UFC 117 Post-Fight Analysis: Chael Sonnen, Zuffa Champions, Finishing and Being Finished

OAKLAND CA - AUGUST 07: Chael Sonnen walks to his corner in between rounds of his fights against Anderson Silva during the UFC Middleweight Championship bout at Oracle Arena on August 7 2010 in Oakland California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Following Dominick Cruz's bantamweight title win at WEC 47 I wrote this piece which gave a quick highlight of finishing rates among Zuffa champions. By winning the title, Cruz had become the first champion post-2007 to have a finish rate of under 50% the night he won the title. Cruz had a rate of 43% on that night. Then came UFC 112, Frankie Edgar and his 45% rate the night he beat B.J. Penn and we were up to two champions with sub .500 rates.

Coming into last night's bout with Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen had a 42% rate which would have made him the new "record holder." Of course, his inability to finish allowed Anderson Silva (career 74% finish rate) to hang around and eventually find a way to sink in a triangle armbar in the last moments of the fight.

Today we'll look at the other part of the fight finishing picture, being finished. This time, let's take a look at the Zuffa champions (including interim title holders and anyone who won or made a defense of a title) since 2007 and see where their career marks are in terms of "being finished." This time we'll be taking the percentage of their total career fights that the champions lost by knockout or submission.

Stats and lists in the full entry:

Here are the Zuffa champions or former champions who have been stopped in more than 15% of their career fights:

Randy Couture - 32%
Frank Mir - 28%
Mike Brown - 21%
Doug Marshall - 20%
Brian Stann - 17%
Brock Lesnar - 17%
Forrest Griffin - 17%
Chase Beebe - 16%

So from that list we have a 40+ year old who has been competing since 1997, Marshall and Stann who were not champions of a "top level" division, and Lesnar whose small number of fights adds a lot of weight to his one sub loss. Basically, there aren't a lot of high level champions who get stopped more than 15% of the time.

And here are the five Zuffa champions who finished less than 60% of their wins on the night they won the title:

Randy Couture - 57%
Lyoto Machida - 57%
Rashad Evans - 50%
Matt Serra - 50%
Dominick Cruz - 43%

Only one name has cross-over here and that is Couture, and I think this could be chalked up to a large portion of his long career being spent in an era of specialists.  So where do the other non-finishers stack up in terms of how often they, themselves, are finished?

Lyoto Machida - 06%
Rashad Evans - 06%
Matt Serra - 12%
Dominick Cruz - 06%

So, back to Chael Sonnen who almost broke the whole damn system last night. Chael has a stoppage rate that would have been the lowest for a champion in the post-PRIDE Zuffa era (42%) and has been stopped in 28% of his career fights, which would have been good for second worst during the same period.

The overall takeaway here should be that at the championship level guys who don't finish many fights generally need to be really damn good defensively and have a style that ensures that they are not making fight ending mistakes. Especially when the transition to championship level means the addition of two more rounds.

None of this is to say there can't be outliers or that guys like Sonnen can't come along and win a title. But, at least for one night, the numbers held up and Chael's inability to finish and tendency to be finished caught up with him.

 

Randy Couture - 32%
Frank Mir - 28%
Mike Brown - 21%
Doug Marshall - 20%
Brian Stann - 17%
Brock Lesnar - 17%
Forrest Griffin - 17%
Chase Beebe - 16%
Quinton Jackson - 13%
Mauricio Rua - 13%
Matt Serra - 12%
Brian Bowles - 11%
Anderson Silva - 10%
Jamie Varner - 10%
Steve Cantwell - 10%
Carlos Condit - 10%
Georges St. Pierre - 09%
B.J. Penn - 09%
Ben Henderson - 08%
Shane Carwin - 08%
Urijah Faber - 07%
Dominick Cruz - 06%
Jose Aldo - 06%
Rashad Evans - 06%
Lyoto Machida - 06%
Miguel Torres - 05%
Sean Sherk - 05%
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - 05%
Rob McCullough - 04%
Paulo Filho - 00%
Frankie Edgar - 00%

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