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UFC 238: Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes alternative stats

A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 238 fight card in Chicago.

UFC 238 goes down in Chicago on Saturday night. With two belts on the line and some entertaining matchups, it has the paper makings of a fun card.

Flyweight titlist Henry Cejudo will try to become the 3rd or 4th, hell I’ve lost count, champ champ in UFC history as it’s all the rage these days. Meanwhile the women’s flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko, will do her best to not get Joshua’d.

With some fun fights on this card, the two title bouts will get a deeper dive and then some interesting alternative stats will be shared for Ferguson-Cerrone and Suarez-Ansaroff.

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.

Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes

While Moraes is a grizzled veteran of the sport, he only has five documented Zuffa bouts to work with. That’s how this data game works so that’s what we’re using.

With three first-round finishes and two decisions, Moraes only averages 8:33 of fight time each bout, yet he still manages to have a higher than average bout closeness score. To date, he’s never busted up a face (in the UFC) nor had his face busted. Meanwhile, Cejudo’s only been on the receiving end of a documented facial beating by Demetrious Johnson back at UFC 227.

While the Olympic gold medalist Cejudo is no stranger to the takedown and top control game (98% top control on the ground), he’s been willing to stand and trade at distance for 3:21 per five minutes (P5M). Moraes is at distance for 4:25 P5M mainly because he’s thus far been able to stay out of the clinch. In 35 minutes of UFC fight time, Moraes has 59 seconds in the clinch, or about eight seconds every five minutes. In that time, he’s thrown only one power strike and been on the receiving end of five.

When operating in space at distance, Cejudo’s been the volume power striker (49.8 power strikes attempted P5M with 43% accuracy to Moraes’ 33.4 and 40%) while Moraes’ knockdown percentage more than doubles Cejudo’s (8.2% to 3.0%). Moraes throws out the distracting and sometimes damaging head jabs more frequently (12.1 vs. 4.5 P5M) while Cejudo is usually chambering power and rarely targets the legs (only 2.2 power leg attempts P5M).

Both fighters have nice power differentials at distance (+8.8 Cejudo, +6.0 Moraes) and better than average head power defense, but Moraes has done a better job mixing up his power attacks to the head, body, and legs and peppering head jabs as part of his arsenal.

If a takedown does come from distance, it’s probably Cejudo, who shoots at about an average rate and lands a respectable 42%. Moraes’ defense has been slightly better than average while his standup rate has been incredible so far – three standups in 28 total seconds of being controlled. If Cejudo can work the clinch game, his takedowns come even more frequently, yet his finishes aren’t quite as strong.

Both guys tend to be top control fighters and neither has ever been submitted at the elite level of MMA (including WSOF). While Moraes is a slight favorite, the odds are pretty close to even at the moment. This may not end up a barnburner, but it should be an enjoyable scrap.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Eye

No fight is ever a lock in MMA, but this statistical matchup is not one of the prettier ones you’ll see in a UFC championship fight.

The flyweight title challenger, Eye, has never shot a single takedown at distance. When she clinches up, she attempts takedowns at about an average rate and has slightly below average success, but she’s probably going to be thinking more about defending any Shevchenko trips that may come her way.

The champ Shevchenko has been effective taking opponents down at distance or in the clinch, the latter of which she attempts at more than twice the frequency of an average flyweight with the same success rate (49%).

If it goes to the ground, Shevchenko tends to be on top 70% of the time to Eye’s 39%, and Eye has never swept and rarely stands back up (0.4 standups P5M being controlled, 1.3 women’s flyweight average). Shevchenko lands 74% more power shots P5M than average and 196% more than Eye from top control and the champ is 2-of-3 on her submission attempts, although Eye has yet to be tapped.

But all fights start at distance, and this is where the matchup might just be statistically the ugliest. One interesting stat is that neither fighter yet has a documented knockdown. Meanwhile their distance striking differentials are stark.

