UFC 177 August 30, 2014 Bantamweight Championship Matchup: TJ Dillashaw vs Renan Barao By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics Big Picture: It was the biggest UFC title fight upset in history when TJ Dillashaw first faced the “monster” Renan Barao at UFC 173. And although that fight was hardly controversial, Barao is getting a rematch out of respect for his previously spectacular record as champion. The odds have certainly changed this time around. The new champion Dillashaw is a -145 favorite, and the #1 ranked challenger Barao is the underdog for the first time in his UFC career at +120. What changed is that the world witnessed Barao look mortal for the first time. So let’s check the Uber Tale of the Tape to see if the first fight was a fluke, or if Dillashaw is the real deal. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional metrics on the Tale of the Tape are not very relevant here. The two fighters are similarly aged and right in their prime. The reach differential of two-inches is a small advantage for Barao, and the two will use the same orthodox stance. The slightest of edges goes to the Brazilian here. Striking Matchup: Both fighters here are dangerous strikers, and have plenty of finishes to prove it – but there’s still a notable difference. Dillashaw lands 5.2 Significant Strikes per minute, which is the highest in UFC Bantamweight history for fighters with reasonable sample size (and the 9th highest in all of UFC history). That’s a pretty big deal. The key to his success is his striking accuracy, which is unusually high for a Bantamweight. In their first fight, Dillashaw was the much more accurate striker. They threw comparable volumes of strikes, but Dillashaw vastly outlanded Barao 140-64 in Significant Strikes. Dillashaw also avoids absorbing much punishment, not only with good head strike defense, but overall. That means ultimately in the game of “hit and don’t get hit” Dillashaw has excelled on a fundamental level. As each minute goes by he simply delivers more damage than he receives, and does it better than Barao. Each fighter has a Knockdown Rate higher than the Bantamweight average, and each has been knocked down. Knowing that these guys should stay standing for the whole fight means we are likely in for another striking duel, and one that could end early. The clinch game also favors Dillashaw. When clinching, he is often the one in control, while Barao is often with his back to the cage. We’ll see at weigh-ins who looks to be the stronger man, but the Team Alpha Male reputation for rigorous strength training and sound weight-cutting probably means Dillashaw will have the advantage here too. Standup really is the key area for this matchup, and TJ Dillashaw’s striking stats to date have been more impressive than Renan Barao’s. Barao is still obviously dangerous, especially when throwing exotic techniques that can catch opponents off-guard, but round to round Dillashaw should be winning more exchanges and doing more damage. We don’t know how bad Barao was hurt in the first fight, but a last important factor is his recovery from the concussion he definitely suffered. A 25-minute striking war is not a fun place to be for a guy who just cleared his head recently, which bumps the likelihood that it won’t take the full 25 minutes. Grappling Matchup: Don’t expect to see a lot grappling in this matchup. Renan Barao has never been taken down in his UFC career, defending all 20 attempts for a perfect 100% takedown defense rate, and first in UFC history all-time. If we include WEC fights, he’s still at 96%, which is solid. Meanwhile, TJ Dillashaw is no slouch facing takedowns either. He also has a perfect takedown defense rate of 100% against nine opponent attempts. This results in a very high ground control stat for both fighters that is almost perfect (i.e., they don’t spend time on their backs). So given that Barao may have the better submission credentials, but Dillashaw may have the better pure wrestling game, I expect these factors to lead to a standup striking battle. And that’s exactly what we saw in their first fight, when neither fighter landed a single takedown. Dillashaw at least attempted three takedowns (as he historically is more active with attempts), but the fight remained standing. It will be interesting to see if either fighter tries to get this fight down. Game theory suggests that perhaps Barao will be more incented to leverage his ground game this time around knowing that five rounds of striking didn’t work for him last time. But Dillashaw’s wrestling may make that a moot point. If either guy lands a takedown, it will more likely be Dillashaw, which could at least help him secure a round or two on the cards as long as he stays out of trouble from submissions. Reed’s Pick: Dillashaw by TKO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Without a significant size difference, the performance stats support Dillashaw to defend the title in front of the home crowd. The method of victory is trickier to predict, but we should see Dillashaw winning more rounds, and possibly hurting Barao again for a TKO stoppage. The Under of 4.5 rounds is +120 and rewards the fact that both fighters here pack a punch and can finish this early. Fewer than half of Bantamweight fights end in less than 3 rounds, but Dillishaw and Barao both have 5th round finishes to their credit proving that their killer instinct doesn’t fade in the championship rounds. Interestingly, Dillashaw’s Inside the Distance prop (+385) currently returns more than Barao (+285). Simply taking the Under is a conservative approach if you expect these guys to clash hard. “Fightnomics” the book is now available on Amazon! Follow along on Twitter for the latest UFC stats and MMA analysis.