It’s time for the Heavyweights to shine at UFC 203 in Cleveland. New champ Stipe Miocic gets to defend his belt for the first time on his home turf, with a card that boasts no shortage of dangerous strikers. But as we’ll see, not all strikers are created equal. And while some fighters excel in certain performance metrics, we’ll also see some who don’t.
So let’s take a closer look at the 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.
Alistair Overeem is the most precise striker in the UFC, with power head striking accuracy of 53%. That precision comes at the price of overall volume, defining Overeem’s standup style as hesitant, but always dangerous. As he’s recovered from some early UFC losses, Overeem’s more conservative style has helped him navigate the brutal Heavyweight division on the way to this title shot. However, the champ is no slouch with his boxing, with an above average accuracy rate that ranks third on this card, and much greater durability than the challenger.
In second place is Jimmy Rivera, whose power striking connects at an impressive 42%. He also manages to keep a high output against opponents while maintaining that accuracy. He’ll need that precision and pace against the crafty veteran Urijah Faber, who will likely use his wrestling base at some point in the fight. .
No one at UFC 203 has outworked opponents more than Brad Tavares. Averaging 12.4 strike attempts per minute while standing, Tavares throws 54% more volume than his opponents.
Also aggressive are Sean Spencer and Joanne Calderwood. Calderwood, especially, has averaged an extraordinarily high rate of striking, at 20.7 attempts per minute while standing. Coincidentally, so has her opponent Jessica Andrade, meaning that Women’s Bantamweight Matchup could start off as a barn burner.
The Heavyweights on the card all pack heat, but punch for punch it’s been Travis Browne who has dropped opponents at the highest rate. His knockdown rate of 8.0% is a big threat against former champion Fabricio Werdum.
Yancy Madeiros has also scored knockdowns at an impressive rate, especially for a Lightweight. His matchup with the assertive Sean Spencer is another fight that could see a lot of leather traded early.
Overeem and Miocic are also KO threats, but Overeem has historically been the more vulnerable one to knockouts. CB Dollaway has also dropped a few opponents, but the former wrestler spends nearly half of his fight time on the mat, usually in a position of control. So don’t expect him to try to trade for long.
Keep it on the Ground
Ray Borg has been not been much of a threat while standing so far into his UFC career. He doesn’t even throw half the strike volume his opponents manage, and of the strikes he does throw, his accuracy is poor. That’s probably because he’s too busy attempting takedowns. Borg attempts 1.4 takedowns for every minute he’s standing, far and away the most on the card. Expect him to test Ian McCall’s takedown defense early and often.