If you’re looking for a contrarian take on this fight… you’re not going to find it here. Stipe Miocic is widely recognized as the heavy favorite to win this match against late replacement Fabio Maldonado, and I can find no reason to disagree.
Now, when I look at the striking statistics for both fighters, I can see how this fight might turn into an all-out slugfest. Both fighters have historically landed and absorbed strikes at a high rate. Miocic and Maldonado have a combined 11.38 significant strikes landed per minute and 7.20 strikes absorbed. Maldonado has landed at least 78 significant strikes in six out of seven UFC fights while Miocic has landed at least 3.8 significant strikes per minute in every fight.
Neither fighter has showcased much knockout power; they each have landed just one knockdown despite their heavy volume of strikes. On the surface, it appears Miocic and Maldonado are pretty well matched just by looking at the striking metrics. In reality, this is a situation where context is needed for the statistics. A little more digging reveals that Miocic deserves his status as the heavy favorite to win.
First of all, Maldonado’s success has come against the lowest tier of the UFC light-heavyweight division. His striking success has come against the following opponents: Gian Villante, Joey Beltran, Roger Hollett, Igor Pokrajac, Kyle Kingsbury, and James McSweeney. Of those fighters, only Villante and Pokrajac are still in the UFC, and they’re both probably one loss away from being cut. When Maldonado fought a vastly superior opponent in Glover Teixeira he landed a grand total of ten significant strikes in two rounds.
Miocic hasn’t faced the world’s strongest competition either, but he is coming off convincing victories over respectable opponents in Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson. He’s proven he can succeed at a higher level than Maldonado, at a higher weight class.
Secondly, Miocic has showcased much better effective striking defense than Maldonado. Miocic has absorbed 3.19 significant strikes per minute with 64 percent defense while Maldonado has absorbed 4.01 strikes per minute with 54 percent defense. Those numbers would be even worse for Maldonado if Gian Villante didn’t horribly gas out in their fight.
My expectation is that if this fight stays standing, Miocic will land a greater volume of strikes, hit harder, and potentially turn Maldonado’s face into a total mess. But even if Maldonado is able to keep the striking portion of the fight competitive, let’s not forget that Miocic is a very good wrestler who is more than capable of taking Maldonado down. Maldonado showed against Villante that he doesn’t have much of a ground game off his back. Miocic could easily decide to “play it safe,” take Maldonado down, and ground and pound his way to a virtually guaranteed victory.
This is a situation where I can’t imagine a scenario that favors Maldonado. If the fight stays standing, Miocic should have the advantage. If Miocic takes Maldonado down, Maldonado won’t have the grappling skills needed to reverse position or threaten submissions. There’s a chance Maldonado wins on points if Miocic decides to stand and bang, but even in that scenario I have to favor Miocic as he really is the better overall striker.
I like Maldonado’s chances of winning when he faces low-tier UFC light-heavyweights. As a replacement for Junior Dos Santos in a main event against Stipe Miocic… I don’t like his chances at all. This one could get ugly.
Pick: Stipe Miocic by TKO