For the most part, I go by my Fighter Performance Rating statistic to figure out which fighter I should pick to win a fight. However, there are some times when it’s clear that I need to overrule this method. This fight between Gabriel Gonzaga and Stipe Miocic is one of those times.
This is a terrible style match for Gonzaga. His biggest strength as a fighter is his submission game. In his UFC career Gonzaga is ahead of his opponents 22-5 in takedowns, 28-6 in guard passes, and 10-2 in submission attempts. Meanwhile, Gonzaga is not a very good striker. He’s landed 239 significant strikes but absorbed 312. He’s landed seven knockdowns but has been knocked down himself six times. On top of that, much of his striking success has been against fringe UFC competition such as Chris Tuchscherer and Josh Hendricks.
It’s clear that Gonzaga is at his best when he’s able to take his opponent to the ground and make it a grappling contest. Unfortunately for him he’ll have a very difficult time doing that against Stipe Miocic. Miocic is known as a very good wrestler and has only been taken down once in his five-fight UFC career so far. He’s also a very aggressive striker who has landed 262 significant strikes in just 48 minutes of UFC action, an average of 5.48 significant strikes per minute.
While Miocic has only landed one knockdown in that time, he gets a pass where his knockout power is concerned because his last fight was against Roy Nelson. Miocic landed 106 significant strikes in that fight but just couldn’t score a knockdown on Nelson, a fighter notorious for being nearly impossible to knock out. Miocic has also faced Joey Beltran, another fighter known primarily for his ability to absorb a tremendous amount of punishment.
I have little doubt that as Miocic gets more experience in the UFC, the knockout victories will come. He has seven wins by knockout in 11 MMA fights and two wins by TKO in the UFC, one in just 43 seconds against Phil De Fries and the other over the late Shane Del Rosario.
The biggest flaw in Miocic’s game is his tendency to absorb too many strikes. For the most part Miocic takes strikes very well and he has yet to be knocked down despite this flaw (his loss to Stefan Struve was a TKO from eating too many strikes while still standing). Even so, Miocic’s rate of 3.58 significant strikes absorbed per minute is not good in the hard-hitting heavyweight division. It’s a trend that could end up costing Miocic against a heavy hitter like Gonzaga.
Even so it appears Miocic should be able to keep this fight standing and make it a striking match – in which Miocic should be able to land strikes with much better volume. Gonzaga also is not known for a strong chin as he’s been knocked down six times in the UFC. In a striking match between a great volume striker with a strong chin and a poor volume striker with a bad chin, I’ll take the guy who is easily a better striker.
FPR likes Gonzaga by the slightest of margins. The formula gives Gonzaga points for his overall grappling and history of finishing opponents. Meanwhile, points are taken away from Miocic due to his relative inexperience and lack of knockdowns. In this particular match it seems clear that FPR is wrong – that Miocic matches up extremely well with Gonzaga and should be favored to get a victory thanks to strong takedown defense and superior striking.
Pick: Stipe Miocic by KO
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
Even so, I have enough respect for Gonzaga’s abilities that I’m not tempted to bet on Miocic as a -235 favorite. There are too many ways for this to go wrong – from Gonzaga being the one to win by knockout to Gonzaga breaking through and landing a takedown, then keeping Miocic on his back. I think Miocic wins this fight but Gonzaga is too dangerous for me to bet on it.