The number crunching was delayed this week due to the UFC’s antitrust motion for summary judgment and the 112 attached exhibits I got to comb through. With that over, it’s Stat Mode on the two big little-man rematches of the night – one that I’ve broken down before and hasn’t change much and the other whose numbers have never been alternative stats crunched.
UFC 227 goes down tonight in Los Angeles in a less-than-stellar card with a stacked final two bouts that were surely accidentally flip-flopped in their main and co-main event locations.
Had to be an honest mistake.
The man, Demetrious Johnson, goes on around 11:30pm ET and I cannot wait. Let’s jump into it and maybe it’ll get here faster!
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.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt
When last analyzing this matchup for UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden, I wondered if we should even spend any time on clinch and ground stats since Garbrandt spent a total of three seconds of every five minutes in the clinch, Dillashaw’s clinch takedowns were pretty subpar, and while his distance takedowns were on point at 51% (now 47%), opponents were 0-for-7 against Garbrandt in that department (now 0-for-8).
When they stepped in the Octagon at UFC 217, exactly three seconds were spent in the clinch, 11 seconds were on the ground, and the remaining 7:28 was contested at distance. Dillashaw attempted one takedown and failed.
The stats in the previous matchup suggested a slight statistical edge to Garbrandt, but with a huge “No Love” power edge. Garbrandt had also never been knocked down. Did one night change things in alternative stats world? A little.
Garbrandt still has the offensive knockdown rate and percentage edge (defined below), but his defensive knockdown rate is now roughly equal to Dillashaw’s (0.27 vs. 0.28) while his defensive knockdown percentage is double that of Dillashaw (2.6% vs. 1.3%).
Garbrandt still throws virtually all power at distance with 48.3 power strikes attempted per five minutes (P5M) to only 5.3 head jabs while Dillashaw still mixes things up well to the head, body, and legs with solid volume (17.9 head jabs attempted P5M and 44.1 power shots of which 6.2 and 5.4 are to the body and legs, respectively).
In terms of differentials, Garbrandt now absorbs only 0.2 head jabs more P5M in order to connect with 4.8 more power shots P5M than his opponents while Dillashaw lands only 1.4 more head jabs P5M and only 1.5 more power shots.
The overall alternative stats story hasn’t changed much from UFC 217, but these also aren’t the exact numbers that enter the prediction model. We’ll see what it has to say at 6pm ET today at Bloody Elbow.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Henry Cejudo
On to what should be considered the main event of the evening with the pound-for-pound best fighter in the solar system running it back with an opponent Cejudo who’s looked outstanding in his last two appearances.
At distance, the first thing that stands out is DJ’s huge power differential. The man with the most title defenses in UFC history lands 8.2 more power strikes P5M than his opponents (to Cejudo’s very solid 6.2) and does so while making 7.2 fewer power attempts P5M than Cejudo (34.5 to 41.7). While both fighters mix things up well to the body and legs and have solid accuracy, DJ lands 6% more of his power strikes to the head (37% to 31%) while absorbing 6% fewer (16% to 22%).
In the knockdown department, Cejudo’s stats are mostly better than DJ’s. But when switching over to knockdown defense (if there is such a thing), the flyweight champ’s defensive knockdown rate is 97.5% lower than Cejudo’s while his defensive knockdown percentage is 2/3 less.
In the takedown game, DJ’s been slightly vulnerable at distance, defending at about an average rate. But Cejudo doesn’t attempt those to the extent one might think an Olympic wrestler would (1.5 attempts P5M). And while Cejudo attempts a slightly above average rate of clinch takedowns (6.3 P5M) and lands 46%, DJ defends at an above average 60% and, most importantly, pops back to his feet 120% more than an average flyweight. When it comes to keeping opponents on the ground, it’s the Olympic gold medalist has actually been 6.3% worse than average while the P4P king DJ is 37.9% better.
While both fighters almost always have control on the ground (85% for DJ, 100% for Cejudo) and DJ spends 1:55 of every five minutes in the position to Cejudo’s 54 seconds, the flyweight champ likely won’t be there for long if Cejudo gets on top, and it’s more than possible that DJ actually puts an end to Cejudo’s perfect takedown defense record. If he does, DJ’s 42% submission finish rate could come into play.
Hell, even if he doesn’t, it could come into play in mid-air.
Cub Swanson vs. Renato Moicano
Pedro Munhoz vs. Brett Johns
Predictions can be made for four of the 12 scheduled bouts. Be sure to return to Bloody Elbow later today at 6pm ET for precise win probabilities and possible bets shortly before UFC 227 starts.
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.