UFC 183 goes down Saturday night in what's also being billed as the First-Jones/Cormier-Now-Silva/Diaz-for-Only-$5-More-Than-We-Paid-for-Dillashaw/Soto-and-DJ/Cariaso---Pinch-Me Bowl.
Most UFC pay-per-views have five or six bouts where both fighters have good enough data to be able to make a prediction. UFC 183 has ten. Hooray! It's not a super-stacked card, but it's the closest thing we've got to the olden days where everybody knew a fighters name and were at least glad they came.
Is Kelvin Gastelum the real deal? And why am I asking this question again when it was just asked for his last fight against Jake Ellenberger? Is Uncle Creepy ready for another crack at Mighty Mouse? How will Miesha Tate fare against another world class grappler? Does Ed Herman have any more than a puncher's chance against Derek Brunson? All will be revealed tomorrow night but we can at least see what the fight statistics suggest today.
As always, see the notes at the bottom for precise definitions of the statistics employed and read the introductory article for an explanation/reminder of how this works.
Anderson Silva (65.3%) over Nick Diaz (34.7%)
This is the type of situation where the analytics make me a bit uncomfortable. Meaningful results from data analytics is all about controlling as best you can for confounding factors and making sure your data has predictive value. That's hard enough to do in the typical MMA fight game, and now we're throwing in an extremely abnormal situation where Nick Diaz has been sitting out for almost two years while Anderson Silva's been out for over a year and is coming off a snapped twig. Uncomfortable, yes, but this is all just for fun anyway.
Silva and Diaz have 18 and 19 documented UFC and/or Strikeforce fights, respectively, for 154 and 234 minutes of total fight time. Anderson Silva's only lost by TKO (his latest two fights with Chris Weidman) and Nick Diaz has lost six times, all by decision.
The power advantage is Silva's by leaps and bounds, oodles and caboodles. Silva has almost as many knockdowns (17) as he does UFC fights (18). His rate of busting up opponent's faces while not on his back is 2 ½ times better than Diaz and three times better than an average middleweight. His damage percentage quadruples Diaz.
Things get even worse with knockdowns. While Diaz has seven career knockdowns, he's decidedly average or below average when viewed as a rate (per five minutes [P5M] at distance and clinching off the cage) or as a percentage of standing power head strikes landed. Silva's knockdown rate almost quadruples Diaz' and his knockdown percentage more than sextuples him.
Sextuple isn't a word we encounter every day in the fight game. I can't be sure but I think it means a whole hell of a lot more. Silva knocks his opponents down with 16.2% of his standing power head strikes. In other words, one out of every six Silva power shots that touches the opponent's dome at distance or in the clinch sends the poor guy crashing to the canvas. It's no wonder he's knocked down over 60 percent (11 of 18) of his UFC opponents.
The statistical dichotomy between these two incredibly successful fighters is a quant nerd's dream. They both spend more time than average at distance (2:43 for Silva and 2:39 for Diaz P5M) but that's where most of their similarities end. Silva throws 7.5 head jabs and 16.5 total power strikes P5M to Diaz's 56.8 and 36.6. That's just insane. Diaz's distance volume tends to be 657 percent more than Silva in head jabs and 122 percent more for power shots. How often do we see a crazy stat line like that between two very successful fighters?
Silva's more accurate in every key distance striking area. 41 percent of his power shots target the body or legs where his accuracy is over 75 percent. Even with his crazy accuracy, he still ends up landing only 4.1 head jabs P5M to Diaz's 22.6 and 9.3 power strikes to Diaz's 12.0. But remember, Silva's power is like Little Mac vs. Don Flamenco, except instead of needing five strikes for a knockdown, Silva takes six.
