Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

Which UFC Light-Heavyweights Have the Most Striking Power?

In my last post, I attempted to estimate striking power for UFC heavyweights by looking at the ratio of strikes landed to knockdowns, and the result seemed to make a lot of sense, for the most part. Fighters like Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin were at the top, and fighters like Fabricio Werdum were at the bottom. Since the list wasn’t a disaster, I’ve decided to take the same approach with UFC fighters in other weight classes.

In this case, “strikes landed” refers only to standing or clinch strikes, and filters out ground strikes. This is because it’s hard to knock down a fighter who is already on the ground. Because this data (as far as I know) is only available from the UFC’s fighter profile pages, this will only look at fighters who are currently listed by the UFC. I’ve also imposed a minimum of at least 50 significant strikes landed. I’d like this minimum to be a lot higher, because even a sample size of 50 is pretty flimsy, but doing that would disqualify the vast majority of fighters.

Data on knockdowns is available at Fight Metric‘s website.

Here’s the list:

  • Igor Pokrajac: 24.0 (96 strikes landed, 4 knockdowns)
  • Luiz Cane: 27.5 (165, 6)
  • Ryan Bader: 32.0 (160, 5)
  • Lyoto Machida: 32.3 (323, 10)
  • Chuck Liddell: 36.6 (513, 14)
  • Quinton Jackson: 39.4 (315, 8)
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: 43.0 (86, 2)
  • Mauricio Rua: 52.0 (260, 5)
  • Brandon Vera: 52.1 (365, 7)
  • Thiago Silva: 54.5 (109, 2)
  • Rashad Evans: 65.8 (263, 4)
  • Anthony Perosh: 67.0 (67, 1)
  • Jon Jones: 78.7 (236, 3)
  • Dan Henderson: 79.0 (237, 3)
  • Cyrille Diabate: 88.0 (176, 2)
  • Vladimir Matyushenko: 123.0 (123, 1)
  • Fabio Maldonado: 147.0 (147, 1)
  • Stephan Bonnar: 167.0 (334, 2)
  • Tito Ortiz: 172.0 (344, 2)
  • Krzysztof Soszynski: 228.0 (228, 1)
  • Kyle Kingsbury: 235.0 (235, 1)
  • Matt Hamill: 349.0 (349, 1)
  • Randy Couture: 443.0 (443, 1)
  • Forrest Griffin: 633.0 (633, 1)
  • Phil Davis: INF (124, 0)
  • Aaron Rosa: INF (132, 0)

Like I said in the last post, this is to be taken with a shaker full of salt. The sample sizes here are so small that this can hardly be accepted as a definitive list of striking power. Yet, I would say that, once again, the above list makes sense for the most part. I don’t think many would argue with the top six of Pokrajac, Cane, Bader, Machida, Liddell, and Jackson. Nor would many argue with fighters like Forrest Griffin ranking near the bottom. If there’s a surprise here, it’s Dan Henderson, who is known for his striking power, but when UFC statistics only are counted, he rates in the middle of the pack. I would certainly think Henderson has more power than is represented here.

I think the reason Henderson rates as low as he does is because he doesn’t have very good cardio. When he’s fresh, Henderson can strike with devastating power, but when he’s exhausted, that power pretty much evaporates. I also think, to an extent, Henderson is a casualty of the small sample sizes we’re dealing with. If Henderson’s fights in Strikeforce were included, it would add four knockdowns and under 80 strikes, so his ratio would decrease by a huge amount. But that’s a great example of why I say these lists should be taken with heavy dosages of salt.

There are two other things I would note: first, there is a huge drop-off in power from heavyweight to light-heavyweight. The heavyweights I studied combined for 2,928 strikes landed and 70 knockdowns, for an overall ratio of 41.8 strikes landed per knockdown. The light-heavyweights above combine for 6,463 strikes landed and 87 knockdowns, for an overall ratio of 74.3 strikes landed per knockdown. Rashad Evans’s ratio of 65.8 is pretty good for a light-heavyweight, but would rate quite poorly in the heavyweight division.

The other thing to note is that, in both divisions measured so far, the reigning UFC champion rates in the middle of the pack in striking power. Junior dos Santos’s ratio of 38.1 ranked 11th out of 22 heavyweights, and Jon Jones’s ratio of 78.7 ranks 13th out of 26 light-heavyweights. In the former case, dos Santos lands strikes with such volume that his power is more than enough to win by KO most of the time. In the latter case, Jones has such fantastic striking defense and wrestling that his relatively mediocre power is hardly a handicap.

I’ll keep this series going with the middleweights tomorrow, and I’m already looking forward to seeing how Anderson Silva stacks up with the rest of the division. Stay tuned.

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