UFC Fight Night 59 January 18, 2015 Lightweight Matchup: Gleison Tibau vs Norman Parke By @fightnomics Big Picture: In a fight card defined by one of the biggest betting mismatches in UFC history, there are several compelling and very close matchups elsewhere to appreciate. And leading off the main card is a matchup between a long-time successful combatant in the ultra-competitive lightweight division, Gleison Tibau, pitted against a relative newcomer and former TUF Smashes winner Norman Parke. Neither man is ranked despite amassing solid winning records, so a win here could boost one of these men into rankings contention, and the bump in future Reebok pay that goes with it. Tibau opened as the solid favorite at -210, but quick action in support of Parke made for a much closer current line. Tibau now sits with only a slight edge at -140, the comeback on Parke at +120. That line is almost as close as the very tight Henderson-Cerrone matchup. Tibau is still favored, but clearly the market thinks it’s close. Let’s see how their performance numbers stack up. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape shows Southpaw-on-Southpaw action about to go down, or a “Cyclone Matchup” as discussed in the Fightnomics book. Both men will experience the same slight decline in performance from facing an unorthodox opponent, but experience in that department goes a long way. There’s a negligible age differential, although Tibau is definitely older in real years, and even more so in “fight years.” He’s been competing in the UFC since 2006! Overall, there’s only a slight edge to Parke hypothetically in that he’s likely the less damaged of the two. So we’ll need to dig deeper. Striking Matchup: The striking portion of the metrics show an advantage to Parke in terms of accuracy and volume. Parke not only works at a higher pace in his standup, he outworks opponents all while maintaining above average accuracy. Neither man has been a big knockdown threat to date, but time has taken a toll on Tibau. He may be slightly more powerful, but he’s also more susceptible than Parke. The important caveat here is the strength of schedule for each man. Tibau has over 20 UFC fights and has run the gamut of the division’s ranks, including a win over current title challenger Rafael dos Anjos. Parke on the other hand won his TUF bracket, but has since faced opponents with a combined losing record, several of whom are no longer with the UFC. So Tibau has very average performance metrics, but earned them facing much stiffer competition than Parke. And Parke’s numbers are good, but came against sub-par competition. It’s a tough call, and supports the idea that is nearly a coin flip match. Either way this is a big step up for Parke, so we can’t give him a true edge without seeing how he handles the increase in competition. He may be game for it, or he may learn (as Myles Jury recently did) that bigger ponds breed nastier fish. Uncertainty on who will win the standup remains, but there’s enough on the underdog’s side to allow that he has a shot on the feet. Grappling Matchup: The ground game may be a little more clear, thanks mostly to the exceptional numbers on Tibau’s takedown game. Not only is Tibau the current active UFC leader for takedowns landed on offense, he’s also tied for 4th for takedown defense, right behind Jon Jones. Tibau isn’t the classic NCAA wrestler turned MMA fighter, but he’s still posted some of the best numbers in the takedown game in UFC history. Ultimately, it will be Tibau who will decide whether or when this fight will go to the ground. However, Parke has shown excellent takedown defense to date, although once again we must remind ourselves of the level of competition he faced. Can he stand up (and stay standing up) to Tibau’s wrestling? It may not matter. If Parke spends all his effort fighting off Tibau’s takedown attempts, two things may happen. First, Parke will lose the early rounds being on the defensive. Second, Tibau may tire and allow Parke to mount a late offensive. All aspects of this point to a lengthy back and forth contest, with neither man likely to finish the other on the ground. The pedigree favors Tibau, who has a black belt in BJJ and also a long history in wrestling. Parke’s base is primarily Judo, but also includes wrestling. Both men have won most of their fights by submission, and have rarely tapped themselves. Until we see these men collide, it’s hard to know who will prevail, but again the experience and strength of schedule is in Tibau’s favor. Reed’s Pick: The Over (Tibau by Decision) (Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: This really is another tough call on a card with several very even matchups. The numbers aren’t glaringly different, but the difference in competition is. And what stands out most in the performance metrics is the strength of Tibau’s wrestling. Both men are experienced grapplers, but not the most dangerous strikers. This fight could boil down to pace and position to win close rounds. The pace favors Parke, and the cage control favors Tibau. Parke is a live enough underdog that the early action seems warranted, but unless there’s more line movement, taking a side on this unpredictable fight seems like a coin flip. The limit of 2.5 rounds is also appropriate, as this competitive division only sees finishes about half of the time. But in this case the Over is a steep-270, the Under +215. That’s an unusually high price for an Over, and even the Fight Goes the Distance Prop is -240. Yet a full three rounds is a better play than a straight up pick here, so using the Over/Goes the Distance in a parlay is a lower risk angle. The lack of clear weapons and the stout defenses of both fighters should push this to the cards. “Fightnomics” the book is now available on Amazon! Follow along on Twitter for the latest UFC stats and MMA analysis, or on Facebook, if you prefer.
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