniable results of Team Alpha Male’s performance in the UFC as evidence that Ludwig was the missing ingredient to a team with championship potential. To be fair, the team already included former champions and contenders under Zuffa banners, but none that currently held a UFC belt. Now heading into this weekend’s UFC on FOX 9 card, Team Alpha Male has a chance to rack up not just four more wins, but capture its first UFC title of the Bang Era, and hold leading contender status in several divisions.

With all this hype around a team that is making a lot of noise, it’s a legitimate question to ask: Are they really better, or is this just a nice run of luck? The sudden emergence of Duane Ludwig as the MMA Coach of the Year is an extraordinary claim, and if Carl Sagan were still around (and an MMA fan), he would suggest that we demand extraordinary evidence before reaching such a bold conclusion. So I’m going to run the numbers in excruciating detail just to make sure.


CagePotato Databomb #17: Do MMA Finishing Rates Differ by Nationality?

(Click on the chart for the full-size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

I get this question a lot: Which nation’s fighters finish the most fights? There’s a lot of bias loaded in the question, beginning with the assumption that there should be any difference at all. But what do the stats say? Which country finishes more fights than their peers? You sure you want to know?

Here are the finishing rates (winning performances only) for the top three nationalities that comprise 80% of all fights in the UFC. “All Other” nationalities are lumped together for a fourth category for reference. For this analysis I used all UFC fights that took place from 2008 through mid-2013. The most important data manipulation is that we have isolated each weight class, because as I’ve already shown: size matters when it comes to finish rates.

A good betting man should have guessed that there probably isn’t much difference between nationalities in MMA, and certainly not reliable ones. Most fighters have joined mainstream training camps and although matchmakers may book fighters to compete in certain events based on their home countries, that’s only after they’ve already made the cut for a UFC contract to begin with.

At a glance, the numbers show that Brazilians finish more overall (59%) than any other group. “All Other” fighters are next by finishing 58% of their aggregate wins. Americans (53%) come in just below the UFC average (54.5%), while Canadians bring up the rear (47%).

Brazilian fans rejoice, your fighters are most likely to end a fight in the Octagon “inside the distance.” American fighters, who are the most common competitors in the UFC, ride a consistent finish rate through the weight classes that parallels the overall UFC benchmarks for those divisions. Canadians, however, have a volatile finish rate that is high for small and large fighters, but low for fighters in the middle weight classes. This should push their overall average finish rate downward, since lightweight and welterweight divisions are the two largest (in terms of roster size) and most frequently competed.


CagePotato Databomb #16: The Rise of Striking Pace in the UFC

(Click on the chart for the full-size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

During the controversial formative years of the UFC, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts looked a lot different. One could argue it wasn’t even MMA just yet. But somewhere between John McCain branding it “human cockfighting” and the modern MMA that shows up live on network TV in primetime, many aspects of the sport evolved.

So let’s take a very simple look at the activity pace of UFC fighters over time. The graph above shows the average annual total strike attempts per fighter per minute. The trend is pretty obvious.

The average total strikes thrown per minute has been climbing steadily over the years. Fully telling the story of why will take some more analysis and a few more charts, but two big reasons contributing to the trend are smaller weight classes and evolving time in position.


CagePotato Databomb #15: For UFC Bonuses, It Pays to Fight Last

(Click on the chart for the full-size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

A hot topic in the news lately has been UFC Fight Night Bonuses. This includes the end of event bonuses awarded to the Fight of the Night (FOTN), Knockout of the Night (KOTN), and Submission of the Night (SOTN). Officially, UFC president Dana White says those bonuses are here to stay, which is great news for perpetually exciting fighters like Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone, and Frankie Edgar. Bonuses incentivize performance, spread the wealth, and give guys who give their all an official metric for justifying their place on the Zuffa roster.

I’ve already covered the timeline of awarded bonuses, so the natural next question concerns who actually receives them. Now that the standardized Fight Night bonus is fixed at $50,000, regardless of what channel a UFC event is broadcast on, let’s examine a different layer of detail.

