UFC on FOX 8 July 27, 2013 Lightweights: Mike Chiesa vs. Jorge Masvidal By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: To finish off the FX undercard before the FOX broadcast begins this weekend, the UFC is putting two lightweight fighters quietly amassing solid records. An undefeated “Ultimate Fighter” winner is facing a sneaky, seasoned, Strikeforce veteran still in his prime. And one of them can emerge with a 3-fight win streak worthy of better card status in the future. But despite Chiesa’s perfect record and scrappy history of upsetting favorites, the current line favors Masvidal at -280, implying a ~74% win probability. Let’s look at their performance metrics to see how they stack up. Summary Stats:
Tale of Tape Matchup: Chiesa has the traditional striking advantages of long reach and a southpaw stance. But given his style as primarily a grappler, these advantages won’t do much for him. Regardless of reach and stance, if he chooses to stand and trade with Masvidal he’ll be at a significant skill disadvantage. Another important factor is that despite 31 career fights, Masvidal is only 28 and still in the prime of his athletic career. Though he’s been in the sport a while and many fans may have guessed he was older, Masvidal has the benefit of long experience minus the negatives of old age. Standup Game: The striking stats confirm what we already know about the two fighters: Masvidal is a seasoned striker, and Chiesa is not. Masvidal has knockdown power that is average for UFC lightweights, but also combines a very high pace of striking with superior accuracy that will go a long way towards winning rounds. Another variable is striking defense and again Masvidal shows up above average, while Chiesa is below average. The longer they stand and trade, the more Masvidal should win the exchanges by slipping Chiesa’s abysmally inaccurate jab to get inside his range. So the big question will be: what happens if this goes to the ground? Ground Game: Here’s where Chiesa hopes to get things going. He has attempted a very high rate of takedowns in the UFC to date, and has the second highest rate of attempts on the entire UFC on FOX card (Salas-5.9). But his success rate landing those attempts has been well below average. Masvidal on the other hand, has faced plenty of takedown attempts in his cage time, and defended a very high 84% of them, which is way better than average. And despite being known as a striker, Masvidal has been decent at landing takedowns himself, and has controlled opponents for the vast majority of his time spent on the mat. Chiesa’s favorite technique is the Rear Naked Choke. He is on a 5-fight win streak literally using only this method for victory. Reminiscent of former TUF standout Cody McKenzie, who at one point had 10 straight submission victories by guillotine choke (or “McKenzietine”), Chiesa also has a dangerously reliable way to finish fights. But with McKenzie, once the go-to attack failed, there was no Plan B. The biggest question in the fight is whether or not Chiesa will get Masvidal’s back. There’s a lot hinging on that one factor. But knowing this, Masvidal should be prepared, and again, his ground game isn’t bad at all. Fight Prediction: Masvidal will be tentative at first due to Chiesa’s range advantage and takedown threat. But as Masvidal gets more comfortable, he should start pulling the trigger and getting the better of Chiesa standing up. Chiesa will no doubt try to get this to the ground, and will be most threatening during scrambles as he attempts to get his opponent’s back. But I think Masvidal is at a point in his career where he should not only be prepared for that strategy, but will be skilled enough to defend it. Despite Masvidal having faced opponents who attempted more takedowns than he attempted on his own, 74% of his fight time has been standing and trading. Without any other clear weapons in his arsenal, Chiesa may fall short on offense, and doesn’t have the defense to deal with Masvidal’s crisp striking attack. Reed’s Pick: Masvidal by Decision Reed’s Recommended Play: A straight play on Masvidal at -280 doesn’t bring too much value, although I think he makes a good play for Round Robins or Parlays. The Over of 1.5 rounds at -215 isn’t bad either. But “Fight Goes the Distance” at +105 and Masvidal by Decision at +165 are both reasonably valued picks. Generally speaking, lightweights finish 50% their fights, so the slight plus money on going the distance is right on target, but is boosted by the fact that both these guys should prove tough to finish. Though Masvidal’s hands are sharp, they’re about average in terms of power. And Chiesa is still young and yet to suffer any knockouts. Masvidal will be better off using volume and accuracy to win rounds rather than get too risky looking for a fast finish. And although Chiesa’s submission skills are dangerous, Masvidal has the benefit of years of high level experience. If you rely on Masvidal for parlays or otherwise play the favorite, consider a small hedge on Chiesa by submission (+350). Or better yet Chiesa in Round 1 (+725), which is the most likely way he will pull off the upset.