The real question at distance is who will be able to impose their game on the other more effectually. Diaz is a volume striker who gets his opponents into volume exchanges. He jabs you to death and is willing to trade power shots knowing that he's strong attacking your head and body (he almost never attacks the legs from distance) while he's better than average protecting his head and excellent at eating power shots and not going down. The end result is he lands 22.6 head jabs and 12.0 power strikes P5M to his opponents' 8.8 and 10.4, and those opponents knock Diaz down roughly 72 percent less often (rate and percentage) than a typical middleweight.
Silva's distance game is much more patient, measured and counter-ific. He's got the striking advantage from freaking everywhere and has never been taken down from a shot. Leaving his hands down helps get his opponents to headhunt, throwing 13.5 power strikes to the dome P5M and only 1.0 to the body and 1.9 to the legs. Only 14 percent of those power head strikes land, and before Chris Weidman entered his world Silva had never been knocked down. The end result is that Silva tends to land 4.1 head jabs and 9.3 power strikes P5M to his opponents' 2.0 and 3.6.
Silva's just an accurate dude. Often the media will quote one number, his overall accuracy. It's nice, concise and easily digestible. But Silva's an accuracy fiend even when breaking it down more finely. He lands 56 percent of his power strikes at distance, largely because he throws so many high percentage leg and body strikes. He lands 87 percent of his clinch power strikes, 75 percent to the head and 98 percent to the body with an almost even split in volume (and 100 percent to the legs, but those strikes are rare). On the ground, he lands 78 percent of his power strikes and has good volume.
Diaz has high volume everywhere but he only has strong accuracy with distance jabs to the head and power shots to the body. He's average in the clinch and below average on the ground, but he makes up for it with activity, grinding on you minute-by-minute, round-by-round like an annoying growth in your cauliflower ear that you just can't get to calm down.
At distance, Silva's never shot for a takedown and Diaz rarely shoots, but it's worth noting that Silva's takedown defense is better than average while Diaz is worse. Diaz is about average at clinch takedowns while Silva has strong clinch takedown defense. If they stay in the clinch, Diaz splits his time pretty evenly between the middle of the cage, pressing against it and being pressed against it while Silva's either being pressed against the cage (59 percent of the time) or Muay Thai clinching you in the middle (28 percent) trying to make you eat his milkshake or explode your innards.
Silva's biggest statistical vulnerability comes when he's controlled on the ground - he doesn't get the hell out of there. Firas Zahabi likes to tell his fighters to "sweep, submit or standup." The Silva version is "submit, submit or submit...is normal." And being controlled on the ground isn't beyond the realm of possibility. He's arguably spent meaningful time on his back in six of his 18 fights.
A typical middleweight gets 2.0 standups P5M being controlled on the ground. Diaz is even better at 2.4 while Silva's does a lowly 0.7. The typical rate for sweeps is 0.4. Diaz does 0.5 while Silva's at 0.1. Working from the bottom turned out okay against Travis Lutter and Chael Sonnen (barely), but do you think Silva will be able to catch Diaz in a triangle or submit him to strikes? Diaz rarely shoots from distance, but if he clinches up against the cage, he's known to go for lower body takedowns and the game could change from there.
Silva's only been outstruck with power the four times he faced Chael Sonnen and Chris Weidman (two each) and spent significant time on his back. Diaz, on the other hand, has been outstruck with power in eight of his 19 documented fights, losing six (only winning with a knockout against Robbie Lawler and an armbar against Cyborg Santos).
Who will impose their will on the other guy and dictate how the action takes place? The model has Silva at almost 2:1. We've got a number of extra variables that usually aren't in play, but man is it going to be fun watching it all play out.
Tyron Woodley (53.5%) over Kelvin Gastelum (46.5%)
It feels like Gastelum has power for some reason. But in reality, Woodley's got it in spades. Woodley's like an Anderson Silva Light (only in the power area). His knockdown rate is about three times better than average and four times better than Gastelum. His knockdown percentage is 11.1, meaning he drops people with one out of every nine power shots to the skull while standing. This is just 296 percent better than average and 484 percent better than Gastelum. Not too shabby.
