The UFC heads to Rio on Saturday where “Thug” Rose Namajunas will defend her strawweight title for the first time against someone not named Jedrzejczyk when Jessica Andrade steps in the Octagon for her second chance at the strap.
Anderson Silva also returns in what’s being billed as the co-main event, even though former long-time featherweight champion Jose Aldo clashes with Australian up-and-comer Alexander Volkanovski, thus far undefeated in the UFC, on the same card. Oh yeah, and Hall of Famer B.J. Penn will voluntarily get locked in the cage again in what will probably be a depressing affair.
The stats are ready, so let’s get at it.
Remember, what you’re about to read 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.
Rose Namajunas vs. Jessica Andrade
Both fighters tend to spend around three of every five minutes operating in space at distance. The biggest difference upon initial inspection of the statsheet is power volume. Andrade more than doubles Namajunas’ output (82.6 power strikes attempted per five minutes in the position, P5M, vs. 40.8) while still being able to land more accurately than the champion (42% to 39%).
As is often the case, Andrade’s opponents return fire with more power output as well (61.2 power strikes attempted P5M vs. 36.1 for Namajunas’ opponents). Most end up targeting the head where Andrade’s defense has been significantly worse allowing 37% of power shots to connect while Namajunas only lets 22% get through. The net result is Andrade tends to outland her opponents by a +7.7 power strike differential at distance while Namajunas isn’t too far behind at +5.1.
Also watch out for Namajunas’ head jabs where she’s had a +2.1 differential P5M to Andrade’s -3.4.
In the “drop you” department, both fighters get knockdowns in 9% and change of their rounds and both have knockdown rates well in excess of the strawweight average. But Namajunas has been more efficient, with a knockdown coming in 1.2% of her standing power head strikes landed to Andrade’s 0.7%.
While each fighters’ takedown attempt volume increases dramatically in the clinch, the thing to watch out for at distance is Namajunas’ defense, which has held up only a disappointing 29% of the time, as well as the champ’s offense, which while infrequently used has landed 47% of the time (32% average).
Both fighters tend to spend between 23-40 seconds of every five minutes in the clinch where each tends to be doing the cage pressing 62-64% of the time. Once again, Andrade has a wide volume edge, landing nearly 50 power shots P5M to Namajunas’ 18.5. But both fighters also tend to prioritize takedown attempts in this position and have had strong success. A typical strawweight attempts 3.7 clinch takedown attempts P5M and lands 39%. Namajunas and Andrade go for 8.1 and 10.7, respectively, and land at a 63-64% clip. On the defensive end, Namajunas has been about average while Andrade has let 64% of opponents’ attempts fell her to the mat. Yet since dropping to strawweight, only Tecia Torres has off-balanced Andrade to the canvas from the clinch, twice.
On the ground, Andrade has top position 83% of the time to Namajunas’ 56%. Andrade once again throws more power volume, but Namajunas maintains an active guard and has finished 50% of her UFC submission attempts. While two of her three sub finishes were technically snatched from the standing position, both were during the transition as her opponent was trying to get back to her feet and secure good positioning. And with 2-of-8 sub attempts tapping her out, Andrade has been catchable in the submission department.
Neither fighter maintains top control terribly well (Andrade has been worse) and both fighters standup or sweep better than average when they’re on the bottom (Andrade has been better).
The stats point to a fun fight. It could end up mostly at distance or could end up all over the place. Here’s hoping for some clinching, ground work, scrambles, sub attempts, and maybe even head crack or two.
Jared Cannonier vs. Anderson Silva
As the co-main event in name only, I’d rather devote time to the co-main in spirit - Aldo vs. Volkanovski.
Yet a quick perusal of the statsheet shows that at just over zero or negative, both fighters’ head jab and power differentials at distance are less than spectacular. They both knock people down pretty well though, so that could be fun. And while you might think of Silva’s chin fading later in his career, he still only gets dropped with 1.5% of power shots to the head while standing. Cannonier hits the canvas with 8.4% of those shots.
Neither fighter has ever attempted a single takedown from distance. So if this thing doesn’t clinch up – where perhaps Cannonier will attempt one – bring on the kickboxing.
