Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos – UFC 166 Statistical Analysis and Fight Pick

UFC 166 October 19, 2013 Heavyweight Championship: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics   Big Picture:  It’s a trilogy fight that people actually want to see, and a fitting matchup between the two most dominant men in the heavyweight division. The score is tied between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos from two dominant performances that transpired in very different ways. Each man remains the only competitive counterpart of the other, so who’s to say there won’t be more rematches to come? Velasquez is currently a -200 favorite over Dos Santos at +170. Let’s see what the numbers say.   Summary Stats:

Fightnomics Uber Tape - Velasquez-JDS

Tale of Tape Matchup: Despite slight difference in their bios, the two fighters are essentially equal. Junior dos Santos is taller, but they have identical reach which is the more important size metric. Both fighters have had identical layoffs, and are still in their fighting prime. The only question mark will be the health of each fighter, as hidden ailments may have contributed to each of their prior losses against each other. That means we’ll need to look closer at the performance stats to get an idea of how this will go down.   Striking Matchup: On paper, Junior dos Santos has the best stand-up in the heavyweight division. And that was true even before he hit a spinning heel kick to put former K-1 champion Mark Hunt away. His accuracy stats are ridiculous, even more so when we realize he normally outworks his opponents by 70% on volume. He keeps a fast pace, controls the action, and lands on target more often than anyone. Except when he fights Velasquez. Looking at Cain Velasquez’s stat-line reveals he’s solid across the board, but definitely not as amazing as dos Santos. That’s the tricky thing here. These two faced each other for five straight rounds in their last fight together, and it was Cain Velasquez that put a beating on JDS included dominant stand-up striking and some cringe-worthy bombs that somehow didn’t finish the fight. The one distance striking metric where Velasquez outperforms JDS is the knockdown rate, where punch for punch Velasquez has scored knockdowns at a higher rate than dos Santos. That’s another paradox, given that it was JDS that finished Velasquez in the first fight, and despite a barrage of nasty strikes Velasquez was unable to finish JDS in the second fight. What’s the explanation? I think it has something to do with Velasquez’s wrestling.   Grappling Matchup: The ground game leans to the favor of the champ. Velasquez attempts takedowns early and often, and went 11 for 33 in the second fight with dos Santos. That has resulted in Velasquez being in control on the ground for 97% of his career time on the mat, which is just ridiculous. That same number for JDS is only 36%, meaning more often than not when he goes to ground he’s been on his back. Dos Santos rarely attempts takedowns, and while he defense is good, the relentless attack of Velasquez was enough to plant dos Santos on his back at least once per round in their last fight. I think that was the real difference. On paper dos Santos has the cleaner striker skills, but when you mix in the threat of takedowns Velasquez was able to capitalize on the compromised striking defense of dos Santos and win the fight all over the cage. The ground game will also be the safety valve for Velasquez if he’s ever in trouble. He’s tossed around the biggest fighters in the business, and will be able to do more of the same should he feel the need. Furthermore, mixing in takedowns will make the rest of his attack all the more effective.   Reed’s Pick: Velasquez by TKO (click for latest MMA odds)   Reed’s Recommended Play:  These guys both have the skills to win a fight on any given night, even against each other. But the all-around fight game that Velasquez should be able to employ on two healthy legs should be enough to be the more effective fighter. Velasquez is also superior in the clinch, tending to control fighters along the cage, which also nullifies the best weapon of dos Santos, and drags him into deeper water. The longer the fight goes the better off Velasquez will be withstanding the powerful punches of dos Santos. Fortunately, the betting line here is not an outrageous one for an incumbent champ, and presents enough value for a straight up play on Velasquez at -230. I think Velasquez could get a finish, but given how durable dos Santos proved to be in their last fight, trying to bet the over/under doesn’t seem to present much value as a ground and pound finish could come at any time. If you’re going with Velasquez, consider small props on either fighter finishing by TKO, as a submission is highly unlikely. You can get Velasquez by TKO at +155, or dos Santos by TKO at +250. These guys may have gone the full five rounds in their last fight, but that was the only time in the last five years heavyweights went the distance in a title fight.

Written by Reed Kuhn

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