Snapstats: Where is the Knockout Potential at UFC Fight Night 82?By @fightnomics The Heavyweight title fight rematch and long-awaited main event for Super Bowl weekend may have been scrapped due to injuries, but that doesn’t mean the card will be lacking in potential knockouts. That’s thanks to a crew of heavy hitters. Some are brawlers who sling leather, while others are skilled technical strikers with dangerous kicking attacks. The card is also “heavier” than normal, with four remaining matchups at Light Heavyweight or Heavyweight, among those increasingly rare giants of the UFC. But the ability to take a punch is also important, and when the two factors of power and resiliency diverge in a given matchup, it’s something to take note of. Either a stylistic mismatch is about to occur, or someone is getting put to sleep. So let’s take a closer look at the guys who will be trading five ounce leather on free television on a Super Bowl weekend for the first time. The fighters are sorted top to bottom based on the difference between their Offensive Knockdown Rate and their Defensive Knockdown Rate, so it’s great to be near the top of the list, and not good at all to be at the bottom. Here’s how they all stack up.
For more on these and other MMA performance metrics, get the book “Fightnomics.”Josh Burkman vs KJ Noons Two veterans of the sport will close out the prelim card, and each is desperate to extend their UFC run a little longer. Burkman has taken the drastic late-career measure of dropping down to Lightweight, having been winless in all three outings of his second stint in the UFC. Noons is also on a losing streak, but has better chances to do damage if the two decide to stand and trade. Burkman’s Knockdown Rate is lower, and his resiliency is a little worse than Noons, and yet Burkman is the slight favorite likely due to his strong grappling advantage. The styles mismatch could turn this one into a position-focused grinder. Mike Pyle vs Sean Spencer One of these guys is volatile, and the other is more stable. Mike Pyle has won and lost in devastating fashion, while Spencer has mostly outworked opponents on the feet. Pyle is more likely to try to get this to the ground, despite his power, and that would be a wise move given the 12-year age difference favoring Spencer. Joseph Benavidez vs Zach Makovsky It’s a battle of wrestlers turned MMA fighters, so expect this fight to go all over the cage. Fortunately, their Flyweights, so they’ll keep up a good pace even if it goes to the cards. From a KO-perspective, Flyweight knockouts aren’t too common, but Benavidez has managed to score his fair share. He’s also been dropped cold once by current champ Demetrious Johnson. It’s worth noting that both fighters have very good strike avoidance. So while Benavidez is more likely to land a big shot, it’s still unlikely to happen at all given the division and their defensive capabilities. Ovince Saint Preux vs Rafael Cavalcante These two Light Heavyweights are undeniably among the heaviest punchers on the card, and they are likely to go toe-to-toe. If they do, the fight may not last long. Each has very similar power, accuracy, and defense, but OSP is typically the aggressor while Cavalcante has a more reserved pace. Both men have extraordinarily high Knockdown Rates, but Cavalcante has also suffered knockdowns at a higher than average share. This is one reason OSP is currently a strong favorite heading into the matchup. It will be interesting to see if either tries to alter their game plan to account for the power of the other, but it’s unlikely. Roy Nelson vs Jared Rosholt In terms of power and resilience, this may be the biggest power mismatch on the card. Roy Nelson has made a career of dropping heavyweights with massive overhand rights, while Rosholt has been reluctant to strike, and still managed to get dropped during the short times he has. Realizing this, Rosholt will surely use his typical strategy of takedowns and stifling ground and pound to neutralize the threat that Nelson, and many of Rosholt’s opponents before him have in their heavy hands. If Nelson does land a big shot early, settle in for what could be a long fight on the mat. Main Event: Johny Hendricks vs Stephen Thompson Johny Hendricks has been in the UFC Welterweight title picture for years. But currently holding the #2 rank in the division, he has a lot to lose against the young up-and-comer Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. A loss for Hendricks would tumble him down the division and likely delay any shot at the belt for at least a year, while a win doesn’t necessary mean he’s improved his spot in line. It’s a risky matchup, and also for another reason: his standup striking hasn’t done well when he’s not dropping guys – something he hasn’t accomplished since 2013. And Wonderboy will have a massive range advantage, accentuated by an arsenal of dangerous and accurate kicks. All this spells a clear and conservative path for Hendricks to use his wrestling early and often, because as we can see in the graph, standing and striking with Wonderboy may not go well for Big Rigg. 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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