Jose Aldo vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Both men know how to bust up a face; Aldo at 3x the featherweight average, Volkanovski at 2.6x. Both men have knockdown power; Aldo in 10% of his rounds, Volkanovski in 20%. Yet both are droppable, although Aldo’s only fallen to studs named McGregor and Holloway.
The positioning of this fight will be interesting as Aldo’s been excellent at staying out of the clinch and off the ground. Tending to spend 4:17 of every five minutes at distance, Aldo only spends 17 seconds in the clinch (46% neutral off the cage, 30% being pressed onto the cage) and 25 seconds on the ground (56% on top).
Volkanovski, on the other hand, spends almost as much time on the ground (1:58 of every five minutes, 76% on top) as at distance (2:07). The remaining 54 seconds he spends in the clinch, pressing opponents into the cage 78% of the time and attempting 9.9 takedowns P5M while landing a respectable 40%. The problem, of course, is that Jose Aldo is a stud at takedown defense (88% in the clinch, 96% from distance).
Judges aren’t supposed to care about failed takedown attempts; they’re looking for damage. Volkanovski has done that to the tune of 50.6 power strikes landed P5M while on the ground (15.6 average), but will he be able to get and keep Aldo there? Opponents stand up against Volkanovski 60% better than the average featherweight.
In addition to searching for takedowns, Volkanovski does damage in the clinch with 20.1 power shots landed P5M (14.4 average). But which timeframe will tend to win out, Aldo’s 17 seconds or Volkanovski’s 54 seconds?
That leaves distance where each man throws solid volume and connects better than average. Yet their defense is such that their differentials aren’t spectacular. Aldo tends to eat 3.8 more head jabs P5M than his opponents while Volkanovski lands 2.9 more. Aldo lands 0.7 more power strikes P5M than opponents while Volkanovski eats 0.9 more. In terms of mixing things up, Aldo tends to work a little more to the body with power than Volkanovski while Volkanovski tenderizes a little more to the legs, but both are predominantly head strikers.
When that power comes to the head, neither avoids it well with Aldo absorbing 37% of power head strikes at distance to Volkanovski’s 32% (29% average). Which leaves Volkanovski’s takedown shots, where he’s been 5-of-9. And we’re back to Aldo’s spectacular distance takedown defense.
It all makes for what should be an interesting fight. The fight computer has most fights predicted to be close on the night, and this is one of them. Bring it on.
Clay Guida vs. B.J. Penn
It sure is depressing seeing my former favorite fighter sign on for what will probably end up a regulated beating. Penn’s now sitting on six losses in a row with none terribly close outside of a second round uppercut knockdown on Dennis Siver.
Penn’s alternative stats are flat awful. At distance, he still throws out head jabs at a good clip (27.1 P5M) and lands at 35%. But at 15.7 P5M, his power volume is less than half the lightweight average (34.5) and opponents probably know he goes almost entirely to the head (14.9 of the 15.7). In his 26-bout UFC career, Penn’s only attempted 14 and 43 respective power strikes to the legs and body at distance, compared to 536 to the head.
Unfortunately, alternative stats give more weight to recent fights and Penn’s Octagon performances after locking eyes with Frankie Edgar at UFC 112 have been about as close to a 180 degree turn as you can get in this sport. Penn’s alternative stats striking differentials are -0.3 on head jabs at distance and a whopping -11.8 for power strikes. It sadly seems the UFC Hall of Famer has turned into a statistical power punching bag.
Guida still attempts takedowns religiously, still has a strong gas tank, and has top control on the ground 85% of the time. Penn ends up on bottom 64% of the time and hasn’t attempted a submission since Jon Fitch, and before that against Kenny Florian 10 years ago.
Anything can happen in MMA, but we may very well be looking at a puncher’s chance or a Jon Jones’ toe situation here.
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Diego Ferreira
Irene Aldana vs. Bethe Correia
Warlley Alves vs. Sergio Moraes
Predictions can be made for seven of the 13 scheduled bouts. Be sure to return to Bloody Elbow on Saturday for precise win probabilities and possible bets before UFC 237 starts.
Statistical Notes: A bout closeness measure towards zero means a fighter tends to be in blowouts (win or lose) and towards 100 means they tend to be in very close fights. Strike attempts are per 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. Knockdown/Damage round percentage is the percentage of rounds with at least one knockdown or busted up face, respectively. 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.
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.