In what started out as a stacked main card, even without a main event, UFC 230 has morphed into quite the unusual fight card for alternative stats. Since predictions are made for bouts where both fighters have at least four fully-documented prior fights and aren’t heavyweights, only two UFC 230 bouts remain eligible: Weidman-Jacare and Branch-Cannonier.
Not only is the main event of DC-Beast being contested at heavyweight, but with monthly updates from FightMetric, I don’t still don’t have the data for Derrick Lewis’ UFC 229 comeback win on such a quick turnaround.
We probably don’t really need numbers to know that the +525 underdog Lewis isn’t going to have his cardio up in just a few weeks and – barring a freak injury submission – isn’t going to tap the heavyweight champ Cormier or win a five-round decision. Black Beast would seem to have in his favor pre-Volkov alternative stats knockdowns in roughly one out of every six rounds, a 172% better than average knockdown rate, and a 60% better than average knockdown percentage for the moments he’s able to keep his hands off his knees, and that’s about it.
Yet if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Black Beast, that just might be enough.
Remember, what you’re about to read for Weidman-Jacare are not official UFC statistics. They’re alternative stats generated from official statistics designed to (1) give more weight to the recent present than the distant past and (2) not let one huge or horrible performance dominate the data.
See the notes at the bottom for definitions of certain statistics and check out an earlier piece for an explanation of how this works.
With only two predicted fights and no bets coming, there won’t be a separate win probability piece on Saturday. They’ll just be listed at the end of each fight.
Chris Weidman vs. Jacare Souza
Hey, the fight I was dying to see three years ago is finally here! Better late than never, I suppose.
At 46 out of 100, both men have exactly the same bout closeness measure over 130+ Zuffa minutes each, slightly higher than the middleweight average of 40 (meaning they tend to be in slightly closer than average fights).
While both men tend to dominate on the ground, they still spend almost half (Weidman) and more than half (Jacare) of every five minutes exchanging at distance, a position where neither man’s stats are exceptional.
Weidman mixes up his distance attacks much better than Jacare with 11.0 head jabs and 21.8, 5.7, and 2.4 power shots to the head, body, and legs, respectively, per five minutes in the position (P5M). Meanwhile Jacare throws almost exclusively power to the head and body with his same four respective numbers going 3.1, 19.7, 8.8, and 0.3.
Both men tend to get out-landed by their opponents at distance, with neither possessing particularly strong head power defense (68% defended each vs. 72% average). And while very much able to drop their opponents, both men can also be susceptible to getting dropped themselves.
Of the four key distance striking metrics (head jabs, head power, body power, and leg power), Weidman and Jacare each tend to get out-landed in all areas but power to the body. Both have higher than average knockdown rates yet lower than average knockdown percents. On the defensive end, Weidman and Jacare’s statistical chins come off very similar in terms of their approximately average rate of getting knocked down and knocked down percent.
One thing to potentially watch out for is while Jacare’s been knocked down in 10% of his rounds (a lifetime stat), with all three times getting dropped to the canvas coming in his last six fights, his alternative stats version jumps up to 19.6% - more than double the average middleweight and 7.5% worse than Weidman’s 12.1%.
If they clinch up, Jacare tends to be the one pressing on the cage (65% of the time to Weidman’s 48%) and Jacare tends to dish out 2.1 more power strikes than he eats P5M while Weidman eats a full 7.8 more. Both tend to go into takedown mode in the clinch with Weidman attempting 8.2 P5M and completing 60% and Jacare trying 7.1 with 37% success (4.5 and 46% average).
Weidman also shoots for takedowns at distance with an extremely high frequency and success rate (4.5 P5M and 53% success vs. 1.3 and 28% average), but we’ll have to see if the BJJ black belt will decide to try to take things to the ground against Jacare’s world-class grappling talent.
Not since Tim Kennedy attempted five takedowns eight years ago in a losing effort in Strikeforce has anyone tried to take Jacare down more than once in a fight. And in his Zuffa career, Jacare’s only seen three takedown attempts (one each from Luke Rockhold, Francis Carmont, and Yoel Romero) and successfully defended all three.
As for Jacare’s offense, he isn’t much of a distance takedown artist and Weidman’s defense has been strong there at 87%. But in the clinch, even though his takedown success rate has been below average, Jacare’s volume has thrived and Weidman has appeared statistically weak defending clinch takedowns at 27%. Rockhold got him once in the clinch and Romero twice, which might affect how much weight to give that stat.
If they get to the ground, it’s another one of those situations where both guys tend to be on top, Weidman 85% of the time with half guard or better 34% of his control time and Jacare 80% of the time with half guard or better a hefty 68% of his control time. If Weidman does end up on bottom, he’s tended to stay there, standing up 20.5% worse than average and never sweeping. Jacare, on the other hand, has a standup rate 18.7% better than average and sweep rate a huge 1,079% better.
Both men are strong submission artists and neither has yet been submitted. But Jacare’s been a little more likely to attempt subs that can tend to lose him position should he fail, something that could be costly against Weidman’s ground and pound.
The fightbot model has Weidman over Jacare at 61.7%.
David Branch vs. Jared Cannonier
The fightbot model has Branch over Cannonier at 74.7%.
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 or the opponent’s back. 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.
Paul writes about MMA analytics and officiating at Bloody Elbow and MMA business at Forbes. He’s also a licensed referee and judge for the California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization (CAMO). Follow him @MMAanalytics. Fight data provided by FightMetric.