The UFC’s second Pay-Per-View card in New York will take place in Buffalo this weekend. Though lacking the star power of the first event from Madison Square Garden, UFC 210 will feature arguably the most dangerous striker currently fighting in MMA, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. The main event rematch between Johnson and currently light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is a contrast of strengths, and it will essentially boil down to being a striker versus grappler matchup.
Though Cormier won their first fight with a submission finish, as we’ll see, Johnson’s striking skills are such a threat that the betting odds have flipped in his favor heading into their rematch. And Johnson isn’t the only solid striker facing a wrestler on the card. So let’s spotlight which fighters are best in class in several key striking metrics.
How the Graph Works
This balloon (or bubble) chart includes the fighters competing this weekend with sufficient sample size. Many of them will move with more cage-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 fighter matches the pace of their 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 distance knockdown in recorded competition. And lastly, southpaw/switch stance strikers are in red. Unorthodox strikers are rare, but are worth highlighting as some fighters have trouble with southpaws.
Charles Oliveira has landed over 34 percent of his distance power head strikes, way ahead of his division’s average of 28 percent. And he’s maintained that average through over two hours of Octagon fighting time. While he’s probably more known for his exotic submission game, he’s stood in the pocket with some of the UFC’s most notable veterans in two divisions, making these striking stats even more impressive.
Relative newcomers Charles Rosa and Kamaru Usman have also landed over 33 percent of their power head strikes, though on a lower sample size than Oliveira. Both like to use their ground games, but haven’t forgotten that a good way to set up grappling is by having a solid striking base.
Honorable Mention to Johnson, who excels in all offensive striking metrics. Johnson’s stats are all the more impressive given that they are combined with each other, meaning he can be aggressive and powerful, while also being accurate.
Previously mentioned strikers Johnson and Usman have controlled their opponents while standing and dictated the pace. Of the fighters with reliable sample size, Gegard Mousasi has shown excellent control of opponents and of the cage. Given his pedigree, he’s flown a bit under the radar in the UFC to date, despite a distinguished fight resume that includes elite kickboxing experience. His fight with Chris Weidman could propel him into the title picture at middleweight, or deliver a frustrating stall to his slow progress up the ladder.
Johnson is the hardest hitter at UFC 210, and it’s not even close. Rumble has a staggering (literally) Knockdown Rate of 14 percent, having scored a total of 13 knockdowns in his UFC career. He’s currently third all-time for knockdowns scored, and on current pace is well-positioned to break Anderson Silva’s record possibly by the end of next year.
As noted, no one comes close to Rumble in terms of power, and few other strikers distinguish themselves by the same metric. The second highest Knockdown Rate at UFC 210, at less than half of what’s Rumble has scored, is Myles Jury at 6.3 percent. However, that’s from just two knockdowns scored, as Jury throws very little volume while standing and prefers to grapple.
Thiago Alves, however, loves to stand and trade. Though typically outranged due to a small frame size, Alves has racked up 11 career knockdowns at a rate of 5.6 percent, and that’s when he’s not destroying his opponent’s legs. And it’s worth noting that his opponent, Patrick Cote, has suffered five knockdowns, more than any other fighter on the card. Cote had better keep his distance and control range if he decides to keep it standing.
Get it on the Ground!
Patrick Cummins was a former wrestling training partner of Cormier, a fact that helped bring Cummins into the UFC on short notice. True to form, Cummins has demonstrated some dominant round control in the UFC, which takes some of the attention away from his dismal striking. Cummins has never scored a knockdown, has below average accuracy, and throws the fewest strikes as a ratio of his opponent’s volume. He certainly doesn’t want to stay standing with his opponent this weekend, much like most others.