Is Taking UFC Fights In Quick Succession A Good Idea?

Jul 21, 2012; Calgary, AB, CANADA; James Head (blue gloves) and Brian Ebersole (red gloves) during the welterweight bout of UFC 149 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-US PRESSWIRE

With Brian Ebersole's stunning loss to James Head at UFC 149, it brought up the question of whether or not the risk is too high for any fighter to take another fight mere weeks after their previous one. Ebersole had taken two fights in four weeks, winning against TJ Waldburger at UFC on FX 4 before taking the Head fight on short notice. Similarly, Dustin Pague won against Jared Papazian at UFC on FX 3 but two weeks later took on Ken Stone on short-notice on the same FX 4 card and lost a close decision. But Chris Leben proved you can win twice in two weeks with his wins over Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama, so what is the success rate? Luke Thomas from MMA Fighting crunched the numbers of all fights since 2005, and here are some of the results from the losers and winners.

The Losers

Brian Ebersole - defeats T.J. Waldburger by unanimous decision at UFC on FX 4 in late June. He then loses to James Head by split decision at UFC 149 one month later.

Rick Story - defeats Thiago Alves at 130 by unanimous decision in late May of 2011, but loses to Charlie Brenneman at UFC on Versus 4 by unanimous decision less than one month later.

Tito Ortiz - defeats Ryan Bader by submission in round 1 at UFC 132 in early July of 2011, but loses to Rashad Evans by TKO at UFC 133 just over one month later.

Anthony Johnson - defeats Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 in October of 2009 by KO in round 1. Loses to Josh Koscheck by second-round submission at UFC 106 in November.

The Winners

Chris Leben - defeats Aaron Simpson in the second round by TKO at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale in late June of 2010. Two weeks later, he defeats Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 by third-round submission.

Jon Jones - defeats Ryan Bader at UFC 126 in February of 2011 by second-round submission. Approximately five weeks later, defeats Mauricio Rua by third-round TKO at UFC 128 and earns the UFC light heavyweight title.

Danny Castillo - defeats Shamar Bailey at UFC 139 by unanimous decision in late November of 2011. Approximately five weeks later, defeats Anthony Njokuani by split decision at UFC 141.

Daniel Pineda - in his UFC debut, defeats Pat Schilling by first-round rear naked choke at UFC on FX 1 in late January of 2012, Six weeks later, defeats Mackens Semerzier by first-round triangle-armbar at UFC on FX 2 in early march.

Just to add some more number crunching and analysis of my own:

  • Of the 18 fighters who fought twice inside six weeks, 8 won their 2nd fight and 10 lost their 2nd.
  • Only Mike Brown and Xavier Poupa-Fokam went 0-2.
  • Only Josh Koscheck and Jason MacDonald lost their 1st fight and won their 2nd.
  • Anthony Johnson and Al Iaquinta are the only fighters who did not fight as injury-replacements in either of their bouts.

If anything, I was fairly surprised by the findings and how even the results were. You could say that these results are inconclusive and that there isn't a simple way of saying if fighters should be fighting twice in a short period of time. I believe there are other factors that play into this, such as level of competition, training for a different style opponent on short-notice, and varying fatigue-levels. There are other things we don't know or simply haven't been disclosed or are tangible enough to measure like injuries from the first fight or over-training.

On the surface, it seems like taking fights back-to-back has very individualized levels of risk and the outcomes suggest so at just near a 50-50 rate. For any definitive statement to be made we'll probably need more than just results and weeks between fights.

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