Snapstats: Offensive Striking Metrics for UFC 194By @fightnomics It’s the most highly anticipated matchup in a long time that’s had nearly a year for the rivalry to bubble over. And we also have an unprecedented situation of not just a title matchup with razor close odds, but two of them on the same card. Both challengers in the two title fights are dangerous strikers, but they’re not alone. On a fight card so stacked that Urijah Faber isn’t even on the pay-per-view portion, we may be getting Dana White’s best holiday gift yet to MMA fans at UFC 194. One look at the graph below, and you’ll see why. There are some excellent strikers scattered throughout the card. But fighters can excel in very different ways, so let’s see how the they stack up in terms of striking skills, all on one page. How the Graph Works This balloon (or bubble) chart includes the fighters competing at UFC 194 with sufficient sample size. Many of them with move with more time, but it’s a good snapshot of how they’ve performed to date. The four metrics in the graph are all related to offensive striking. First, the vertical axis is the power head striking accuracy. This is a general reflection of a striker’s skill level in technique. But some fighters are more aggressive than others, while some are primarily counter-strikers, and those characteristics lead to very different striking styles. So the horizontal axis indicates the ratio of strike attempts while standing compared to the same fighter’s opponents. It’s a measure of output, and a proxy for aggression. An even 1.0 ratio means a guy matches the pace of his opponents when standing and trading, while a higher number shows more aggressive and higher-volume strikers compared to lower ratios indicating counter-strikers. The dots are plotted based on those two metrics, but two more variables are also shown. The size of the bubble is based on the fighter’s Knockdown Rate in the UFC/Strikeforce/WEC. Bigger bubbles mean a lot more power, while the small specks indicate fighters who haven’t logged a knockdown in recorded competition. And lastly, southpaw/switch stance strikers are in red. Lefties are rare, but are worth highlighting as most fighters have trouble with Southpaws.
For more on these and other MMA performance metrics, get the book “Fightnomics.”Best in Class Conor McGregor’s striking to date has been next level. He throws tons of heat, he’s highly precise, and he dictates the pace of standup over his opponents. That said, he’ll be facing the best technical striker he’s faced yet in Jose Aldo. A key attribute of Aldo’s game is that he’s very hard to hit – so while McGregor’s stats may be buoyed for now, they may regress after time in the cage with “Scarface.” Snipers Other than the aforementioned McGregor, there are also several more reserved strikers who have similarly excellent accuracy in their power strikes. Leading the way is striking specialist John Makdessi, who despite being outranged for his division, has managed an unusually high 39% power head strike accuracy from a distance. He’ll need that, as he’s facing a dangerous striker in Yancy Madeiros, who will have a whopping 9-inch reach advantage over Makdessi. It won’t be the first time Makdessi is out-ranged, so look for him to put a lot of thought into timing his counters. Like Makdessi, Gunnar Nelson also has a black belt in Karate, and also demonstrates his skill through very precise strikes. Nelson will have a much more favorable striking matchup against grappling-centric Demian Maia, so look for Nelson to retreat and counter. And watch out for Yoel Romero, who lands with high success and also packs monster power. He too is facing an experienced grappler, but Romero has the takedown defense to force a striking duel, should he want to do so. High-Pressure Strikers Court McGee doesn’t just outwork opponents by nearly 50% on volume, he averages an unusually high standup pace of 18 attempts per minute, which is also the highest of anyone at UFC 194. But Luke Rockhold also deserves mention, as he doesn’t just outwork opponents, but utilizes dangerous combinations that include long-range head kicks. He’s at his best when he has his opponents backing up, though that will be a tougher challenge than usual against current champion Chris Weidman who doesn’t mind using his wrestling to stifle opponents. Yancy Madeiros has also been extraordinarily aggressive in his standup attack, but on a smaller sample size. Still, his usual style of pressing forward may work against him in his matchup against counter-striker John Makdessi. Sluggers Again, his sample is small, but Yancy Madeiros has scored a 12.5% Knockdown Rate to date and leads the pack. But among fighters at UFC 194 with stronger sample size, Luke Rockhold has the highest Knockdown Rate at 8.1% coming from five knockdowns scored. For comparison, his opponent and Champion Chris Weidman has scored three knockdowns at a rate of 4.5%. Additional honorable mentions go to Jeremy Stephens 6.0%, Conor McGregor 5.2%, and Yoel Romero 4.9%. Keeping it on the Ground Demian Maia shows up as the least successful striker on the card, and that’s no surprise given that he’s considered one of the best grapplers in a cage. There are others who prefer to grapple, because so far they’ve been very successful at it. That includes Urijah Faber and Ronaldo Souza, who aren’t exactly bad at striking, but just don’t excel like other high performers. And that’s ok, because each man’s submission threat is enough to open up the defenses of their opponents to allow strikes to also threaten. So it will be interesting to see if they test their hands or if they quickly try to go to the ground. For information on getting the "Fightnomics" the book, go here.
About the Author
Dropping science in the cage with UFC statistics & analytics. Quantifying underlying drivers of the fight game, and ending barroom disputes everywhere.
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