UFC 169 February 1, 2014 Featherweight Matchup: Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: The UFC has stacked the Super Bowl Weekend fight card with two title fights. Arguably snubbed for main event status, the UFC’s current longest-reigning champion José Aldo will be fighting in the co-main event. Regardless of card placement, however, most will likely recognize Aldo as the pound-for-pound most talented fighter on the card and possibly in the UFC today. Challenging Aldo is Ricardo Lamas, who since graduating from a 4-2 WEC stint, dropped to Featherweight and has rattled off four straight UFC victories with three finishes. Reigning champion José Aldo is currently a huge -650 favorite over #2 ranked challenger Ricardo Lamas, who sits at +475. We’ve seen champions become huge betting favorites before, but what do the numbers say about this matchup? Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The Tale of Tape doesn’t tell us too much in this instance. Aldo has a mild Youth Advantage of 4-years, which in this scenario suggests a slight advantage. What’s not explicit here is the layoff, which for Lamas now stands at a full year. His last fight was in January of 2013, while Aldo fought this past August. One-year layoffs for whatever reason are generally not good which puts Lamas at risk for Ring Rust, although if Aldo has had less time to heal from the broken foot that slowed him down against Chan Sung Jung just five and half months ago. Striking Matchup: The stat-line here stacks up a lot of advantages for José Aldo. In fact, the only metric where Lamas exceeds Aldo in striking is in the knockdown rate. Both fighters come in high for knockdown rate at Featherweight, and Lamas’s value is higher on a strike-for-strike basis. But Aldo has been performing at a high level for a lot longer, and he’s tied for the most WEC/UFC career knockdowns (with Jamie Varner) of fighters competing on the UFC 169 fight card with seven total. Aldo has consistently found ways to knock down opponents, and has used multiple flying knees to do so. He remains one of the most dangerous strikers in the game, a highlight reel wonder, and could become the pound-for-pound best with the eventual retirement of Anderson Silva. Putting highlight reels aside, in terms of key metrics, the fight is a little closer on paper. Aldo has the better accuracy, and maintains an even pace with opponents. Lamas performs about average in these metrics, but has not been facing the same consistently elite competition that Aldo has. With strength of schedule added in, Aldo definitely gets an edge in offensive striking. But defensively there’s also a difference. Aldo is tied for the best head-strike defense in the Featherweight division (with Chad Mendes). Only 14% of the power head strikes thrown by his opponents at a distance will land on target. Meanwhile, Aldo lands 27% of those strikes. That means in the long run Aldo is doubling the landed strikes of his opponents since they tend to throw equal volume. At Featherweight where a single punch is less likely to end a fight, the cumulative damage ratio favoring Aldo is why his opponents have so much trouble trying to trade with him. And that’s when he’s not throwing flying knees or jumping off the cage for a superman-punch. Grappling Matchup: Lamas has definitely been successful on the ground, generally controlling the fight and attempting frequent submissions. But in the more important question of whether or not he can get the fight there, and the stats don’t favor it. While Aldo has occasionally been put on his back late in fights after appearing to tire, it hasn’t been often. His >90% takedown defense currently ranks 4th all-time. So despite rarely attempting takedowns of his own, he’s been in control for the majority of the time he has spent on the mat. That doesn’t bode well for Lamas, who has a takedown success rate that is not quite average for the UFC, despite averaging nearly two attempts per round. Reed’s Pick: Aldo by late TKO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Aldo stacks up performance advantages to warrant his status as a betting favorite. Champions tend to defend their titles more than 80% of the time in recent UFC history, so predicting upsets should be reserved for fighters with Tale of the Tape advantages, strong performance stats, and a clear path to victory. Standing and trading with Aldo is a very tough business. Fighters who can’t mix things up with strong wrestling to grind Aldo down early aren’t likely to outstrike him round-for-round, or for a finish. At -650, that’s a ton of juice to lay on Aldo, but he does make for a comfortable parlay addition. The over is currently -105 for 2.5 rounds, the under -125. More than half of all Featherweight fights go to decision, so that line is actually a little more favorable on the Over. The question is, will Lamas last that long? We might be inclined to think so considering Chan Sung Jung’s recent four-round performance, but then again Aldo allegedly broke his foot early on in that fight, which no doubt took some zing off his usual kicking attack. Statistically Lamas has had very good striking defense, but when hit he has been dropped. Granted, Lamas was at Lightweight when he suffered those knockdowns, and he has performed perfectly since dropping down a division. But we need to remind ourselves who he’s in the cage with here. Looking for better value? Aldo Inside the Distance is -192. Even if the fight takes some time to develop, Aldo is going to have some chances to strike on the open mat, and he remains one of the most dangerous strikers in the business. Hurting Lamas at some point and setting up a finish could come at any time, but five-rounds is a long time in the cage with a killer like Aldo. This play appears to be the best value here.