UFC on FOX 11 April 19, 2014 Lightweight Matchup: #8 Donald vs #11 Edson Barboza By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: In perhaps one of the fan-friendliest matchups ever to hit FOX primetime, the second fight of the UFC on Fox 11 main card features two fearsome lightweight strikers who spend most of their bouts on their feet trading leather (and kicks). Both combatants have title aspirations, and both men are well-rounded and dangerous. The #8 ranked Donald Cerrone opened as a slight favorite at -140 against underdog Edson Barboza at +100. But then a funny thing happened, and the market came in on Barboza pushing him to a -120 favorite over Cerrone at +100. Clearly it’s a close call, but we’ve got lots of data on these two finishers, so let’s see who is more likely to get the upper hand. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The Tale of Tape shows a mild lean towards the Brazilian, Barboza, who is younger and has a small reach advantage. Both guys are still in their prime and are rangy for their division, but Barboza is especially so. The tape supports the slight edge to Barboza. Striking Matchup: Here’s where we’re all hoping to see most of the fight stay. Both fighters have strong roots in Muay Thai, so it’s no surprise that they both ended up on my list of the UFC’s most dangerous strikers that I calculated a while back. Barboza had the edge at the time, just barely, but both fighters have continued to show excellent striking skills, as well as a diverse selection of strikes. In fact, both fighters exceed the usual share of strikes aimed at the legs, and also at the body compared to the average UFC striker. They love to mix up their attacks, and let their shins do the talking. But this is a fight, so what we want to know is: who is better? The metrics points to Barboza as being the slightly superior striker offensively and defensively. Despite having fewer career knockdowns, he has scored them at an impressively high pace, and even higher than the also successful Cerrone. Barboza also has slightly more accurate power strikes, a slightly higher pace of standup striking and better cage control. And perhaps most importantly in this matchup, Barboza also has the better head strike avoidance. The metrics are both impressive and close, but the edges on the feet go to Barboza, which should heavily influence how the fight plays out. That’s because both fighters prefer to stay standing during fights, spending the majority of their time on their feet. Grappling Matchup: But what if it does end up on the ground? Both fighters are again highly competent offensively, but on the mat they should cancel each other out with their defense. Cerrone has attempted more frequent takedowns, but Barboza has the better takedowns success and defense rates. Historically, Barboza has controlled his opponents more often, but Cerrone has a very high submission attempt rate. It’s back and forth, and if it does come into play, the fighter in control will win a round. But let’s hope that they stick to their historical preferences for standing and trading leather. Reed’s Pick: Barboza by TKO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Kicks will be thrown and leather will fly, but in the end Barboza is better equipped to land the first damaging strike of the fight. His spinning kicks may even come into play. Given the slight edges on the Tale of the Tape and in the striking stats, a straight play on Barboza is reasonable, and supports the market-movement we saw in the lines this week. The Under of 2.5 rounds at -125 is also a good play, considering Cerrone’s power and Barboza’s tendency to get hurt. Lightweights finish only 22% of fights by T/KO, but this fight has all the ingredients of power and defensive holes that could lead to an early finish.