Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 170 Prediction: Stephen Thompson vs. Robert Whittaker

In Robert Whittaker’s last fight, he was the betting favorite to defeat Court McGee. I picked McGee to win the fight on the basis that it would probably be a striking match, in which McGee would out-pace Whittaker. That’s exactly what happened as McGee landed 88 significant strikes to Whittaker’s 48. Somehow the fight ended up being a split decision, but it went in favor of the right fighter in McGee.

Now Whittaker is a narrow underdog in his upcoming fight against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Thompson is the favorite at -135 with Whittaker the underdog at +115. It seems that Whittaker gets a lot of respect for his striking ability, which prompts me to ask the following question: are we sure Whittaker is a good striker?

Here are Whittaker’s striking totals in official UFC fights so far:

  • 48-88: vs. Court McGee
  • 53-33: vs. Colton Smith
  • 83-55: vs. Brad Scott

In fights against Colton Smith and Brad Scott, Whittaker landed 136 significant strikes and absorbed 88. That’s impressive enough but let’s consider the competition. Smith isn’t very much of a striker at all – and Whittaker chose to leave a hand down throughout that fight for that very reason. Scott is a better striker than Smith but is very unproven at best.

What’s most troubling about the numbers for Whittaker is that he’s absorbed 4.33 significant strikes per minute, a much higher than average rate. Whittaker has landed 4.52 strikes per minute in the same time frame but it’s very difficult for a fighter to win consistently while absorbing strikes at such a high rate.

Now Whittaker is taking on an opponent in Stephen Thompson who is arguably a much better striker than McGee or anybody else Whittaker has faced. While the hype surrounding Thompson was out of control at one point, he is legitimately a very good striker. He’s landed 1.5 strikes for every one absorbed, and he’s landed three knockdowns without being knocked down once. Thompson’s offense is better than his defense as he’s landed 4.35 significant strikes per minute overall.

So here we have a fight between Thompson, who lands strikes at a very high rate, and Whittaker, who absorbs strikes at a very high rate. Why exactly is Thompson only a -135 favorite?

Now, I will acknowledge that Thompson’s ground game remains a huge question mark. Seeing Thompson gas out badly against Matt Brown is an image that remains burned in my brain. There’s certainly a chance that Whittaker could take advantage of Thompson’s flawed ground game in this fight.

But how likely is it that Whittaker will even attempt the takedown? In three UFC fights and 41 minutes of action, Whittaker has attempted exactly one takedown. He landed it, but it didn’t lead to any submission offense. Besides that, Whittaker has done nothing but strike.

Usually fighters don’t adapt their game plans based on their competition. I doubt that Whittaker will adapt in this fight. I have to assume that Whittaker will engage Thompson in a striking match, and in that kind of fight I absolutely must favor Thompson.

Pick: Stephen Thompson by TKO

DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER

This one seems straightforward to me. The fight will probably be a striking match, and Thompson should be considered a solid favorite in that kind of fight. With that said, a -135 price seems like a bargain to me, so I’ve risked $2.70 to win $2.00 on Thompson.

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5 responses to “UFC 170 Prediction: Stephen Thompson vs. Robert Whittaker

  1. Thomas Algiz February 19, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Im on the same page. Stephens should be able to outstrike and for that matter outwrestle Whittaker to the dominant posistions and thereby score the most points. I dont agree that this fight will end by TKO to Stephens. i find it more likely to end by decision in Stephens favour but win the fight he should.

    The only way i can imagine Whittaker take this fights is if Whittaker by chance lands a good shot and KO/TKO Stephens. but that risk lies in almost every MMA fights.

    This is a fight i will be betting for aswell since odds are okay.

    • David Williams February 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      I honestly sat in front of my keyboard for about ten minutes waffling between decision and TKO. You might be right about it going the distance, I think either result is a good possibility.

  2. Dennis King February 22, 2014 at 5:39 am

    I think a point has been missed here, and that is Whittaker’s timing and counter punching, particularly when retreating. He is very good at reading opponents, and his notable wins have come when people have tried to swarm him with punches. He has proven he only needs one clean shot, and I have a suspicion that Wonderboy will go into this one over confident and won’t respect the counter.
    Controversial maybe, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Whittaker tags him as he’s coming in and either gets enough to jump on top for the TKO, or it’s a clean KO.

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