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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.”

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CagePotato Databomb #8: Breaking Down the UFC Middleweights by Striking Performance


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

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

The UFC Middleweight division has long been ruled by the most feared and successful striker in MMA history, champion Anderson Silva. And perhaps more so than in smaller divisions, striking has been a good predictor of success at Middleweight. So examining this division in core striking performance metrics should provide good insight to how fighters will fare against each other in standup. A full explanation of the chart and variables is included at the end of this post.

But first, let’s see how the whole division stacks up against each other, and look at the winners and losers.

The Winners

Sniper Award: Two fights into his UFC career, cross-trained Dutchman Michael Kuiper has landed 49% of his power head strikes. We’ll see if he can maintain this in his upcoming matchup with veteran brawler Tom Lawlor in Sweden. Honorable mention must be given to Anderson Silva who has maintained 40% accuracy over his lengthy and dominant career. And also noteworthy is Italian boxer, Alessio Sakara, currently on the bench for health reasons.

Energizer Bunny Award: Strikeforce veteran Roger Gracie has been almost doubling the striking output of opponents on his way to a string of submission wins in typical Gracie fashion. Some grapplers use strikes to set up their mat-work, others don’t. Honorable mentions go to former champ Rich Franklin, and Strikeforce champ and crossover contender Luke Rockhold, who each tend to outpace their opponents by over 80%.

Biggest Ball(s) Award: The UFC record holder for knockdowns is Anderson Silva. He is literally the best in the business at dropping dudes. Statistically, when Silva lands a power head strike, there’s a 27% chance it will result in a knockdown, which is just ridiculous. These skills have won him Knockout of the Night honors seven times in the UFC.

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CagePotato Databomb #7: Breaking Down the UFC Light-Heavyweights by Striking Performance

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

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

With several fights among top contenders in the Light Heavyweight division over the next few events — including Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 this weekend — I’ve shifted focus to the bigger boys of the UFC. As a group, the 205’ers have a lot more power than the lower weight divisions, and they’ve recorded a total of 43 knockdowns between them during Zuffa competition.

A full explanation of the chart and variables is included at the end of this post. For historical perspective, I’ve also kept some familiar names who recently retired. So which fighters get the awards in this group of sluggers?

The Winners

Sniper Award: Another Rangy Southpaw tops the accuracy list for a division. This time it’s Frenchman Cyrille Diabaté, who has landed 57% of his power head strikes. Unfortunately, the “Snake” might be on the shelf a while after tearing a calf muscle against Jimi Manuwa. At 6’ 6” and with a ridiculous 81” reach, Diabaté has wins over Michael Bisping and Rick Roufus from back in his professional kickboxing days. Now competing in the UFC, the 39-year old striker’s days may be numbered, though he’s stated he wants to compete long enough to participate in a UFC event in Paris. Honorable mentions go to Fabio Maldonado, unsurprisingly a formerly undefeated professional boxer, and also new UFC contender Glover Teixeira.

Energizer Bunny Award: Young Swede Alexander Gustafsson has more than doubled the standup striking pace of his opponents, a common characteristic of fighters successful at using their size to control the cage. The 6’5” modern day Viking takes a six-fight win streak into his home turf showdown with top Strikeforce import Gegard Mousasi, in a fight that could have title implications. We’ll see if he can push the pace against an opponent closer to his own age.

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CagePotato Databomb #5: Breaking Down the UFC Lightweights by Striking Performance


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

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

Last week we broke down the UFC Featherweight division in key striking metrics. This week we’ll look at the largest (numerically) UFC division, the Lightweights. A full explanation of the chart and variables is included at the end of this post.

The Winners

Sniper Award: Daron Cruickshank finally showed off his striking skills in his second UFC appearance against Henry Martinez on the UFC on FOX 5 card in Seattle. With nearly 50% accuracy, he looked like he was practicing on a heavy bag before mercifully dropping an iron-chinned Martinez with a head kick KO. Interestingly, the “Detroit Superstar” is set to face another division sniper, John Makdessi, in March at UFC 158.

Energizer Bunny Award: Tim Means is two wins into his UFC career, and has almost doubled the standing output of his two opponents. He also maintained good accuracy and scored two knockdowns in those performances.

Biggest Ball(s) Award: Melvin Guillard has been punching above his weight for a long time in the UFC. To date Guillard has 12 knockdowns, putting him 3rd all-time in the UFC behind Anderson Silva and Chuck Liddell. Not bad for a lightweight.

