When Andrew Craig first entered the UFC, I picked him to beat Kyle Noke despite Craig’s status as a sizable underdog. That was based on Craig’s SILVA score, which was very good thanks to Craig’s undefeated record and quality wins. Now, I’ve moved on to FPR, and when I look at Craig’s dismal FPR, I have no choice but to think Craig is being severely overrated by the betting public.
With that said, I understand why people are unenthusiastic about Chris Leben. He looked very lethargic in his UFC 155 match against Derek Brunson. Despite being clearly behind late in the fight, Leben showed very little desperation to win. It was a thoroughly unimpressive performance.
One thing I’ll say about that is FPR likes Brunson a lot and sees him as one of the better middleweights in the UFC. It’s possible that Leben simply looked lethargic as a result of Brunson’s effective defense.
Don’t get me wrong, FPR is no huge fan of Leben, rating him as a below-average middleweight at -0.40. That is mostly thanks to deficient wrestling, as Leben has been taken down 33 times in his UFC career, more than any other middleweight in the UFC today. To make matters worse, Leben’s reputation for being a hard hitter is unfounded: he’s only landed five knockdowns in 21 fights.
Despite all of Leben’s faults, I can’t pick Craig to win this match, even as the betting favorite. FPR stands for “Fighter Performance Rating,” and even though Craig is 2-1 in the UFC, he was arguably out-performed in all three of those fights. Kyle Noke matched Craig in significant strikes and landed more takedowns, and Rafael Natal out-struck Craig 73-23 but lost anyway due to a Craig head kick out of nowhere.
As it turns out, Craig is running a deficit in every statistical category measured in FPR. In all five categories – significant strikes, knockdowns, takedowns, guard passes, and submission attempts – Craig’s opponents have done more to him than he’s done to them.
If Craig does manage to win this fight, it will likely be because of his toughness and conditioning. What Craig has going for him in this fight are all the variables that don’t show up in the stat sheet. Unlike Leben, Craig has never had a drug problem (at least, not that I’m aware of). While Leben is getting old in fight years, Craig is still at the point where his skills should be improving. Leben’s motivation is questionable, while Craig’s motivation should be sky high.
It’s because of the intangibles that I’m willing to give Craig a better chance of winning this fight than FPR would suggest he deserves. Still, I can’t get past the fact that Craig has simply been out-performed by all of his opponents in the UFC thus far. I don’t see Leben finding his way to title relevance anytime soon, but I also don’t believe he should be the underdog in this match.
Pick: Chris Leben by TKO