Fighting by Numbers: Expected vs. Actual TKOs and Submissions

LONDON ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Carlos Condit of the United States defeats Dan Hardy of Great Britain by knock out during their UFC welterweight bout at the O2 Arena on October 16 2010 in London England. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

In the last Fighting by Numbers, I introduced a formula which predicted the amount of finishes we should see given the number of fights in each weight class over a given period. In this iteration, we'll expand on that idea and look at the expected number of TKOs and submissions versus actual TKOs in submissions in the UFC.

First, let's introduce the two new formulas we'll be working with.

Expected TKOs formula:

(HW * 0.605) + (LHW * 0.419) + (MW * 0.377) + (WW * 0.345) + (LW * 0.228) = eTKO

Expected submissions formula:

(HW * 0.157) + (LHW * 0.179) + (MW * 0.316) + (WW * 0.246) + (LW * 0.314) = eSUB

The coefficients represent the average finishing rate for each weight class by its respective type. For instance, if we take the last 10-fight window, we have 22 lightweight fights, 26 welterweight fights, 24 middleweight fights, 15 light heavyweight fights, and 13 heavyweight fights. By those numbers we should expect 37 TKOs and 26 submissions.

In the past, we were only able to look at submissions as a general trend in the UFC. But as I pointed out in the last piece, the weight a bout is contested at has a lot to do with what kind of finish we should expect. Heavyweights and light heavyweights tend to knock each other out while the lighter weights shade more toward submissions.

The following graph shows data from UFC 39 through 122, broken up into 10-event windows to smooth out variance.


(Click on the image for higher resolution.)

Not only do TKOs see more variance over a period of time, but they deviate further away from the expected amounts than submissions. And look at the tail end of that graph. Now would be the appropriate time for someone to write that "Is Kickboxing in Danger in the UFC?" article that we've all been dying to read.

Let's take one other look at the relationship between TKO and submission finishes. If we look at the counting numbers for each result type, we're ignoring the fact that the UFC has seen a fairly significant rise in decisions since the fall of Pride. So, we'll eliminate decisions from the equation and look at the ratio of TKOs to submissions.


(Click the image for higher resolution.)

In a sense, this confirms the tail end of the first graph. We're seeing more submissions relative to TKOs. It's prudent to note, however, that this looks like a standard fluctuation in the data. This is the lowest we've seen the ratio between TKOs and submissions in years, but it isn't uncharted territory either. The UFC hasn't been taken over by an army of vengeful black belts in 2010. TKOs will rise again. Submissions will fall. And someone will argue that sloppy kickboxing is taking over MMA.

It's been nearly two years and 35 events since Josh Gross first wrote about his concerns about the role of submissions in high-level MMA. I thought the hysteria was premature, and I think this data supports that notion two years later.

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