It may not be a title fight between the absolute best Middleweights on the roster, but the plot lines leading into the Bisping-Henderson rematch make for compelling MMA.
Will Bisping successfully defend his title as the third champion since the Anderson Silva era, and in doing so exact revenge for one of the most brutal knockouts in history? Or will Dan Henderson add a UFC belt to round out his collection, and prove himself the biggest spoiler of all-time by beating Manchester’s home-town hero before the their eyes and then promptly vacating the belt and dropping the mic on his long career?
Who knows? But we’ll be watching to see what happens. In the meantime, there are other reasons to watch the UFC 204 card thanks to the bookings of numerous dangerous strikers. But which ones are the best, and how so?
Let’s take a closer look at the offensive striking metrics for the fight card, 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.
Daniel Omielanczuk hasn’t spent much time on his feet using his hands, but when he did, he landed power head strikes with an absurd accuracy of 47%. That’s just behind the UFC leader and fellow Heavyweight Alistair Overeem at 52%. But with a low sample size, and a tough matchup against experienced striker Stefan Struve, we may not see much of this sniping here. He’s been quick to use takedowns and employ his wrestling, so expect some up close fighting.
Albert Tumenov places second on the list with 37% power head strike accuracy. Tumenov spends 75% of his fight minutes standing at a distance, leaning on a skill base that is heavily skewed towards striking disciplines in boxing and karate. His opponent, Leon Edwards, has spent only 33% of his time standing, though not necessarily by his own initiation having been taken down frequently. With similarly high performing striking stats, we could be in for a fun striking duel in this Welterweight matchup.
Iuri Alcantara has been up against solid talent in the UFC, and has maintained a fairly aggressive striking pace to date. He outworks opponents by 58% on volume in standup striking, which is a stark contrast to Brad Pickett, who tends to lag the pace of his opponents. But Pickett las only lagged opponents in relative shootouts that averaged a frenzied pace of striking overall, so he’s clearly capable of putting up volume. This could be yet another fun striking matchup, one that could last longer due to less power involved.
Ovince Saint Preux has also pushed opponents around the cage, although at a lower raw pace of output than Alcantara. Manuwa has operated a higher overall pace, but driven by higher output fighters. That may mean that OSP’s opponents have been reluctant to stand in the pocket with him, which as we’ll see makes sense given his Knockdown Rate. Yet another matchup that could lead to fireworks once they start trading leather, and probably won’t last long if they do.
Vitor Belfort tops the list in terms of Knockdown Rate, scoring eight knockdowns at an unusually high rate of 17%. Everyone knows he’s an explosive early threat, but the effects of time and the TRT ban could take their toll. He faces a younger and more technical striker in Gegard Mousasi, who should employ counters and movement to take advantage of Belfort’s aggression. But Belfort’s power always gives him a substantial “puncher’s chance.”
Ovince Saint Preux comes in second with a Knockdown Rate of 8% on six knockdowns scored. As noted, he faces a fighter likely willing to test the standup, but clearly OSP gets the edge in raw power. Both men are dangerous, but the numerical lean is towards Saint Preux’s power and resilience. This fight is a great test for each to see who can own the pocket.
Keep it on the Ground!
Leonardo Santos is most likely to try to avoid much standup in his Lightweight matchup against Adriano Martins. Santos is a 3rd degree BJJ black belt, and is quick to attempt takedowns. Facing a superior and precise striker in Martins, Santos would be wise to employ that strategy again. However, Santos’s takedown success rate is poor to date, so if he loses the position battle, he could be in for a tough night.