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CagePotato Databomb #4: Breaking Down the UFC Featherweights by Striking Performance


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

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

Last week, we started our series on UFC strikers by breaking down the smallest division in key striking metrics. This week, in time for the Featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar at UFC 156, we’ll look at the 145’ers. A full explanation of the chart and variables is included below.

The Winners

Sniper Award: Cub Swanson has been on a roll lately and tops out as the division’s most accurate striker, landing 37% of his power head strike attempts. For perspective, that’s bordering on Anderson Silva-type accuracy, at least statistically. This has helped Swanson win three straight in the UFC, all by (T)KO, and pick up two straight Knockout of the Night bonuses.

Energizer Bunny Award: Southpaw Erik Koch has more than doubled the striking output of his opponents. But that wasn’t enough to stop the ground Hellbows from Ricardo Lamas on last Saturday’s FOX card. There’s no doubt about Koch’s skills, he’ll just have to wait longer to test them against the current champ.

Biggest Ball(s) Award: Andy Ogle may cry a lot when he’s away from home, but no one should doubt the size of his, ahem, heart. Though he dropped a split decision in his UFC debut against Akira Corassani, he managed to knock down the Swede despite landing only two solid strikes to the head. He’d better improve his accuracy and pull the trigger more often if he hopes to get past the similarly gun-shy yet powerful Josh Grispi at UFC on FUEL 7 next month. Other notable featherweights with knockdown power include Koch, Aldo, Dennis Siver and Dennis Bermudez.

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CagePotato Databomb #3: Breaking Down the UFC Flyweights by Striking Performance

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

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

The UFC flyweights comprise the smallest division — both in size, and in numbers — but they’ll get a prominent showcase this Saturday at UFC on FOX 6, as Demetrious Johnson defends his title against John Dodson. So how do Mighty Mouse and the Magician stack up against the rest of their 125-pound competition? Analyzing an entire UFC weight class with a point-in-time assessment allows us to see how fighters might perform against each other, even though they may not meet in the Octagon for a long time (if ever). And since every fight starts standing up, we’ll also start with striking.

The Analysis:

In order to understand standup striking performance, which is more multifaceted in MMA than it is in boxing, I need to boil down a few of the most important variables that determine success as a striker. These are fairly uncomplicated variables in isolation, but together they can summarize a fighter’s overall capabilities. Here, I’ve focused on three fundamental, offensive metrics:

Accuracy: I’ve used power head-striking accuracy (as opposed to body or leg strikes, or jabs to the head), where the average for UFC Flyweights is about 25%. Certainly, great strikers can attack the body and legs, but the most likely way to end a fight by strikes is by aiming at the head. The accuracy of the power head strike is a great indicator of a fighter’s striking prowess, and there’s a wide range within a single division, as we’ll see. This is the vertical axis, so more accurate fighters are higher in the graph.

Standup Striking Pace: Prior analysis reveals that outpacing your opponent is a key predictor of success, and certainly correlates with winning decisions as it reflects which fighter is dictating the pace of the fight. Here, I’ve used the total number of standup strikes thrown as a ratio to the same output from a fighter’s opponents. All strikes attempted from a standup position are counted, including body shots and leg kicks. This is the horizontal axis in the graph, and the average for the whole division must be 1, so fighters with superior pace appear further to the right.

Knockdown Rate: The objective of every strike thrown is to hurt your opponent, and knockdowns reflect which fighters connect with the most powerful strikes. I’ve used the total number of knockdowns a fighter has landed in their matches*, divided by the number of power head strikes landed to see who does the most damage per strike. The size of the bubble for a fighter indicates their relative knockdown rate; the bigger the bubble, the higher their knockdown rate. The very small bubbles indicate fighters who have yet to score a knockdown in their Zuffa fights.

* The data includes all UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce fights through UFC 155 on December 29th, 2012. Many of these fighters competed in other higher weight classes, but for the purposes of this analysis, that data was still included and analyzed.

Now that we know how to interpret the chart, let’s see which fighters stand out…

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Not-So-Fun Fact: 104 UFC/Strikeforce Fights Were Canceled Due to Injury Last Year


(…and if you include non-Zuffa fighters who shattered their penises last year, that number jumps up to 2,057.)

