By @fightnomics   We already looked at striking pace for the fighters competing at UFC Fight Night 63 in Fairfax, VA, which is a reasonable proxy for cage control in the standup game. So what happens when they hit the ground? As we’ll see, there are some haves, and have-nots when it comes to who controlled fights on the mat, and these tendencies definitely preview some critical battles for position in several of the night’s key matchups. Here’s how the main card fighters have controlled the ground game to date.

FN63 Wrestling and Ground Control

Dominant There are several strong wrestlers on the card this weekend, and in each case that strength will be a strategic focus in their matchup. The sample size on Julianna Pena isn’t really worth inclusion here, but we did it for completeness. In her four minute and 59 second UFC debut, Pena didn’t need to land a single standing punch as she took the fight to the ground and won the TUF title in dominant fashion, spending nearly half her ground time in a full mount. While we need to see her return from her knee injury and log some more minutes in the Octagon, it’s certainly interesting that her opponent Milana Dudieva was on the receiving end of the vast majority of ground control in her first fight. That could be a big mismatch in this fight, but it’s still a little early to quantify either one of their styles definitively. But Chad Mendes has logged plenty of time in the cage, over two hours in fact, so his dominant 96% ground control share is absolutely impressive. Although he doesn’t advance position often and tends to fight mostly from guard while on the mat, Mendes still controls his opponents for over one minute per takedown landed. That’s pretty valuable skill to have to secure rounds on the cards, especially facing a dangerous veteran like Ricardo Lamas. Clay Guida may have abandoned his wrestle-first style for a few fights, and now he’s trying to turn back the clock. Having trained recently with Team Alpha Male, Guida would be wise to use his stifling ground control early and often against dangerous striker Robbie Peralta. Jorge Masvidal may be in the same boat as Clay Guida. He’s facing a striker on a hot streak in Al Iaquinta, yet ground control has helped push Masvidal to victory over plenty of solid strikers. This will be another matchup where the position will count for a lot. Michael Chiesa enjoys lots of advantages over his opponent Mitch Clarke, and the ground control metric is no different. Having spent two thirds of all ground time in control, it’s no surprise that three of his four UFC wins came by way of submission.   Contrasting Styles Al Iaquinta and Ricardo Lamas have both seen mixed results on the mat, and are both facing more successful wrestlers. While they have generally gotten the better of opponents, it will be interesting to see how willing they are to fight on the ground against opponents who have excelled there. But chances are that Iaquinta will be better equipped to keep the fight standing with his 85% takedown defense compared to Lamas’s at 48%. And Dustin Poirier may show up as average in his ground control share metric, but he’s likely still in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding where this fight goes. His takedown success rate and also his takedown defense are both better than his opponent’s.   Too Much Time on Your Back The fighters falling short in the ground control metric appear there for different reasons. For Robert Peralta, it’s likely that he is most dangerous with his hands and so is reluctant to attempt takedowns. He’s only attempted six takedowns through seven UFC fights, so don’t expect him to be shooting on Guida, but rather keeping his distance and looking to catch Guida on the way in. Mitch Clarke may have won the majority of his fights by submission, but so far in the UFC he has spent much more time being controlled on the mat than in a position of control himself. He shows promise, but Michael Chiesa will be a tough test no matter where the fight goes. Carlos Diego Ferreira is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt, and so is more than willing to end up on the ground. Oddly, he hasn’t gone there by his own attempts, having been successful on only one takedown in his first three UFC appearances. Rather, he let opponents take him down on five of ten attempts. However, he’s clearly dangerous in any position, as Colton Smith can attest. Lastly, Milana Dudieva’s ground control stat from her first UFC appearance looks pretty bad. But what’s more interesting is that she initiated all the takedowns in that fight. It was two sweeps from her opponent that led to position reversals that put Dudieva on the defensive. That doesn’t bode well given the aggressiveness of her opponent this weekend. Don’t forget to check the “Fightnomics” book to learn all about these and other MMA performance metrics.