Snapstats: Who Has the Best Striking Defense at UFC 178?

By @fightnomics   We’ve already thrown compliments all over the stacked UFC 178 card, so it’s safe to say that any serious MMA fan is going to be watching this Saturday night. But digging deeper in to the stats brings out some of the battlegrounds within the matchups, the “fight within the fight,” if you will. By identifying key strengths and weaknesses of fighters, you can better appreciate how the fight goes down. For that reason, we already looked at the most accurate strikers on the UFC 178 card. We identified the fighters who best find their opponents’ chins with strikes. So now it’s time to flip that metric on its head, and consider the inverse. Who has the best head strike avoidance? The fighters hardest to hit? We’re particularly interested in Distance Power Head Strike defense – the most important (and dangerous) strike thrown in a fight. This is all power punches and kicks thrown while fighters are standing and trading from a distance (i.e., not the clinch or on the ground). Having good strike defense can be influenced by several factors, but the end result is that fighters excelling in this metric simply don’t get hit very much, and that means less damage, less chance of a KO, and ultimately, more fights won. So it’s no surprise that most UFC champions do well by this metric as a common characteristic. They say that “defense wins championships.” Well, each fighter may have different offensive strengths, but a solid defense means short-term survival and long-term success.

Best Striking Defense UFC 178 Distance power head striking accuracy changes by weight class, and even by round, but the overall UFC average is around 25% for this key metric. For more on the nuances MMA striking statistics get the book “Fightnomics” at Amazon;”>.

> The Elusive Ones: Topping our list is the current flyweight champion. In UFC history, only six fighters have ever held a defense metric above 90%, but Mighty Mouse is right there, knocking on the door at 89%. Often called the fastest fighter in the UFC, one way to quantify that superlative is his strike avoidance – and he clearly does well there. Extremely well. If he’s landing 24% of his strikes, while his opponents only land 11%, that means assuming equal exchanges Might Mouse is landing more than double the blows of his challenger. And that adds up. It’s interesting though that his opponent in this fight is also elusive. SO perhaps we’re in for a very technical duel on the feet. Also near the top is former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. His unique style of strike-and-fade combinations has stymied many quality opponents. The end result is that dealing with his attack has been very difficult. Figuring out how to counter and time his entrances is the key to solving the Cruz riddle. Although his opponent here, Takeya Mizugaki, also has above average defense, those few percentage points favoring Cruz indicate a lot of skill, especially against the higher level opponents. Several other big betting favorites are also in the upper echelon of elusiveness. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is a kickboxing phenom turned rising MMA star, whose own unorthodox attacks have also kept opponents swinging and missing. That bodes well for a guy who prefers to keep the fight on his feet. Amanda Nunes has a much shorter UFC history, but to date has certainly gotten the better of opponents in standing exchanges. She scored very high in strike accuracy, and do so while making her opponents miss. Clearly her biggest test will be Zingano, although Nunes statistically may have better chances to keep this fight close than her long odds suggest. Jorge Masvidal is another veteran who may not be a knockout artist, but survives partially by avoiding taking too much damage. Interesting, his opponent has almost identical defense Middle of the Pack: The middle of the pack fighters reveals and bunch of guys who rely heavily on their grappling skills in there fights. Four of these fighters are facing each other, so expect their contests to be less about the striking, and more about the ground game. Plenty of successful fighters fall into this category, generally those are dangerous with submissions and ground and pound.   Tighten Up! Bringing up the rear on the list are a few fighters in the red danger zone. Most obvious is Cat Zingano, who actually topped our Most Accurate Striker list, and yet also has the most porous defense. The big issue here is sample size, same as for Nunes. But it will be interesting to see if the pattern continues given how big a favorite Zingano is. If she’s going to succeed, she can’t let herself get hit so often. Too veterans surprisingly bringing up the rear are Dustin Poirier and Cowboy Cerrone. While Cerrone’s striking is high level enough to make up for his defensive holes, Poirier is a guy who is better suited to taking fights to the ground. Both of the matchups involved here are very compelling for stylistic reasons. And Patrick Cote, near the bottom, is possibly deflated by his time competing at Middleweight, where he still managed a title shot against then-champ Anderson Silva. But the fact remains, if he doesn’t improve in this area immediately, he’s going to be in a lot of trouble against the skilled head-kicking artist Thompson. Fightnomics” the book is now available on Amazon! Follow along on Twitter for the latest UFC stats and MMA analysis, or on Facebook if you prefer.  

Written by Reed Kuhn

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