Salary Cap Game Adjusted Strategy (UFC 136)

About fifteen minutes after I published my previous post on the new MMA Salary Cap game, I thought of a much better way to make stat-based play decisions. Calculating the spread between two fighters' stat differentials was interesting, but the results spoke more to who might win the fight than the quality of performance each contestant could produce. Since players collect points based on the latter and not at all the former, my initial approach needed some redirection to be of any particular use.


Expected Fantasy Points

The MMA Salary Cap Challenge assigns fantasy points to fighters in five categories. The number of points in each category is equal to the number of successful techniques executed per minute, inflated by a predetermined multiplier, as follows:

  • Knockdowns: x25
  • Significant Strikes: x2
  • Takedowns: x10
  • Submission Attempts: x20
  • Ground Passes: x10

The goal of the game is to predict how all ten individual fighters might perform, based on how their strength and weaknesses match up across the five bouts.

A simple but effective way to estimate these performances would be to find the average of one fighter's technical success over his last three bouts and his upcoming opponent's past failure to avoid being damaged or controlled.

As an example, Frankie Edgar has averaged 6.67 fantasy points in the significant strikes category over his last three fights. This translates to 3.33 strikes landed per minute, increased by the game's x2 multiplier. Conversely, Gray Maynard has failed to avoid an average of 3.13 strikes per minute from his past three opponents, or 6.27 fantasy points after applying the multiplier. The average of these values yields the 6.47 fantasy points that Edgar could be expected to earn from significant strikes landed on Maynard. For his part, Maynard's past fantasy points in the same category amount to 4.38, while Edgar's past opponents averaged 4.75, for an expected score of 4.565. Based on the data provided, Edgar is more likely to outstrike Maynard in their approaching encounter, but that's only one piece of the puzzle. Here's my take on the provided FightMetric data:


Leonard Garcia Nam Phan
Last 3 Opponents' Expected Fantasy Points Opponents' Last 3
Knockdowns 0.00 0.00 0.000 0.000 0.00 0.00 Knockdowns
S. Strikes 6.82 10.67 7.655 9.980 8.49 9.29 S. Strikes
Takedowns 0.44 0.33 1.440 0.165 2.44 0.00 Takedowns
Sub Attempts 0.00 1.11 0.000 0.775 0.00 0.44 Sub Attempts
Ground Passes 0.00 1.56 0.110 0.890 0.22 0.22 Ground Passes
Total Expected Fantasy Points 9.205 11.810 Total Expected Fantasy Points


Melvin Guillard Joe Lauzon
Last 3 Opponents' Expected Fantasy Points Opponents' Last 3
Knockdowns 11.11 0.56 5.555 2.365 0.00 4.17 Knockdowns
S. Strikes 10.80 3.42 7.135 6.490 3.47 9.56 S. Strikes
Takedowns 0.00 1.11 0.625 1.665 1.25 2.22 Takedowns
Sub Attempts 0.00 0.00 0.835 2.780 1.67 5.56 Sub Attempts
Ground Passes 0.00 0.00 0.625 2.985 1.25 5.97 Ground Passes
Total Expected Fantasy Points 14.775 16.285 Total Expected Fantasy Points


Chael Sonnen Brian Stann
Last 3 Opponents' Expected Fantasy Points Opponents' Last 3
Knockdowns 0.00 0.00 0.000 3.960 0.00 7.92 Knockdowns
S. Strikes 8.25 2.41 5.295 6.295 2.34 10.18 S. Strikes
Takedowns 2.64 0.14 1.915 0.070 1.19 0.00 Takedowns
Sub Attempts 0.28 2.17 0.615 2.395 0.95 2.62 Sub Attempts
Ground Passes 2.17 0.36 1.560 0.180 0.95 0.00 Ground Passes
Total Expected Fantasy Points 9.385 12.900 Total Expected Fantasy Points


Jose Aldo Kenny Florian
Last 3 Opponents' Expected Fantasy Points Opponents' Last 3
Knockdowns 1.00 0.00 0.780 0.000 0.56 0.00 Knockdowns
S. Strikes 6.94 3.19 5.005 4.145 3.07 5.10 S. Strikes
Takedowns 0.67 0.13 1.115 0.640 1.56 1.15 Takedowns
Sub Attempts 0.27 0.00 0.135 0.480 0.00 0.96 Sub Attempts
Ground Passes 0.67 0.13 0.445 0.785 0.22 1.44 Ground Passes
Total Expected Fantasy Points 7.480 6.050 Total Expected Fantasy Points


Frankie Edgar Gray Maynard
Last 3 Opponents' Expected Fantasy Points Opponents' Last 3
Knockdowns 0.00 1.00 0.000 1.000 0.00 1.00 Knockdowns
S. Strikes 6.67 4.75 6.470 4.565 6.27 4.38 S. Strikes
Takedowns 0.93 0.67 0.665 1.090 0.40 1.51 Takedowns
Sub Attempts 0.53 0.27 0.530 0.270 0.53 0.27 Sub Attempts
Ground Passes 0.13 0.13 0.065 0.245 0.00 0.36 Ground Passes
Total Expected Fantasy Points 7.730 7.170 Total Expected Fantasy Points


With the expected fantasy points calculated, the most useful way to organize them is on a leaderboard of individual fighters, disregarding the match-ups.


Expected Fantasy Points Leaderboard
Rank Fighter Points Cost (Rank)
#1 Joe Lauzon 16.285 $18 (2)
#2 Melvin Guillard 14.775 $28 (1)
#3 Brian Stann 12.900 $14 (5)
#4 Nam Phan 11.810 $13 (6)
#5 Chael Sonnen 9.385 $17 (3)
#6 Leonard Garcia 9.205 $10 (7 tie)
#7 Frankie Edgar 7.730 $10 (7 tie)
#8 Jose Aldo 7.480 $15 (4)
#9 Gray Maynard 7.170 $8 (9)
#10 Kenny Florian 6.050 $7 (10)


Remember that this leaderboard doesn't reflect how "good" a fighter is. The fighters are arranged according to their rate of offensive output compared to the defensive shortcomings of their respective opponents. Further, fighters who have in the past excelled at performing techniques with high multipliers will easily climb the leaderboard, especially if they face an adversary with a known disadvantage against those maneuvers.

The last thing to mention is that making a play at the Salary Cap game has a different cost for each fighter, based on how well the game's design team expects that fighter to perform. For UFC 136, Melvin Guillard is the most expensive fighter (at $28 per play), little wonder. However, according to his and Joe Lauzon's recent fights, Lauzon is just barely more likely to outperform Guillard than vice versa. Even if Lauzon gets flattened in the third round, he has historically demonstrated the striking defense, takedown and grappling acumen, and frenetic rate of activity necessary to stay ahead on points (fantasy points, to be specific). All that being said, any amount of plays on Lauzon at $18 could very well turn out to be much wiser investments than the same amount on Guillard at $28.

(Edit: I added a cost/cost rank column. If a fighter's cost rank is higher than his fantasy points rank, I would consider him overpriced. That doesn't mean he wouldn't be worth a play, just that there may be higher gains elsewhere.)

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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