Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 170 Prediction: Erik Koch vs. Rafaello Oliveira

At one point in this blog’s history, there were three featherweights I had identified as being “elite” in their division: Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes… and Erik Koch. At one time, Koch was 13-1 with only a loss to Mendes. His record was strong enough that the UFC was willing to give him a title shot against Aldo, but a series of injuries ended up forcing Koch out of that top contender spot. Subsequent losses to Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier have knocked Koch out of title contention entirely.

Now Koch has decided to move up a weight class, from featherweight to lightweight. It’s a move I applaud as I generally believe MMA fighters should be cutting less weight, not more. If Koch’s manager Mike Roberts is correct when he says Koch is a lean 170 pounds, then he has no business fighting at 145.

It seems as if Koch should be a very good striker, as he trains under Duke Roufus and that’s his preferred fighting style. However, Koch’s numbers indicate that his overall striking is merely average. He’s landed 164 significant strikes and absorbed 161; he’s landed two knockdowns and absorbed two. In his last fight, Koch was badly hurt multiple times by Poirier. Poirier is no joke but it seems that Koch’s striking should be at a higher level than he’s shown.

Not once has Koch landed more than 40 significant strikes in a fight. In his knockout win over Raphael Assuncao, Koch was out-pointed 9-4 in strikes before the finish. In his last two fights Koch has been out-pointed 86-46 in significant strikes. I’d love to say that Koch is a better striker than the numbers indicate but I don’t see any real evidence of that. Another fairly troubling statistic: Koch only defends significant strikes at a 44% rate.

With all of that said, Koch matches up extremely well against his upcoming opponent Rafaello Oliveira. Koch’s overall striking numbers may be mediocre but they’re far better than Oliveira’s. Oliveira has landed 2.22 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 3.21 for a deficit of 0.99 per minute. He’s absorbed more strikes than he’s landed in five out of seven UFC fights. He’s also been knocked down three times and has yet to land a knockdown himself.

I would say that Oliveira needs to land takedowns to win this fight… but that’s probably true of any lightweight opponent Oliveira could face, with the possible exception of Joe Lauzon. That brings us to another problem for Oliveira, which is that Koch is not an easy opponent to take down. Overall Koch has defended takedowns at a 79% rate while Oliveira has only landed 37% of his attempts. It’s possible that Koch’s takedown defense will be compromised against bigger opponents at lightweight, but it’s hard to see Oliveira taking him down routinely.

And if Oliveira is able to complete takedowns, what then? Koch is up 8-2 on his opponents in submission attempts despite landing only two takedowns. He has a very dangerous guard game and attempted five submissions against Poirier in particular, one of which was very close to finishing the fight. Meanwhile Oliveira has had ten submissions attempted against him in his seven UFC fights.

It’s quite possible that even if Oliveira succeeds in establishing top position, Koch will have the advantage from the guard. If that’s the case, then there’s no position that favors Oliveira – and therefore no obvious path to victory. I could see Oliveira grinding out a decision if he lands takedowns and stays disciplined on the ground, but Koch really deserves to be a very strong favorite to win here.

Pick: Erik Koch by decision

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

There are no odds out for this fight yet but I am interested in putting a bet down on Koch if I can get the right price. If Koch is -250 or better then I’ll definitely make a play, and even if Koch is in the -250 to -300 range I’ll be tempted. If Koch is more expensive than -300 then I’ll probably have to pass.

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4 responses to “UFC 170 Prediction: Erik Koch vs. Rafaello Oliveira

  1. Thomas Algiz February 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I would be a little careful here.

    If i was forced to choose then yes i would say Erik Koch but the way i see it. it all comes down to this. Can Erik Koch keep this fighting standing? Im actually not sure about that. I don’t see it as a posibility that Erik KOs Rafaello but niether do i see as a posiblity that Rafaello submits Erik. im as positive as a man can be that this fight will end by decision but in favour of who? i have my doubts about that.

    I fear very much that if it does succeed for Rafaello to get this fight to the ground then he will win by decision due to being in the dominant posisition most of the time.

    If the fight stays standing then i think Erik will win by decision due to being the most active fighter. I cant imagine Erik KO Rafaello since his striking is actually pretty simple. I have been watching him closely through his two resent fights and he is almost only throwing single punches or kicks. the only kombo i have seen him throw is jab/cross and that is not the way to KO a guy. But that was also against two Lethal strikers and thats the second thing i noticed about Erik. He is afraid to get hit! A good fighter can always turn that into something good though Rafaello is not that guy in my eyes.

    The vital fact that i have discovered about Erik Koch is that he does not owe one bit of strategic talent. There is no plan behind his moves. His strategy is to throw and hope for the best. A strategic fighter would throw to get his guard up and then deliver a lethal kick to the body for an example and Erik Koch does not fight in that way.

    In order for me to bet on this fight then i have to get my money atleast two times in return before im willing to bet that Erik Koch is pulling this of.

    Thomas

    • David Williams February 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      I understand your concerns. Based on Koch’s historically good takedown defense and Oliveira’s merely average takedown offense, my expectation is that Oliveira will land one or two takedowns in the fight – not enough to carry him to a decision win if Koch thoroughly out-strikes him. I feel pretty good about my assessment that Koch is a very strong favorite here but I get why you’re not necessarily on board with that.

      • Thomas Algiz February 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

        My first thought is as yours. That oliveira Will try to land a couple of takedowns but fail and then Erik outstrikes him to a decision. But my concerns set in when i imagine oliveira getting this fight to the ground with a little bit of luck.

        That little bit of luck i might be able to account for aswell. Because Erik has lost two fights in a row and therefore he will be eager not to make this a 3rd loss. Therefore i think Erik will increase the pace and increased pace means increased blindness to takedowns.

        But as you can see then im speculating now. All im saying is that i wouldn’t bet my entire life savings on Erik. If odds are good for Erik then i will be betting for Erik aswell but if not then im staying out of it.

      • David Williams February 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm

        Well, Koch opened at -400 so I’m going to pass on this one anyway.

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