The Pay-Per-View-Before-Conor-McGregor-Returns, also known as UFC 228, goes down this Saturday in Dallas with a solid main event and a statistical oddity co-main. And we can’t forget about the almost certain joy of Magomedsharipov-Davis sandwiched in between what could easily end up two beatdowns.
There are a lot of statistical similarities between welterweight champ Tyron Woodley and the young stud challenger Darren Till, and perhaps a few key differences. Meanwhile, there aren’t any meaningful numbers to crunch on the co-main women’s flyweight title fight since reigning champ Nicco Montano only has a single documented fight – her unanimous decision win over Roxanne Modafferi at The TUF 26 Finale last year.
This will be a quicker read than usual, so let’s get to 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.
Tyron Woodley vs. Darren Till
It’s not often a hot, young prospect gets a title shot off of what top judges and officials trainers in the sport saw as a clear decision loss, but hey, the three cageside judges didn’t see it that way at UFC Fight Night 130 so here we are. [Author’s Note: Wonderboy-Till got RoboJudge, too, putting Till at 68.4% to get the decision nod.]
The champ Woodley has pretty much kept his last five fights largely at distance, not clinching up anywhere near the level of old Strikeforce version of himself and attempting a grand total of only three takedowns, all against Wonderboy. The end result is that both Woodley and Till tend to spend a little over 3:30 of every five minutes fighting at distance, around 50 seconds clinched up, and the rest on the ground.
When they’re at distance, each fighter’s volume tends to be lacking with 6.5 and 8.4 respective head jab attempts per five minutes (P5M) for Woodley and Till and 23.3 and 25.8 power attempts, while a typical welterweight throws 19.2 and 32.8, respectively. But while volume might be lacking, their effectiveness certainly isn’t.
Except for head jabs against Woodley, opponents end up throwing the same or lower volume, leading Woodley and Till to out-land their competition by 4.2 and 4.9 respective power shots P5M, with Till also connecting on 3.1 more head jabs.
When it comes to connecting hard, a typical welterweight gets a knockdown in 9.3% of rounds. But Woodley and Till each more than double that number. Woodley’s dropped opponents five times in his last six fights and eight times in his last 10. Overall, he drops opponents to the mat in 22.0% of his rounds. And Till’s not too far behind at 19.8%, dropping his opponents four times in six documented fights.
On the defensive end, both fighters are statistically solid with each getting touched up by only 16% of head power strikes (28% average) and basically never getting knocked down (Nate Marquardt dropped Woodley once six years ago in Strikeforce).
If Woodley decides to try and dirty things up, Till’s been pressed against the cage 69% of the time he’s been in the clinch and gets outstruck at an enormous rate (-26.1 power strike differential P5M). Should Woodley try to move the fight to the ground, though, Till’s takedown defense has been a respectable 87% at distance and 81% in the clinch, and his rate of standing back up is 585% higher than the typical welterweight.
Will the UFC 228 main event be an exciting affair? I appreciate the strategy in Woodley’s game and the skills Till’s displayed, so perhaps that depends on your perspective. It may not get casual MMA fans blood flowing or sell through at a huge rate, but it’s a solid UFC title fight and should be a welcome competitive matchup right after Valentina Shevchenko probably walks through Nicco Montano.
Nicco Montano vs. Valentina Shevchenko
As of this writing, Shevchenko’s -1300 money line sets her up to handily be the largest betting favorite title challenger facing a crowned champion in UFC history, easily eclipsing GSP’s -500 against welterweight champ Matt Serra at UFC 83 and Ronda Rousey’s women’s record -190 versus featherweight champ Amanda Nunes at UFC 207.
Since Montano only has one documented fight, there’s no alternative stats or predictions for this matchup. Will Shevchenko will put a “Cachoeira” on Nicco? That’s the question we’ll ponder over the next few days.
Let’s just hope the Texas commission doesn’t mess around with the referee for this one.
Jessica Andrade vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Some things to watch out for in this fight. At 97%, Kowalkiewicz’s takedown defense from distance has been exceptional while Andrade’s takedown success has been decidedly average. But the clinch is a different story. From there, Andrade has landed an outstanding 64% and makes 10.8 attempts P5M, 201% more than an average women’s strawweight. At 82%, Kowalkiewicz’s clinch defense is well above average, but she might be defending a lot and if she gets taken down, she stands up 53.8% worse than average while Andrade drops solid power volume to the head and body.
Niko Price vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson
Jim Miller vs. Alex White
Predictions can be made for five of the 14 scheduled bouts. Be sure to return to Bloody Elbow on Saturday at 6pm ET for precise win probabilities and possible bets shortly before UFC 228 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.