The UFC has often gone big in Texas, and UFC 211 in Dallas this Saturday (May 13, 2017) should live up to that billing. It’s perhaps the strongest fight card of 2017, with two titles on the line, and several potential future title contenders competing further down. So we should expect some solid skills among this batch of fighters.
Who is best in class in their stand-up game, and how good exactly? Let’s break down the card to find out…
How the Graph Works
This balloon (or bubble) chart includes the fighters competing at UFC 211 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.
Dustin Poirier, with over 2.5 hours of Octagon time has managed to maintain one of the highest power striking accuracies in UFC history. Landing 41 percent of his power head strikes from a distance, Poirier has also put some heat behind those strikes. His matchup against Eddie Alvarez pairs with a more reserved and less accurate striker.
Current heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic has landed 39 percent of his power head strikes, but on a more reserved volume. Although he’s more accurate than his opponent Junior dos Santos, Miocic will be the one more likely to counterstrike, while dos Santos should be controlling the cage.
Honorable mentions go to James Vick, Jessica Andrade and veteran Jorge Masvidal.
Jason Knight is 3-1 in the UFC to date, and through his four fights, he has outpaced opponents by 89 percent while standing. Even though his accuracy has suffered, his matchup against Chas Skelly shows a pace mismatch as long as the fight will be standing.
More notably (and reliably), women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk has shown fast-paced and aggressive striking, with a gas tank that never quits. Even if she’s lost occasional early rounds, she has pulled away as the fight goes on. That ability will be critical against a competent striker in the challenger Jessica Andrade, who has been ready and willing to trade in high-paced fights.
Also noteworthy are Junior dos Santos and Yair Rodriguez, who are both accustomed to dictating the stand-up pace, with each facing more reserved strikers as opponents.
Dos Santos once held the heavyweight title, a feat that is not typically accomplished without knockout power. His boxing has always been strong, and with six knockdowns to date, his Knockdown Rate of 5.4 percent is the highest on the card, and well above the heavyweight division average.
With limited sample size, southpaw Gabriel Benitez has a Knockdown Rate of 4.3 percent, but only on a single knockdown scored.
With a much more reliable sample size, Poirier has a Knockdown rate of 4.2 percent, with 10 knockdowns scored, more than any other fighter on the card by a long shot. Poirier’s precision and power combination make him very dangerous at long range, and he will also have a four-inch reach advantage over Alvarez.
Get it on the Ground!
Demian Maia may be one of the most feared grapplers on the planet, and he is currently in title contention at welterweight. But in fights where he’s been forced to stand, he’s been far less successful. His hesitant and inaccurate striking is hardly effective for the purpose of actually landing strikes, but rather more to set up takedown attempts. Against Masvidal, who has been on a roll with his stand-up, this liability will create a sense of urgency for Maia to get to the ground early.