Shevchenko is on the plus side of every distance differential metric, going +1.5 with head jabs, +0.2 with power to the legs, +1.4 with power to the body, and, saving the best for last, +11.0 with power shots to the head P5M. Eye’s only to the good on two metrics, +3.7 in head jabs and +1.8 in body power. She gets outstruck to the tune of a -2.2 head power differential and -0.3 with power to the legs.

Throw in that Shevchenko tends to get her all-important noggin out of the way so she only eats 17% of opponents’ head power shots (28% for Eye, 31% average) while never being knocked down (Eye has once and her defensive rate and percentage are slightly better than average), and there’s a clear predicted winner here. It won’t exactly be the -1,400 odds at which Shevchenko currently sits as of this writing since the fight computer basically never gets into the 90% range, but it’ll be up there.

This is still MMA, though, where we’re constantly reminded that anything can happen.

Tony Ferguson vs. Donald Cerrone

How crazy is it to think that at 36 years old Cerrone has 41 Zuffa bouts under his belt, 93 rounds, and 408 minutes in the cage?

Note: All remaining statistics do not include Cerrone’s most recent outing four weeks ago.

The first alternative stats that stand out at distance in this matchup are Ferguson’s volume, throwing 26.4 head jabs and 51.5 power strikes P5M in the position (13.5 and 37.3 for Cerrone). Both guys land their power shots at around 50%, but Cerrone has the clear knockdown advantage while Ferguson very likely has the cardio edge.

Cerrone basically gets a knockdown in almost 1-in-4 rounds (with alternative stats weighting), which would be even higher after the Iaquinta fight. Ferguson, on the other hand, drops foes in about 1-in-20 rounds. When it comes to getting dropped, both hit the canvas at a roughly similar rate and percentage.

While I always remind readers that cardio is difficult to measure, Ferguson has some pretty sick numbers in the fourth and fifth rounds relative to the first. Yet his stats come back down to earth in a three-rounder as he’ll be in on Saturday night. In Ferguson’s second and third rounds, his rate of landing distance power shots increases 46.2% and 30.9%, respectively. For Cerrone, his rate barely increases 0.1% in the second with a respectable 18.2% increase between the first and third.

Other considerations: Ferguson’s ground power volume is insane, likely because of the active, power elbows he loves to throw from his back. He slaps on subs at a 220% higher than average rate and gets a tap at almost double the average rate. Cerrone hasn’t been tapped since Ben Henderson’s guillotine back at WEC 48, but if he ends up on bottom, he’s only stood up one time since facing Anthony Pettis back at UFC on FOX 6. Cerrone’s generally on top (75%) with Ferguson on bottom (15%), but no matter the position, each of these world-class mixed martial artists is pure danger from anywhere.

Not bad for the co-co-main event. Bring on the regulated violence.

Tatiana Suarez vs. Nina Ansaroff

A few quick interesting stats here. Suarez only spends a respective 33 and 25 seconds P5M fighting at distance and in the clinch. That means she’s on the ground for 4:02 of every five minutes, 96% of that time bringing hell from the top. She’s active and drops bombs from top control, and is 2-of-2 on her submission attempts.

In getting the fight to the ground, Suarez has landed 97% and 84% of her respective distance and clinch alternative stats takedown attempts. Both are pretty insane numbers, but remember they come from the bare minimum four documented bouts.

In six documented bouts, Ansaroff’s distance takedown defense has been exceptional at 93%. The clinch is where she’s been more vulnerable (and about average), so watch out for that. If she can keep it standing and in open space, Ansaroff has good volume and solid striking differentials.

That’s a big “IF” against Suarez.

Jimmie Rivera vs. Petr Yan
Pedro Munhoz vs. Aljamain Sterling
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Alexa Grasso
Ricardo Lamas vs. Calvin Kattar
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Joanne Calderwood

Predictions can be made for nine of the 13 scheduled bouts. Be sure to return to Bloody Elbow on Saturday for precise win probabilities and possible bets before UFC 238 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.

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