(Photo via CagedInsider.com)
Ed. note: Reed “The Fight Scientist” Kuhn is a Washington D.C.-based strategy consultant whose pioneering work in MMA stats analysis earned him a position as Strategic Advisor for Alchemist Management, as well as contributing gigs for the UFC, Sherdog, and Fight! Magazine. Using the information available to him as a research fellow with FightMetric, Reed examines historical trends and data to uncover new ways of looking at the sport — and predict what’s most likely to happen in a given matchup. In the coming weeks, Reed will begin providing exclusive columns and analysis to CagePotato.com. The following was originally published on his site, FightNomics. For further reading, check out “Small Fish, Bigger Pond: The UFC/WEC Merger’s Hidden Secret” and “Diamond in the Rough: Is Nate Diaz Built for a UFC Championship?” Follow Fightnomics on Twitter and Facebook.
At UFC 129 Randy Couture entered the Octagon for the last time to the cheers of over 55,000 fans in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, a massive venue normally reserved for major league baseball and Canadian football games. From a dimmed broadcast platform set up in the cheap sets, I watched alongside the cast and crew of the one-time, live pre-show experiment known as “UFC Central.” As Lyoto Machida lined up across the cage, I pointed to my analysis of the matchup, noting specifically that Machida’s evasiveness and striking ability was the key here, as was Couture’s age. Randy Couture was 47 years old and a veteran at grinding out victories. But his only hope was to neutralize Machida’s laser-like strikes via clinching and dirty boxing, possibly even ground and pound. And that wasn’t in the cards. Even from our distant vantage point, we all knew it.
Analysis of Machida showed extremely accurate striking and similarly excellent striking defense. His takedown defense was also strong, a result if his uncanny ability to maintain distance, which would eliminate any advantage a wrestler might have over him. Couture on the other hand, was a decent striker, but allowed his opponents to land their own strikes with better than average success, indicating poor striking defense. His wrestling acumen led to a good shooting takedown success rate, though surprisingly little success from the clinch. The fight’s outcome was right there in front of us on the paper. At -325, Machida was a strong but not overwhelming favorite, and yet that betting line failed to capture how much of an advantage he really had. The “Dragon” was 15 years younger than the “Natural,” a spread that generally leads to an 80% win rate for the younger fighter. On top of that, it was clear that he was going to keep his distance, meaning he could send his strikes through Couture’s loose defense at will.
As the fight began, Kenny Florian and Stephan Bonnar watched with slight grimaces while Couture pressed forward and tried desperately to get a hold of the elusive Machida. During these scrambles Machida landed punches out of nowhere with his typical blazing speed and accuracy. When the first round ended, it was almost a relief that Couture was still standing – a small victory for Father Time. But that relief was short lived, and the now famous crane kick that ended the illustrious MMA career of Randy Couture connected with his chin barely a minute into the second round. Couture’s head snapped with the impact of the surprise kick, and his body immediately crumpled to the mat before the kick was even retracted. Moments after recovering, as Randy stood flashing his Hollywood grin and confirming the retirement we were all expecting, one of his teeth fell out in his hand.