Benson Henderson vs Josh Thomson – UFC on Fox 10 Statistical Analysis and Fight Pick

UFC on FOX 10 January 25, 2014 Lightweight Matchup: Benson Henderson vs. Josh Thomson By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics   Big Picture:  After an injury shuffle for UFC on FOX 10 we have Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson facing off in the main event. Neither of these two own at belt at the moment, which is a little unusual. Thomson had earned a title shot with his upset TKO victory over Nate Diaz, but champion Anthony Pettis was sidelined for this event. Stepping up to the plate is Pettis’s last opponent, former champion Henderson. It’s a tough spot, because a win for Henderson will eliminate the next contender, while not necessarily earning Henderson a third fight with Pettis. But that doesn’t mean this fight won’t be worth watching, because as we’ll see, these two should make for a very competitive fight. Former WEC/UFC champion Henderson (#1) is currently a strong -290 favorite over former Strikeforce champion Thomson (#4) at +245. What do the numbers say?   Summary Stats:

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  Tale of Tape Matchup: The Tale of Tape gives two advantages to Henderson in stance and age. Henderson is a Southpaw, which gives him a slight bump all around. And Thomson at 35 will actually be the oldest fighters competing on the card, putting him into the danger zone for decreased knockdown resiliency.   Striking Matchup: The striking matchup here is mixed. Though Thomson could be considered as having the better standup striking – which the historical stat-line supports – we have to remember the context for Henderson’s numbers as well. Henderson spent a lot of minutes against an elusive Frankie Edgar and other skilled talent, which has likely depressed Henderson’s metrics slightly. On the flipside, Thomson has spent 75 minutes in the cage with Gilbert Melendez and shared other common opponents, managing to come out with very high jab accuracy and a knockdown rate well above the lightweight average. Impressive. When it comes to connecting on exchanges, Thomson may well have the advantage here, and despite his older age, hasn’t really showed a tendency to fall down – his knockdown defense rate is actually stronger than Henderson’s despite both having the same number of knockdowns received. But pulling Thomson back is his pace. He only throws 80% of the volume of strikes compared to his opponents. Meanwhile Henderson tends to outwork his opponents by a small margin, and even when hurt makes a fast recovery. These factors are critical in terms of winning rounds, and the stats suggest that the volume ratio is one reason why Henderson tends to get the edge in close fights, while Thomson was on the losing end. Not shown here is the time in control in the clinch position. Henderson spends over 20% of his fight time engaged in the clinch, and he’s in control for most of it. Meanwhile Thomson has generally be controlled by opponents when in the clinch. Henderson is strong for a lightweight, so look for some clinching on the fence to mitigate the risk of Thomson’s strikes and also to wear him down.   Grappling Matchup: Both fighters have fared well on the ground, and both fighters show performance stats that are above average in many ways. But small edges here favor Henderson, who has famously competed in high-level jiu-jitsu competitions during his “down time.” He is more likely to attempt takedowns, and is slightly better than Thomson with his takedown success rate, takedown defense, and time in control on the ground. Though Thomson has historically attempted more submissions, I generally expect the ground matchup to be a stalemate between two highly skilled grapplers.   Reed’s Pick: Henderson by close Decision (click for latest MMA odds)   Reed’s Recommended Play:  Henderson’s big game experience and heavy motivation to make up for his recent loss will certainly mean he will bring his A-game yet again. And while Thomson will do the same knowing a title shot is on the line for him, his hesitancy and desire not to make any mistakes could lead him to drop some early rounds. Both guys prove very difficult to finish, and a submission is unlikely. My lean is towards Henderson to simply be the busier and more controlling fighter, which goes a long way on the scorecards (as he already knows). Still, -290 is a lot of juice for Henderson against a skilled striker and well-rounded defensive fighter like Thomson. I don’t recommend that straight up play. The over of 4.5 rounds is -195, which seems a little better for value, but skip that if you’re picking a decision ending and go with Fight Does Not Finish Inside the Distance at -180 instead. Odds of finishing a fight in the final 2.5 minutes at Lightweight are very low. So now you’re looking at a market implied probability of 64% that this fight goes the distance, which based on the history of both fighters is a reasonable bet. Neither one of these guys is an easy target, so it’s a good bet that this fight takes five rounds. For the risk seeking, Thomson by TKO is currently returning +800. Lightweight fights don’t normally end by (T)KO (historically it’s 22%), and any given lightweight has a one in eight chance to win by this method. But Thomson hits hard for a lightweight and Henderson has been knocked down before only to survive to the final bell through grit and determination. If Thomson is going to get the upset, this is the most likely way it will happen. At 1:8 odds that’s a just-for-fun flier that could be worth it since it’s consistent with historical averages, and Thomson’s matchup fits a favorable profile.

Written by Reed Kuhn

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