What I’ve graphed above is the percentage likelihood of winning a Fight Night bonus based solely on card placement. This particular DataBomb will surely make the heads of some prelim fighters feel like they want to explode.

Indeed, it pays to fight last. It turns out that the fighters competing in the highest profile spots on the fight card are also the most likely to win Fight Night Bonuses. Is that fair? That (presumably) the highest-paid fighters also get more than their share of bonus money? If you’re fighting in a Main Event you have more than a one-in-three chance of winning a bonus of some kind, with most of those bonuses not requiring a finish, or even a win. Whereas towards the bottom of the preliminary cards, fighters average only a one-in-ten chance of taking home a bonus, and more likely require a win inside the distance to do so.

But not so fast…


CagePotato Databomb #14: The Rise, Fall, and Flattening of UFC Bonuses

(Click on the chart for the full-size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

In March I made the trip to Montreal for UFC 156 and was puzzled by a financial observation. If the $50,000 Fight Night bonuses for that card sounded small for a pay-per-view event, well, that’s because they were. At least they were “low” when put into historical context, and they’ve been that way ever since.

But let’s start with the big picture with our first DataBomb to have dollars as a unit of measure. The chart above displays the official Fight Night Bonus amount published for Fight of the Night, Knockout of the Night, and Submission of the Night for numbered UFC events since UFC 61 in 2006 through UFC 162 earlier this month. Like Chael Sonnen closing a Skype interview: Kaaaaa…boom.

The Rise of the UFC in the Mid-2000’s

Let’s put this in context. The end of 2006 was a great time for the UFC. In addition to seasons three and four of the smash hit reality series The Ultimate Fighter, the promotion closed out the year with a defining moment in UFC 66. Headlined by future hall of fame superstars Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, the event drew more than one million pay-per-view purchases, a first for the still maturing organization.

It may then come as a surprise that Liddell and Ortiz each only received a $30,000 bonus for their Fight of the Night performance. But not really, because we should all know that there’s a lag between success and financial reward. These same fight night bonus amounts would double by UFC 81 just over a year later when they hit $60,000 for the first time. For part-time fighters on the undercard only making “three and three” back then (i.e., $3,000 to fight and another $3,000 for a win), a windfall $60,000 bonus was potentially life-changing. And bonuses weren’t done growing yet.


CagePotato Databomb #13: How Often Are UFC Fights Finished?

(Click on the chart for the full-size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

How many UFC fights end inside the distance? The overall percentage is 60%, which includes fights all the way back to 1993. But at the halfway point of 2013, that number is only 50%, year to date. I’d say “roughly 50%” but it’s not — it’s precisely 50%. Out of 176 fights so far in 2013, 88 have been finished by (T)KO or submission. That’s exactly half. How does that stack up with prior years in the UFC? Well, here’s the annual finish rate for UFC fights by year, with 2013 recorded through UFC 161.

The bad news for fans of highlight reel finishes is that the overall trend is down. But the good news is that the recent trend is completely flat, which is a level of stability never before seen in the UFC. As in troubled economies, after a steep decline “flat” starts looking like the new “up.” But there are other patterns underlying the movement of this line.

A closer look at the historical finish rate reveals how this metric is impacted by various drivers. First, notice that all fights ended in the first two years of the UFC. That’s because there was no other option; fighters fought until one of them won. There were no time limits, and no judges. When time limits were introduced in 1995, we see that immediately some fights went the distance, though they were all “draws” at first. Judges were brought in at the end of that year to declare winners of fights that went the distance, and the overall parity of competition improved throughout the decade forcing their involvement more frequently.

But it was the institution of weight classes that give us the best insight into the trends during the modern Zuffa era…


CagePotato Databomb #12: Have UFC PPVs Really Become More Watered Down?

(Click graph for full-size version.)

By Matt Saccaro

Lambasting the UFC over the perceived lack of card quality has become posh over the last few years. Go to the UG or any other Internet MMA destination and you’ll see people chiding the UFC as the “Bud Light of MMA” due to the supposedly “watered down” cards.