Yes, one hundred and four. Triple digits, baby. That startling figure comes to us via MMAFighting.com researcher Steve Borchardt, who tallied up all the injury pullouts by UFC and Strikeforce fighters in 2012, and fed them all into this chronological spreadsheet. (Color key: Injuries to champions are in yellow, all other main event fighters are in red, and co-mainers are in teal. Also, “KO’d by sauna floor when cutting weight” really deserves its own color. An ugly brownish-orange, perhaps.)

We’re all reasonable men and women, right? We know that this explosion in high-profile injury withdrawals can’t really be explained by a “curse,” or bad luck, or terrible coincidence. Grueling training conditions — in which MMA fighters work all year round, scrapping against elite-level teammates rather than paid sparring dummies, executing body-motions that are specifically designed to blow out your knees — has to account for most of it.

But are there other explanations? When you look at all the injuries listed as “Undisclosed” on the chart, you can’t help but speculate…

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CagePotato Databomb #2: Breaking Down Submission Success Rates in UFC Fights


(Click chart for full-size version. And if you missed our first Databomb, click here.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

There’s lots of talk about what submissions work better than others in MMA. But we should at least agree that all submissions are not created equal. Some are easier to attempt, and some are easier to finish. But which ones are which?

Examining both the attempt and success rates for each submission type in the UFC since 2007 reveals that some of the most common submissions attempted are actually the hardest to finish. Notably, guillotine chokes and shoulder locks (like kimuras) have very low success rates — 14% and 6%, respectively — despite being attempted fairly frequently. And really, who taps to ankle locks these days? No one still holding a UFC roster spot, that’s who. Meanwhile, no submission is nearly as successful as the rear-naked choke, which results in a tap (or nap) 41% of the time.

So the next time a UFC fighter goes for a guillotine or ankle lock, and the overeager fan at the bar thinks it’s all over — quick! — bet him the next round that there’s an escape…and cheers.

For more on the science and stats of MMA, follow @Fightnomics on Twitter or on Facebook. See more MMA analytical research at www.fightnomics.com.

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MMA Stats: The Least Decision-Prone UFC Fighters of All Time [UPDATED]


(If James Irvin was a super-hero, his arch-nemesis would be Dr. Fitchtopus. / Photo courtesy of fcfighter.com)

Last week, we described Stefan Struve as “one of the least decision-prone fighters on the UFC roster,” and after he ended yet another fight this weekend before the final bell, we started to wonder — how accurate was that statement, anyway? And who else ranks near the Dutch heavyweight in terms of low decision ratio within the Octagon? So, we assembled a list of the UFC fighters (past and present) who have been least likely to meet the judges; for the purposes of this list, we only considered fighters who have made at least eight UFC appearances.

[Update: After having some knowledge dropped on us by @MMADecisions, we've expanded this list beyond a top-ten.]

As it turns out, Struve comes in at #5 among active UFC fighters, and shares the same decision ratio (8.33%) as Royce Gracie. But there are 11 fighters in front of him on the all-time list, led by welterweight crowd-pleaser DaMarques Johnsoncursed slugger James Irvin, and UFC pioneer Don Frye, who all managed to make it through 10 UFC appearances without ever going to decision. And now, the leaderboard…

DaMarques Johnson: 10 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
James Irvin:
10 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Don Frye: 10 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Drew McFedries: 9 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Charles Oliveira: 8 UFC fights*, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Ryan Jensen:
8 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Jason Lambert: 8 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Gary Goodridge8 UFC fights, 0 decisions, 0% decision ratio
Jason MacDonald: 14 UFC fights, 1 decision, 7.14% decision ratio

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CagePotato Databomb #1: How UFC Fights End by Division


(Click chart for full-size version.)

By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics

Other than Kenny Florian, who finishes fights? Let’s settle it once and for all. Using data provided by FightMetric, we looked at how every UFC fight ended from 2007 through the first half of 2012 — a total of 1438 total fights, excluding three flyweight contests — and then divvy’d it up by weight class to determine percentages for each method. For the first time ever, all these stats are in one place, in the chart above. Boom — you’ve just been databombed.

The conclusion: Size matters. Stoppages increase steadily by weight class; but while striking finish rates correlate strongly with increasing weight, submissions have a weaker, negative correlation. Keep in mind that bantamweights and featherweights have a short history in the UFC so far, so expect some possible smoothing out of those division trends over the next year.

Do any of these results surprise you? Next time the local Bullshido expert tells the bar that his favorite featherweight will finish the next fight, bet him the next round of drinks that it’ll go to the cards.

For more science and stats of MMA, follow @Fightnomics on Twitter or on Facebook. See MMA analytical research at www.fightnomics.com.

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