At distance, Gastelum works the jab and power shots to the legs and body well. Woodley's an efficient and accurate striker, but not very active. He knows it only takes one shot - or nine.
The takedown battle could be interesting as Gastelum's landed 55 percent at distance (31 percent average) but Woodley defends at a 93 percent clip. Woodley's below average with takedowns at distance and Gastelum's never been taken down. The clinch is where Gastelum becomes mortal, falling to 3 of 4 upper body attempts and 2 of 5 lower body attempts. Meanwhile, Woodley's still trucking along at 92 percent clinch takedown defense.
It looks like we're shaping up for a standup fight unless Woodley wants to try to take things to the canvas. Gastelum stands up at twice the normal rate and has so far swept at six times the normal rate, so they may not stay there for long.
Miesha Tate (52.7%) over Sara McMann (47.3%)
When she's not fighting a stud named Ronda, "Cupcake" Tate usually wins, but it often isn't pretty. Tate's bout closeness measure is 57 (0 = in blowouts, 100 = in very close fights). The only fighter on tomorrow's card with a higher bout closeness score is Tom Watson at 59.
Sara McOlympian is Miss All-Takedowns-All-the-Time with 8.6 attempts P5M at distance and 6.0 attempts P5M in the clinch. In three UFC bouts, she's 5 of 7 from distance and 2 of 4 from the clinch. Tate's takedown defense is best at distance and not so hot in the clinch (although Rousey probably had a little to do with that). She's twice as good as average standing up from the bottom and hunts for submissions at twice the normal rate. So far, McMann's been excellent at getting people down but 33 percent worse than average keeping them there.
Derek Brunson (71.8%) over Ed Herman (28.2%)
Ed Herman is absolutely atrocious at punching people hard in the face (relative to a typical UFC fighter; please don't punch me). He throws roughly 22 power shots to the head P5M at distance, the same as Derek Brunson, but he only lands 15 percent to Brunson's 30 percent. Herman connects with a lot of head jabs, but those don't get nearly the credit from judges or do nearly the damage.
At distance, Herman's essentially been a living, breathing version of Century BOB as his opponent's connect with 47 percent of their head jabs (28 percent average), 43 percent of their power head shots (26 percent average), 67 percent of their power body shots (58 percent average) and 91 percent of their power leg shots (78 percent average). Overall, they land 55 percent of their distance power strikes (35 percent average).
That might just be why Herman only spends 1:10 at distance P5M (2:15 average and 2:16 for Brunson). The major problem for the Hermanator is that Brunson will very likely be the one to decide where this fight takes place. Brunson's never been taken down at distance or in the clinch and when things go to the ground, Brunson has control 95 percent of the time to Herman's 55 percent.
Ian Mccall (65.3%) over John Lineker (34.7%)
This is my co-main event of the evening. Little guys rule!
Rafael Natal (64.6%) over Tom Watson (35.4%)
Please don't suck.
Jimy Hettes (59.0%) over Diego Brandao (41.0%)
Please don't gas.
It's time to take that $5 you've been saving for 80 percent of a Chipotle burrito and throw it towards the new, higher pay-per-view prices, and enjoy the fights!
Notes: Strike attempts are for an entire five minute round in each position (P5M) and are categorized as jab or power. A jab is just a non-power strike. Strikes are documented based on where they land or are targeted (head, body, legs), not the type that is thrown (punch, elbow, kick, knee). Visible damage rate is per five minutes the fighter is not on his back. It's hard to bust up someone's face while lying on your back. Damage percentage is per power head strike and distance head jab landed. Knockdown rate is per five minutes at distance or in the clinch off the cage. Knockdown percentage is per power head strike landed while standing. It's really hard to knock someone down if they're already on the ground. Clinch control is having the opponent pressed against the cage. Ground control is having top position. Submission attempts are per five minutes of ground control minus time spent in the opponent's guard plus time spent with the opponent in guard. A bout closeness measure towards zero means a fighter is in blowouts (win or lose) and towards 100 means he is in very close fights.