UFC 165 September 21, 2013 Heavyweights: Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: Two former Ultimate Fighter teammates (and both aspiring NFL players) will finally face off at UFC 165 when Brendan “The Hybrid” Schaub takes on Matt “Meathead” Mitrione. Since both fighters had their climb up the division ladder get derailed by knockout losses, both have also rebounded with a win earlier this year. Soon after announcing the bout each fighter fueled a minor war of words via Twitter, which may or may not be a legitimate animosity between them. Either way they will have to throw down this Saturday for final bragging rights, and one of them is going to be very disappointed afterwards. Mitrione is currently a -120 favorite over Schaub at +100. Let’s see what the numbers say, and where there might be value in the betting lines. Summary Stats:
Tale of Tape Matchup: These are both big boys, but Mitrione will be the one with the reach advantage, as he has one of the longest reaches in the entire UFC (he’s third overall behind Stefan Struve-83” and Jon Jones-84.5”. Schaub isn’t small either, but makes up for the reach disadvantage by being five years younger. Now that Mitrione is on the wrong side of age 35, he falls into the increased knockout risk range. That’s a bad place to be in the heavyweight division. So there are small factors at work on both sides of the tape here. Let’s move onto the performance metrics. Striking Matchup: Again, it’s a mixed bag. While Mitrione is the more accurate striker with better defense, Schaub has better cage control, slightly higher knockout power, and operates at a higher pace. Schaub should be the faster athlete of the two, but Mitrione’s solid striking metrics are worth acknowledging, regardless of his strength of prior competition. Both fighters have knockdown rates that are well above the heavyweight average, meaning there’s a good chance someone will be dropped in this matchup. But when it comes to point fighting, Schaub has the pace, control, and stamina while Mitrione has the accuracy and better defense. So Schaub doesn’t want to end up pursuing Mitrione and walking into anything, which might stifle his normal stick and move strategy. The first exchanges will tell us who really has the striking advantage, as I’m sure both fighters currently believe they are better going into this. It may boil down to who lands a big shot first, and that’s anyone’s guess. The accuracy and the reach favor Mitrione, but only if he can pull the trigger on his speedier opponent. Grappling Matchup: The ground game is more one-sided in favor of Schaub. He has used takedowns before, and lands them at an above average pace. His takedown defense is even better. Mitrione on the other hand, has yet to attempt a single takedown. That covers all UFC fights, which for Mitrione is his entire career. Let me be clear: Matt Mitrione, a veteran of eight MMA fights, has never attempted a single takedown. Ever. The Ground Control metric confirms the takedown tendencies. Schaub has been in control for that vast majority of his time on the mat, while Mitrione has been on the bottom more often than not. If the fight ends up on the ground, it will likely be Schaub who gets top control. While Mitrione has attempted some submissions, he has never secured one for a finish. Neither has Schaub, though he has faced more dangerous competition and has made grappling a bigger focus of his training regimen. Overall, the ground game favors Schaub. Reed’s Pick: Schuab by TKO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: I admit some personal bias here: I know Brendan, and I like the guy. While I pick him to win in what would be a slight upset, my real recommended play here is a general “Inside the Distance.” We see that on paper these guys are very evenly matched, and the betting line is therefore well placed at a near coin flip. I’ll use math to explain why a prop bet might be better. The average heavyweight finish rate is 74%. The odds for “Fight won’t go 3 round distance” in this matchup are -185, which make for an implied probability of 65%. Based on the profiles of these two fighters, I believe the likelihood of a finish is at least similar to the heavyweight average, if not higher. Both fighters have big KO power, and both are able to be knocked out. Despite the possibility of Schaub using his recently enhancing wrestling abilities to stay out of trouble, 15 minutes is a long time for these two sluggers to stay conscious in the cage together. Schaub makes an interesting upset pick, but the inside the distance prop seems lower risk.