The UFC returns to Nashville this Saturday (April 22, 2017) before taking a multi-week break in the lead up to a blockbuster UFC 211 card in Dallas. Fight Night cards can be hit or miss, but in this case we’ll get a solid dose of some recognizable veterans.
The main event, like many other matchups on the card, will be a contrast of styles as long as the fight is standing. So it’s worth examining these fighters and their pending matchups with the benefit of their historical performance data to understand what strengths and weaknesses they might have.
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 distance knockdown in recorded competition. And lastly, southpaw/switch stance strikers are in red. Unorthodox strikers are rare, but are worth highlighting as some fighters have trouble with southpaws.
Mike Perry scored back-to-back knockouts in his first two outings, then fell short to Alan Jouban in his third. Along the way, Perry has shown highly precise counter-striking, landing 37 percent of his distance power head strikes. While his volume has been lower than opponents, precision combined with above average power has fueled a good start. Against seasoned veteran Jake Ellenberger, Perry will need that precision. Ellenberger also hits very hard and is somewhat tentative. So expect a feeling out process followed by a probable knockout.
With much higher sample size, main eventer Cub Swanson has landed 36 percent of his strikes against some of the UFC’s best. It’s even more impressive he maintains that accuracy while utilizing such a diverse mix of strikes. His opponent Lobov operates a low pace, and has much lower accuracy than Swanson – part of the reason Swanson is so heavily favored in the matchup.
Honorable mention goes to Sam Alvey, John Dodson and Marcos de Lima, who each have been precise with their own counter-striking, landing slightly more than 35 percent of their power head strikes.
Ovince Saint-Preux has had no trouble walking forward in the Octagon, and in doing so he has thrown 43 percent more volume than his collective opponents. While his accuracy suffers with such an aggressive posture, he makes up for by packing a lot of power into the strikes that do land. It’s interesting then that his opponent this weekend, Marcos de Lima, prefers to counter-strike, and does so with a lot of accuracy.
Brandon Moreno has also averaged a lot more volume than his opponents, but on normal overall pace, and just through two fights to date. Against Dustin Ortiz, employing a high forward pace might not be a good idea. Ortiz attempts a very high rate of takedowns, so he could look to use Moreno’s aggressive striking against him.
Light heavyweights Marco Rogerio de Lima and Ovince Saint-Preux have each dropped opponents at a very high rate. But despite OSP having scored twice as many knockdowns (6) than de Lima (3), it’s de Lima who has scored his with a higher Knockdown Rate. De Lima has yet to attempt a single takedown in the UFC, meaning this matchup could see fireworks, and an early ending for whoever can land the first big shot. It’s worth noting that de Lima has much better accuracy but worse defense.
Jake Ellenberger has the most recorded knockdowns of any fighter on the card with 11, but he is just slightly lower in Knockdown Rate than his opponent Mike Perry. Regardless, the two are both dangerous, and that makes two matchups where both fighters are capable of shutting the lights out.
Get it on the Ground!
Joe Lauzon hasn’t been afraid to trade leather, which has fueled some bloody wars and also massive respect from fans. But his pace of striking while standing is fairly reserved, and he hasn’t made up for it with accuracy or power. He’ll be facing a more aggressive striker this weekend in Stephen Ray. Lauzon has performed best on the mat, so this might be a fight where he tries harder to get it there.