Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 165 Prediction: Ivan Menjivar vs. Wilson Reis



*FPR derived from video scouting due to lack of Fight Metric data.

When I put together the FPR statistic, one of the most surprising results to me was just how poorly Ivan Menjivar was rated. Menjivar has an FPR of -3.19, lower than my estimated replacement level of -2.00 and the third-lowest rating among current UFC bantamweights, above only Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Edwin Figueroa. I’ve always thought of Menjivar as a decent UFC bantamweight, not a title contender but a solid fighter nonetheless. Why is his FPR so low?

Looking deeper into the numbers, the answer becomes clear. First of all, Menjivar isn’t really that good at any one thing. The best part of his game is his striking, but with a significant strike ratio of 243:234, Menjivar has only been able to match the striking rate of his opponents. To Menjivar’s credit, he also has a good chin and has not been knocked down in the UFC, but at the same time, Menjivar himself has only landed one knockdown.

This opens the door for wrestler/grappler types to impose their will on Menjivar, and for the most part, they’ve been very effective in the process. Menjivar’s takedown defense rate is a dismal 42 percent, which is in Shogun Rua/Carlos Condit territory. The difference between Menjivar and Rua/Condit is that Menjivar is neither a significant threat to finish a fight with strikes nor a fighter with an incredibly slick guard. It’s a recipe for losing decisions: average striking and a poor takedown game. Sure enough, Menjivar is only 6-6 when he goes to decision in his MMA career.

The other part of the story is: look at who Menjivar has beat since returning to the UFC. Azamat Gashimov (who remains hopelessly unqualified to compete in the UFC), John Albert, Nick Pace, and Charlie Valencia. Valencia was once a highly thought of bantamweight fighter, so Menjivar deserves credit for blasting him with a nasty elbow at UFC 129. But the other wins aren’t all that impressive in hindsight. Against tougher competition, Menjivar lost by decision to Mike Easton and was submitted by Urijah Faber (in fairness, Menjivar should never have been chosen as a Faber opponent).

Now Menjivar will be taking on Wilson Reis, a former Bellator bantamweight whose crimes in that promotion were losses to Eduardo Dantas and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, two of the top five fighters in Bellator. Reis has a very high-level background in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to go along with a strong takedown game and aggressive striking offense. He’s the kind of fighter hardcore fans are very familiar with, and a fighter who should do well in the UFC.

However, while Reis is aggressive on the feet, it’s really not a good idea for him to exchange blows with Menjivar. Reis could certainly be competitive in a striking match, but his defense is generally awful. He lowers his hands when his opponent throws strikes at him while his head stays stationary. The obvious path to victory for Menjivar is to employ a “sprawl and brawl” game plan in which he forces Reis to strike and wins on points or by knockout.

Despite that, I think Reis will pull off the upset here. He’s usually dependable to go for takedowns, and unlike talented fighters such as Dantas and Freire, I doubt Menjivar’s takedown defense is strong enough to keep Reis at bay. Menjivar won’t prove easy to submit, but unless his takedown defense is suddenly improved, Reis should be able to put him on his back and win on points. I’m not as confident about it as FPR is, but I like the upset pick here.

Pick: Wilson Reis by decision


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