clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What is the UFC’s Performance of the Night bonus award?

After six months, do we know what Performance of the Night is? Paul Gift examines the data to see how the UFC is using its newest bonus award.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When the UFC announced the switch from Knockout of the Night (KOTN) and Submission of the Night (SOTN) to Performance of the Night (POTN) back in February, there was much speculation about how POTN would be used. Some suggested it might be used to reward individual fighters who put on amazing performances but don't finish their opponent. Others speculated it might be used to reward the two best finishes of the night regardless of whether they were a knockout or submission. Still others speculated it would effectively be a continuation of KOTN and SOTN but with the flexibility to always award two bonuses (e.g., awarding two knockout POTNs when there are no submission finishes on a fight card).

This speculation was back when POTN still had that new car smell. Now, we're six months into the POTN era and the new car smell is gone. It's a dinged up, stained, trash-filled ride with memories that perhaps we can learn from. 23 POTN events are in the books yielding 48 awards to play around with. Let's see what the data suggests the UFC might be doing with its newest award.


General Stats

Two POTN awards were given out in 22 of the 23 events, the lone exception being UFC Fight Night 41 which had four. Fight of the Night wasn't awarded at that event and instead there were three submission POTNs while C.B. Dollaway took home the only decision POTN to date in his fight against Francis Carmont.

Five of the 23 events had no submission finishes but multiple knockout finishes. All five events had two POTN awards for knockout finishes and, of course, nothing for submissions. Back in the Submission of the Night era, SOTN went un-awarded 17 times (9 percent of the time). 14 times there were no qualifying submissions, twice the only submissions were by strikes (submissions by strikes have never won KOTN, SOTN or POTN in the UFC - although Urijah Faber won a sub strikes KOTN vs. Joe Pearson at WEC 25) and once the only submission was Rousimar Palhares almost twisting off Mike Pierce's leg and therefore forfeiting his sure-fire SOTN award. Of the 17 times SOTN wasn't awarded, the UFC doubled up on KOTN only three times. To date, Performance of the Night is 5-for-5 on knockout award double-ups when there are no qualifying submissions so it's at least off to a great start for those who like seeing fighters get more money.

In the Knockout of the Night era, KOTN went un-awarded six times (3 percent of the time). Four times there were no qualifying knockouts, once there was only one knockout and another time there were two. Of the six times KOTN wasn't awarded, the UFC doubled-up on SOTN only once (UFC Fight Night 9). We haven't had the chance yet to test Performance of the Night when there are no qualifying knockouts, but based on the POTN knockout awards with no submissions, it's a good bet that POTN submission awards would be doubled up with no knockouts.

How is the UFC Using POTN?

With only 1-of-48 POTNs going to a decision win, the UFC definitely doesn't appear to be using POTN with any sort of consistency to reward strong individual performances that don't lead to a finish.

So is the UFC using POTN just like KOTN and SOTN but with more flexibility to double up on one type of finish (knockout or submission) when there's none of the other type? In the Performance of the Night era, the UFC followed the standard one knockout, one submission award format 11 of 23 times (47.8 percent). Of the 12 times it didn't, five events had no submission finishes so two POTN knockout awards was a no-brainer. But seven times they got a little crazy.

If we start with the baseline that the UFC is trying to use POTN just like KOTN and SOTN as long as there are qualifying finishes, the seven events in red would be abnormalities, straying from the standard one knockout, one submission award format when a qualifying finish occurs in both categories. Seven out of 23 not only feels substantial but is also statistically significant up to a null abnormality rate of 15 percent (20 percent if we exclude the five no-brainer events), so there's pretty decent evidence that the UFC isn't just using POTN as only a slightly more flexible KOTN and SOTN.

What about the idea that POTN may be used to reward the best two finishes of the night regardless of the finishing method? By this theory, the UFC no longer distinguishes between knockouts and submissions and simply awards POTNs to the two "best" finishes of the night.

For example, there were two submissions at UFC Fight Night 38 - both rear-naked chokes. One was relatively run-of-the-mill by Kenny Robertson and the other was mired in some controversy as Jussier da Silva head-butted Scott Jorgensen before going to the ground and getting the tapout. Meanwhile, Godofredo Pepey blasted Noad Lahat into never-never land with a one-shot, highlight reel, flying knee knockout and Dan Henderson unloaded the H-Bomb on Shogun Rua after clearly losing the first two rounds.

While the quality of the finish likely matters here, one thing we can do with the raw data is a means test between knockout finishes relative to all finishes and knockout awards relative to all POTN awards. Excluding the five events where the awards were essentially pre-determined because of no submission finishes, we find that if all finish types are truly treated equally by the UFC, knockout POTNs appear to be slightly underrepresented, although this difference isn't yet statistically significant. While an uncomfortably simplified analysis for my liking, the UFC could very well be treating all finish types the same and selecting the best two for POTN.

Some caveats are that fighter performance could still matter when a finish occurs as well as the quality of the finish. The best way to answer many of these questions is to build out a more comprehensive statistical model that incorporates fighter performance and measures of finish quality. I haven't attempted this yet, but based on what I observed during my Fight of the Night analysis, more data is likely needed to get strong results. It wasn't very difficult to control for important factors for Fight of the Night awards, but POTN may be a bit trickier.

At its six month anniversary, it seems pretty clear that the UFC isn't using POTN to reward individual fighters who put on a show but don't finish, nor are they using it as the old Knockout and Submission of the Night awards and simply doubling up when one type of submission doesn't occur. Right now, we're in the zone where it's not clear if the UFC has completely eliminated the distinction between knockout and submission finishes for POTN awards or if they're trying to mostly stick with the one knockout, one submission format but are willing to get a little crazy when two high-quality KOs or subs occur. Subjective opinions can definitely be formed and I can certainly think of situations where I would've doled out POTN differently, but for a more objective analysis, time (and data) will tell.

Note: My KO/TKO and submission numbers may not perfectly align with the official statistics as I treat things like injuries, throwing in the towel and drug violations a bit differently. TKOs/submissions by injury or retirement are not counted since they have never won a bonus award. A submission by strikes is counted as a TKO. The original outcome is used for bouts later overturned for drug violations.

Are there any fight questions you'd like analyzed? Send them to or @MMAanalytics on Twitter. Fight data provided by FightMetric.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bloody Elbow Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your MMA and UFC news from Bloody Elbow