[UPDATE 3/11/2011] The contest will close on Monday, and we'll have a winner on Tuesday. I urge you to check out PistonHyundai's Distribution of Win % Across Reach Differences and Terrence Chan's Low Hanging Fruit. And, of course, keep researching!
How much do you really know about MMA?
That's not an insult or a challenge to a trivia contest. The kind of knowledge we're referring to isn't about memorized facts, but the basic underpinnings of the sport. How much does anyone really understand about MMA?
Despite what we think we know, there are simple and fundamental questions about the sport that remain unanswered. And these are not even the deep and difficult questions that require complex mathematical formulas or specialized analysis. The questions we have in mind are ones that a group of smart MMA fans with access to the proper data should be able to answer with little trouble, it's just that they've never been given the chance.
To this end, FightMetric has joined forces with Bloody Elbow to create a Research Challenge, bringing the right data to the right people and giving you a chance to contribute to the advancement of MMA. We'll pose a single question to the Bloody Elbow community and provide a simple Excel spreadsheet with the relevant data. From there, we're asking you to look at the data, do some analysis, and write-up your conclusions in a FanPost (make sure to put the words "Research Challenge" somewhere in the title of the FanPost). The most compelling entry will be selected as the winner and promoted to the front page. Whether you choose to create a grand thesis or just make observations about a few interesting data points, you'll all be contributing to the discourse that helps further our undestanding of our favorite sport.
The first question we'll be looking at:
Does reach matter in MMA?
The answer might seem obvious given recent fights like Torres-Banuelos, where the fighter with the overwhelming reach advantage was able to jab his opponent into oblivion. But that answer only makes sense in the context of matches spent at striking distance. In MMA, the disadvantaged fighter can get to the clinch or the ground and the reach advantage is negated, and potentially a liability. To find out if reach confers a meaningful advantage in all cases, some cases, or no cases, we'll have to look at the data.
The provided spreadsheet contains information for nearly 1500 fights from the UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, EliteXC, and Affliction.. To reduce distraction when analyzing the data, we've removed all identifying information about the fights and fighters. The focus is simply on the winner's reach measurement, the loser's reach measurement, and the method of victory (draws and No Contests are not included).
Be thorough, be creative, even be contrarian if you like. There is no single correct answer here. It's not necessary to concoct the final words on these topics, just the first words.
Good luck and happy data hunting!