The rematch of Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will headline this weekend’s return to Vegas at UFC 202, which will be the promotion’s second appearance at the new T-Mobile Arena. McGregor and Diaz always draw a crowd, and after the upset of McGregor in their first fight, interest in the rematch should be solid. Part of the reason is that both men generally deliver exciting fights, and as we’ll see, should they stand and bang things will get interesting fast.
So let’s take a closer look at offensive striking metrics, and see which fighters excel in their standup game, and specifically how.
How the Graph Works
This balloon (or bubble) chart includes the fighters competing this weekend with sufficient sample size. Many of them will move with more cage-time, but it’s a good snapshot of how they’ve performed to date.
The four metrics in the graph are all related to offensive striking. First, the vertical axis is the power head striking accuracy. This is a general reflection of a striker’s skill level in technique. But some fighters are more aggressive than others, while some are primarily counter-strikers, and those characteristics lead to very different striking styles. So the horizontal axis indicates the ratio of strike attempts while standing compared to the same fighter’s opponents. It’s a measure of output, and a proxy for aggression. An even 1.0 ratio means a fighter matches the pace of their opponents when standing and trading, while a higher number shows more aggressive and higher-volume strikers compared to lower ratios indicating counter-strikers.
The dots are plotted based on those two metrics, but two more variables are also shown. The size of the bubble is based on the fighter’s Knockdown Rate in the UFC/Strikeforce/WEC. Bigger bubbles mean a lot more power, while the small specks indicate fighters who haven’t logged a knockdown in recorded competition. And lastly, southpaw/switch stance strikers are in red. Lefties are rare, but are worth highlighting as some fighters have trouble with Southpaws.
Conor McGregor tops the list in terms of power head strike accuracy. It’s no surprise that he likes to keep fights standing, and he’ll likely do so again against Diaz. McGregor lands a whopping 43% of his distance head strikes with an arsenal that brings plenty of power, and often includes a lot of kicks. But the matchup with Diaz is still two weight classes above where McGregor earned most of these numbers, and that what keeps this fight hard to predict. Daiz was the first opponent McGregor faced with a range advantage. McGregor may be the more accurate striker here, but he’ll need to deal with a rangy opponent capable of taking some shots and delivering his own accurate striking in return.
Neil Magny has been a grinder in the UFC, and on top of his high pace, he’s be landing distance head strikes with good accuracy. That contrasts with Raquel Pennington, who has also been very accurate, but has done so primarily as a counter-striker, allowing opponents to set the pace.
Again Neil Magny shines on paper for his oppressive pace that outworks opponents by 65% on volume while standing. Magny is one of the rangiest fighters in the UFC, and is able to use his frame to keep opponents where he wants them. The question this weekend will be whether he keeps it on the feet against dangerous striker Lorenz Larkin, or tries to close the distance and stifle Larkin up close and personal.
Another dominant striker who has used volume to push opponents around the cage is Nate Diaz. He typically throws 52% more strikes than opponents while standing at a distance. Although he started as the more reserved striker in round one against McGregor in their first fight, Diaz picked up and did serious enough damage with his hands to set up the eventual submission finish in round two. Considering that McGregor likes to press forward, this should mean plenty of violent exchanges between these two.
Anthony Rumble Johnson is already on the record books, and he still appears to have plenty of fights left in the tank to push is way up further. He’s currently tied for 3rd in UFC history with 12 knockdowns scored, one behind Lyoto Machida, and chasing the all-time great Anderson Silva at 18. Rumble drops his opponents at a staggering rate of 13% per landed power head strike.
Also worth mentioning is Donald Cerrone, who has racked up 13 knockdowns between WEC and UFC action combined. His Knockdown Rate of 7.7% is very impressive for a Welterweight, although he earned most of those at Lightweight. He’ll have his hands full with Rick Story, but Cerrone is always a threat when trading leather.
Keep it on the Ground
Considering the threat of Anthony Johnson’s power striking, Glover Teixeira would be wise to use his ground game early and often. Teixeira has decent hands, but historically has not been able to keep pace with opponents. Against Johnson, Teixeira doesn’t match up well on the feet. His best path to victory is to try to draw Rumble forward and time a takedown to neutralize the biggest threat, and put Johnson at his biggest disadvantage. It’s worth noting that despite having a wrestling base, Johnson has been submitted four times in the UFC. However, getting Johnson to the ground is not an easy task – he has 79% takedown defense.