UFC 186 April 25th, 2015 Flyweight Championship Matchup: Demtrious Johnson vs Kyoji Horiguchi By @fightnomics Despite suffering harshly from the injury bug, there’s still a UFC title on the line at UFC 186 in Montreal, as well as one of the pound for pound best headlining the card. In his six title defenses thus far, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has cleaned house in the division, including victories over the entire top four. In steps Kyoji Horiguchi, a Japanese phenom on a nine fight win streak, and a perfect 4-0 in the UFC. Horiguchi only recently cracked the top 10 of the division, so the big knock on him is his fight resume. He has yet to face a single ranked opponent in the UFC, so this title shot is a big step up for the 24-year old. Currently, the champion Johnson is a massive favorite at -1000, with the underdog Horiguchi at +650. Johnson opened at (just) -505, so the market has already taken an aggressive position in support of the champion, perhaps partly due to Horiguchi’s lack of elite opponents. So how do they stack up on paper? Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape is a complete wash here. The two fighters have the same reach and stance, and both fighters are still in the mid to late 20’s, which is ideal. Horiguchi is slightly taller, but that’s no help if he doesn’t have longer arms. If anything, the added height could make defending Mighty Mouse takedowns just a little harder. So these metrics are no help. Striking Matchup: The striking matchup makes Horiguchi look pretty good. He has a Karate base, and has displayed fast and accurate hands thus far in the UFC. He’s also scored knockdowns in each of his first two fights and shown defensive avoidance that is almost as good as the champ’s. But the quality of opponents is critical here, as mentioned above Horiguchi simply hasn’t face elite competition in the UFC. So while he stacks up well on paper with Johnson, Johnson earned his metrics the hard way. Mighty Mouse is perhaps best known for his speed, something we can see in his defense as only 15% of opponent power head strikes have caught him. In each striking exchange, he’s slightly outworked opponents with better accuracy, and overall gotten the better of them. He also has averaged a slightly higher total striking pace while on his feet than Horiguchi, something that Johnson can do for all five rounds without problem. In fact, he has poured on the output on fading fighters to seal later rounds routinely. Meanwhile, cardio in championship rounds is a big unknown for Horiguchi. Overall, we could be surprised by the challenger if his solid striking metrics hold up from the start. But plenty of skilled strikers have gone toe-to-toe with the champ, and eventually fallen short. Horiguchi would not only have to step up to elite competition, but do so at a high pace, and round after round. And that’s a lot to ask from the newcomer. In the end, Johnson’s experience and speed will probably be the difference while the two are on the feet. Johnson doesn’t have to dominate the standup, but is fully capable of keeping it close so that his grappling seals the deal. Grappling Matchup: The grappling skills of Johnson should be easier to justify than the standing matchup. Johnson has faced a series of elite wrestlers, and often gotten the better of them. He attempts takedowns at a high rate, and lands them with good success. If anything, his statline looks worse than it might had he not competed at a high level in the Bantamweight division, which included a long 25 minutes being outwrestled by former champion Dominick Cruz. The limited numbers for Horiguchi look good so far, but again, they’re limited and against much less impressive competition. He hasn’t utilized much wrestling offensively, although he was largely successful when doing so. Even less tested is his defense. This matchup will be the first real test of his MMA-wrestling ability at a highly competitive level. So Johnson should have a clear edge on the mat, and also the fight-IQ to utilize the ground game effectively to win rounds. The four takedowns that Horiguchi faced in his four UFC appearances so far will be woefully inadequate to prepare for the explosive offensive that Mighty Mouse can mount in a split second, often after being set up by strikes. Once on the ground, Johnson has also used submissions, perhaps more often of late. He has a total of six attempts, three of which earned a tap. That really is the best path to victory here for Johnson, and it could become easier to accomplish as he drags Horiguchi into deeper waters. Reed’s Pick: Johnson (Johnson by Sub Prop) Click for latest MMA odds Reed’s Recommended Play: The price for Johnson is astronomical, and doesn’t account for an errant punch, a clash of heads on a takedown, or hidden handicap (like haven’t recently taken a newborn into the home). The only way this fight is playable is in smaller angles. The Over of 4.5 rounds is currently -125, the Under at +100. The market thinks there’s slightly more than an even chance this goes the distance. Historically, Flyweights finish slightly fewer than half of all three-round fights, but fights that see steep odds are more likely to be finished. While the early action could be very hesitant with Horiguchi looking patiently for an opening, Johnson has pulled off late finishes before. If you can get decent plus money on the Under it’s worth a small play, and remember that Johnson is more likely to finish via submission, a prop that returns +250. In a fight with extreme lines like this, sometimes there’s no angle, or only a small and specific plays. If you end up using Johnson in parlays or playing his props, you can also make a very cheap hedge. Horiguchi’s best chance for the upset is with his crisp striking that could catch Johnson off guard. The Horiguchi TKO prop is +1500. Johnson’s recent addition of a second child may have cost him sleep over the last few weeks, and poor sleep patterns could result in reduced knockdown resiliency. Johnson has been dropped before (by John Dodson), and Horiguchi’s accuracy has been sharp to date. While we’re reaching far for a viable upset scenario and this is an unlikely finish, crazier things have happened to stop a fight, and the prop only costs you pennies on the dollar. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here. Want to put your knowledge to the test in Fantasy MMA for cash? Use the code “FIGHTNOMICS” for an immediate 25% deposit bonus at Kountermove.