Even though MMA is a sport unsuited to statistical analysis on the individual level… I can’t get enough of it! Let’s take a look at the Fight Metric statistics for the fighters set to compete on the main card of UFC 159, and see if we can’t get an idea of how the fights will go.
UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship Match: Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen
- Jones has a significant strike margin of +2.48 per minute, compared to +2.28 for Sonnen.
- Per 15 minutes, Jones lands 2.5 takedowns in 4.0 attempts, while Sonnen lands 3.9 takedowns in 6.6 attempts.
- Sonnen defends his opponent’s takedown attempts 71% of the time, but his takedown defense still can’t hold a candle to Jones, who has never been taken down in an MMA fight.
- Jones will have an 11-inch reach advantage in the fight.
Both fighters here have a huge significant strike margin, but for Sonnen, it’s almost completely because of his ability to take opponents to the ground. It’s hard to imagine Sonnen having consistent success taking Jones down – after all, Sonnen struggled to take down Michael Bisping, whose takedown defense isn’t nearly as good as that of Jones. On the flip side, I do anticipate that Jones could be successful taking Sonnen down. The big advantage Sonnen has in most of his fights is that he’s the better wrestler, but that probably won’t be the case in this championship fight. And if the fight stays standing, I doubt that Sonnen will have much success, since he will have to contend with the exceptionally long reach of Jones.
UFC Middleweight Match: Alan Belcher vs. Michael Bisping
- Bisping has a significant strike margin of +2.01 per minute, compared to +0.08 for Belcher.
- Per 15 minutes, Bisping lands 2.0 takedowns in 4.2 attempts, while Belcher lands 0.5 takedowns in 1.5 attempts.
- Bisping has only attempted one submission since his Ultimate Fighter match against Josh Haynes.
- Belcher defends 55% of his opponent’s takedown attempts, compared to 62% for Bisping.
As is usually the case, Bisping will probably be the winner if this fight goes to decision. On paper, he’s better than Alan Belcher at both volume striking and takedowns. I’ve said it before – Belcher is a talented fighter offensively, but his striking defense and takedown defense are both deficient. Bisping is a fighter who should be able to take advantage of those deficiencies. Belcher’s best chance of winning is to land a powerful strike and knock Bisping out, but Bisping has only been knocked out twice in his career, against the right hand of Dan Henderson and the head kick of Vitor Belfort. While I respect Belcher’s KO power, it’s hard to argue he packs quite as much power as fighters like Henderson and Belfort. If the statistics are any indication, this fight should be Bisping’s to lose.
UFC Heavyweight Match: Cheick Kongo vs. Roy Nelson
- Kongo has an enormous advantage in significant strike margin: +2.09 for Kongo, -2.36 for Nelson.
- Per 15 minutes, Kongo lands 2.2 takedowns in 3.5 attempts, while Nelson lands just 0.7 takedowns in 3.7 attempts.
- In the fights tracked by Fight Metric, Nelson has scored four knockdowns on 208 significant strikes, for a ratio of 52 significant strikes per knockdown.
- Meanwhile, Kongo has been knocked down three times (twice by Pat Barry) on 232 significant strikes, for a ratio of 77 significant strikes per knockdown.
I know Roy Nelson is a fairly heavy favorite to win this fight… but if he doesn’t win by knockout, it sure looks like he should lose this match. On paper, Cheick Kongo is the much better striker; while Kongo out-paces his opponent by 2.09 significant strikes per minute, Nelson gets hit by almost twice as many significant strikes as he lands. Kongo is also the better wrestler on paper; while Kongo doesn’t have terrific takedown defense, Nelson only lands 19% of his takedown attempts. Yes, Nelson has a great chance of catching Kongo with a big punch and winning by knockout. But is that chance so high that Nelson should be a -240 favorite?
UFC Light-Heavyweight Match: Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes
- Davis has a significant strike margin of +2.05 per minute, compared to -0.60 for Magalhaes.
- Davis avoids 71% of the significant strikes thrown at him, and only gets hit by 0.94 per minute. Meanwhile, Magalhaes only lands 28% of his significant strike attempts.
- Per 15 minutes, Davis lands 3.2 takedowns in 6.5 attempts, while Magalhaes lands 1.9 takedowns in 3.8 attempts.
- Magalhaes has attempted two submissions in his three UFC fights.
These numbers for Magalhaes should be taken with a grain of salt, because he only has three fights tracked by Fight Metric. Still, the numbers seem to overwhelmingly favor Davis. Davis doesn’t really have developed offensive kickboxing, but he’s one of the best fighters in MMA at avoiding strikes. On paper, he should be the better striker and wrestler than Magalhaes. Now, Magalhaes is well known for being a world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, but he will likely struggle to apply it against Davis, who is a fantastic grappler himself, and likely to have the top position on the ground. I’ll put it this way – if Magalhaes couldn’t manage to attempt a submission against Eliot Marshall, I doubt he’ll pull it off against Phil Davis.
UFC Lightweight Match: Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy
- Miller has a very narrow edge in significant strike margin: +0.52 for Miller, +0.44 for Healy.
- Per 15 minutes, Miller lands 2.1 takedowns in 4.6 attempts, while Healy lands 3.7 takedowns in 7.9 attempts.
- Healy defends takedowns at a 71% rate, compared to just 42% for Miller.
- Miller attempts a lot of submissions per 15 minutes – 2.8 attempts for Miller, 1.6 attempts for Healy.
While I would give Jim Miller a slight advantage if this fight stays standing, I can’t get past his weak takedown defense. Pat Healy attempts takedowns early and often, and this fight is unlikely to be an exception. Unless Miller can land a takedown first, he’ll have to work from bottom position on the ground. Miller has a terrific Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game, so it’s possible he could reverse position on Healy and possibly win by submission, but it’s going to be a battle for him. Right now, Miller is listed as a -320 favorite; if the statistics are any indication, that line is way off and Healy has a much better chance of winning than that. The one thing I will say is that Miller has faced much tougher opponents than Healy, and that might be skewing the numbers in Healy’s favor.