These same people recall the Good ol’ Days™ when title fights were plentiful, guys like Elvis Sinosic and Wesley “Cabbage” Correira were in the cage and out of the unemployment line, and each match on the card was ten times more exciting than Griffin-Bonnar I.

We at CagePotato wanted to find out if these sentiments were true — if the cards meant more in the old days and weren’t loaded with filler — or if such thoughts were just the result of nostalgia-goggles that ultimately did nothing.

What we decided to do was this: Look at the amount of UFC pay-per-view events per year since Zuffa purchased the company in 2001. Of those PPVs, we counted up how many had title fights — and were therefore, in theory, worth paying for — and how many didn’t have title fights.

At the top of this post you’ll see a handy-dandy double bar graph to illustrate our findings. The blue bars represent the number of pay-per-view events with title fights, the red bars represent the PPVs without title fights.

Let’s break down the numbers…


CagePotato Databomb #11: How Big is the Average UFC Fighter?

(Click on the chart for the full size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

Wondering if you’re “big” or just “average?” Just how big is average for a UFC fighter? Well that depends on the weight class obviously. Here’s the current UFC roster of fighters put into divisions with average (mean) height and reach (mean averages based on UFC Roster as of June, 2013). Next time someone says a fighter is “big for their weight class,” check the facts first.

The range of UFC divisions spans 140 pounds, which on average translates into about one foot of additional height and reach from the Flyweights to the Heavyweights. It’s important to note there is plenty of variability that occurs with in each weight class. Bodies are tall and lean or sometimes short and stocky. And the larger the division is, the wider the range of maximums and minimums. Just think of heavyweights Stefan Struve and Pat Barry facing off with over a one foot height differential in the same weight class.


CagePotato Databomb #10: Breaking Down the UFC Heavyweights by Striking Performance

(Click chart for full-size versionFor previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

We’ve saved the biggest fighters for last in the striking assessment series. Heavyweights end 57% of fights by (T)KO, far more than any other weight class. They also have the highest average power head striking accuracy, possibly because defense is harder when you’re that big.

So let’s see how the whole division stacks up against each other, then look at the winners and losers in each category. A full explanation of the chart and variables is included at the end of this post.


Sniper Award: Relative newcomer Shawn Jordan has been a highly accurate striker to date, though he has lacked knockdown power. So let’s focus on the trio of Pat Barry, Dave Herman, and Mark Hunt, who each have four or more UFC appearances and have maintained power head striking accuracy of 38% or more. These are big guys who can also hit their target.

Energizer Bunny Award: Monstrous southpaw Todd Duffee has almost quadrupled the striking output of his opponents with three fights to date in the Octagon, none of which have gone the distance. But with far greater Octagon experience, veterans Cheick Kongo and former champion Junior Dos Santos have managed to almost double the volume of opponents, all while maintain accuracy well above the division average.


CagePotato Databomb #9: Breaking Down the UFC Welterweights by Striking Performance

(Click the photo for a full-size version. For previous Databombs, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

With what some are calling the “Welterweight Card” at UFC 158 just a week away, it’s time to assess the UFC Welterweight Division in critical striking metrics. In addition to the long-awaited showdown between reigning champ Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz, there’s four more 170 pounders all in the title hunt. So a lot of questions will be answered in this division in one night, and it would help to put some of those in context first.

Let’s see how the whole division stacks up against each other, then look at the winners and losers in each category. A full explanation of the chart and variables is included at the bottom of this article.

The Winners

Sniper Award: Veteran Nate Marquardt makes his Octagon return at UFC 158 boasting a best in class 40% accuracy in power head striking. He’ll need it against southpaw Jake Ellenberger, who is pretty accurate himself at 32%. Honorable mention goes to the gritty Matt Brown who recently put his standup skills under the bright lights of the UFC on FOX show, knocking out Mike Swick, who is indeed “quick.”