FanPost

Tracking 2013 Part 1: Weight classes in the UFC

This is a brief look at how the various weight classes have performed throughout 2013 in comparison to one another. It's worth noting that this is working merely on the public information of how many fights there have been throughout the year and how they ended, so that there's not all that much data, and it is prone to bias. Particularly in a less populous weight class, a fighter or two can drastically change perception and the subsequent numbers.

Regardless, even if statistical significance is hard to come by, it was interesting to see how some groups performed, particularly with respect to popular conceptions.

How many fights were there for each weight class this year?

Number of fights
Women's Bantam 16
Flyweight 18
Bantamweight 35
Featherweight 50
Lightweight 74
Welterweight 68
Middleweight 54
Light Heavyweight 32
Heavyweight 28

Chart_1_zps055867a8_medium

This follows the bell curve that you'd essentially expect from the body type of the average male- the lions share of the fighters coming between featherweight and middleweight, with outliers tapering off towards the very small (flyweight) and very large (heavyweight) ends of the spectrum.

There were more heavyweight fights than flyweights, however. This is due to both the UFC's heavyweight division being longer established than its flyweight counterpart, and that the UFC knows that casual fans like watching big bruisers more than little guys, and will therefore have more of a leniency towards "less talented" fighters who wish to fight at heavyweight. With more flyweight talent popping up around the world, and a notable trend of bantamweights dropping to 125, I would guess that flyweight will have more fights and fighters than heavyweight by the end of 2014.

135 for the women is just getting started- at the moment this is certainly a class where anyone who "can" make it to 135 will, as the salary and exposure in the UFC is leagues above what WMMA competitors can earn elsewhere. There aren't a great deal of high-level female 145 pounders in the world, so it's bolstered by a collection of women who would be better served at 125 or 115. The introduction of strawweight, the import of other fighters, how essential Rousey is as a lynchpin, and the potential long-term profitability of women in general are definitely interesting elements to keep an eye on in 2014.

Catchweights were not included.

Finishing Fights

Number of fights Submission (T)KO Decision finishing percentage
Women's Bantamweight 16 2 6 8 50.00%
Flyweight 18 1 9 8 55.56%
Bantamweight 33 10 8 15 54.55%
Featherweight 49 5 13 31 36.73%
Lightweight 71 18 19 34 52.11%
Welterweight 68 9 22 37 45.59%
Middleweight 54 12 16 25 51.85%
Light Heavyweight 32 4 13 15 53.13%
Heavyweight 27 3 19 5 81.48%

Chart_4_zpsae5e508a_medium

Heavyweights! That's the first thing you can take away from this analysis. With over 80% of HW fights ending before the final bell, the big guys unsurprisingly racked up by far and away the biggest finishing percentage of the year. This is both due to the physiological differences (big dudes hit harder), and the technical ones. More on this later.

Flyweights actually came in second, as a strong rebuttal to everyone who claimed that they would never finish fights. "But Phil!" I hear you cry. "You mentioned single fighters and their effects on finishing percentages. With so few flyweight fights, surely these numbers are being warped by Porky McBlubberchops, the tubby Brazilian who bludgeons his opponent's midsection like he's been told it's a pinata filled with Walkers crisps and feijoada? He shouldn't even count as a 125 pounder!"

John Lineker's weight-missing victories (and anyone else's) have not been included. In addition, any No Contests have been removed (which is why there are less total fights in this section).

Back on point, I believe much of the 125 destruction came from external high-ranking flyweights being imported and delivered fresh unto the twin slavering jaws of Benavidez and Dodson, as they continue to function as the Sagat and Vega sub-bosses to Mighty Mouse's Bison (who himself has put in sterling work).

The other notable element is that the three divisions which are widely thought of as being "the best" (145, 155, 170) posted the lowest finishing ratios. I do not think this is a coincidence. Defense is one of the hardest elements to learn in MMA, and as fighters get better conditioned and more technical, they become more likely to see the final bell. If you watch a regional MMA show, you will likely see over 90% of fights ending in the first round.

In addition, the sheer depth of the feather to welterweight classes allow more well matched contests- there's often a clear skill disparity between the fighters at women's bantam, flyweight etc, allowing the superior competitor to finish more often than not.

This contributes to why heavies have such an incredible finishing ratio- it is not merely due to the biomechanical factors, but because heavyweights tend to be (for lack of a better word) bad. A reasonably technically sound and well-conditioned heavyweight is a finishing machine.

Other than that, what is remarkable is how similar the weight classes are to one another at around the 50% finishing rate, which is also way higher than I would have thought.

Bonus hunting

Here's where things get sketchy. How "exciting" is a given weight class? One way of looking at this is by determining how many bonuses got picked up by its fighters. In order to avoid having the more populous weight classes swamping the numbers, I decided to do this by "percentage of fights which led to bonuses"

Total fights knockout of the night submission of the night fight of the night
Women's Bantamweight 16 0 1 2
0 0 0
Flyweight 18 2 1 1
Bantamweight 33 1 6 3
Featherweight 49 2 1 4
Lightweight 71 5 9 5
Welterweight 68 6 4 5
Middleweight 54 7 2 6
Light Heavyweight 32 6 4 3
Heavyweight 27 7 0 1

Chart_3_zps5fde005c_medium

Always the UFC's marquee division, 205 ran away with proceedings, with an astonishing 40.6% bonus rating. This isn't quite representative of how likely a single fight is to be awarded, as the Silvas Thiago and Wanderlei both doubled down with their KOTN/FOTN combos on Feijao and Stann respectively.

This segues nicely into the next point, which is that bonuses can be awarded quite arbitrarily. It's difficult to see how a single round of kickboxing which ended with Cavalcante gassing horrifically and being finished is a "fight of the night".

Dana and co. tend to nominate sloppy and/or bloody brawls over more technical battles. With that being said, there weren't that many cases where fighters got completely hosed this year- Poirier-Koch being gipped out of FOTN in favour of Hyun Gyu Lim-Krauss is the one which springs immediately to mind.

It's also relative. You could put on an absolutely fantastic fight, but if you're up against a FOTY contender, you're not (officially) walking away with a bonus. Add that to the extremely small sample size, and these stats probably don't mean a whole lot.

Other interesting notes:

  • Featherweight, despite lots of people being excited for it, didn't pick much bonus money up. Again, this is debatably partially due to increasingly well-matched fighters struggling to style on their opponents.
  • Middleweight used to have something of a rep as a bastard division which was cleaned out by Anderson Silva, but the influx of Strikeforce (and LHW) talent is really getting it cooking. In particular, it gained a big boost from the irrepressible Brazilian love of kicking people in the noggin.
  • Women's bantamweight officially has the highest "FOTN" rating, but this basically came down to Miesha Tate's two fights. Being fearless and coming forward relentlessly may not have won her any fights in 2013, and in fact got her finished twice, but it won her a ton of bonus money.
  • Bantamweight is apparently the weight class to go to if you like watching people get tapped out. Often by Urijah Faber.

Anyway, if you enjoyed this and want more statistically insignificant (and just plain incorrect) analyses, come back in Part 2, sharpen your pitchforks and get your Greg Jackson Firas Zahabi replicas ready, because I'll be looking at fight camps.

\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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