By @fightnomics There’s a lot at stake at UFC 179 in Brazil on Saturday (Oct. 25, 2014). Jose Aldo is the UFC’s longest reigning active champion, the only UFC Featherweight champion in history, and also the last Brazilian champion in the promotion. When Chad Mendes challenges for the title this weekend, he has a chance to take home a second UFC belt to Team Alpha Male HQ in Sacramento, and be the clincher in a clean sweep if all UFC titles belonging to Americans. Oh, how times have changed. Gone are the days when the most dominant champions like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Renan Barao and Jose Aldo cleared our all the talent in their divisions, and the Americans who held the vast majority of roster spots were unable to dominate the highest ranks. But now new UFC blood in the form of Jon Jones, Chris Weidman, Johny Hendricks, Ronda Rousey, Cain Velasquez, Demetrious Johnson, Anthony Pettis, and now Chad Mendes’ teammate TJ Dillashaw have begun a new American era of dominance in the UFC. And Chad Mendes has a chance to be the capstone. With Aldo having been so dominant for so long, the obvious question is: how can Mendes win? Most will say his wrestling is his best weapon, and they are probably right. Regardless of Mendes’ improved striking, it’s his wrestling ability that differentiates him the most. A look at the UFC 179 fighters reveals that there are a lot of strong wrestlers on the card, but none other than Chad Mendes has the most dominant ground control of all. Excelling in this metric requires good takedown offense to secure top control, the ability to hold opponents down and prevent sweeps, and of course great takedown defense in order to stay off of your back. Of all the minutes that Chad Mendes has fought on the mat in his WEC and UFC career, he’s been in control for 98% of them. Now that’s dominant!
The overall UFC average is 50% for this key metric. Fighters below this average tend to be on their backs more often than in top control. For more on the nuances MMA statistics get the book “Fightnomics” at Amazon.
Strong Wrestlers: Chad Mendes leads the way the weekend on the mat, but there are other dominant grapplers right behind him. In the co-main event, Glover Teixeira and Phil Davis will face off – and each man has very high ground control. Davis boasts the better pure wrestling credentials, while Teixeira has the high level submission game in his arsenal. While this stylistic mismatch is interesting in its own right, just seeing who lands in top control first will be a big deal in this fight. Further down the list but still very high in their ground control metrics are Wilson Reis and Darren Elkins. Elkins for sure will need his wrestling to stifle the dangerous skills of Lucas Martins. But there’s also Jose Aldo at 80%, thanks to his excellent overall takedown defense. Still Above Average: The middle of the pack fighters in the graph are still well above the UFC average for this metric. It includes one of the most experienced veterans of Zuffa’s smaller divisions in Scott Jorgensen who has cemented his solid wrestling metric through hours of cage time, but also some newcomers who could still end up on a different side of average depending on their next few fights. But it’s worth noting that several of this guys in the middle of the pack happen to be facing opponents who tend to fight off their backs more often than not, including matchups like Fili-Arantes and Macario-Magny. It will be interesting to see if wrestling becomes a key factor in these matchups. Get Up! Several fighters have not fared well on the mat, or have been too willing to fight off their backs. This group includes some dangerous strikers like Lucas Martins and former boxer Fabio Maldonado. Wanting to stand and trade with opponents means attempting very few takedowns, and also usually having to defend lots of attempts. The guys on the bottom of the list are definitely at risk if they can’t fend off takedowns are at least attack dangerously from their backs. Final Word: It remains to be seen how Chad Mendes 2.0 can mount against the last of the Brazilian champs. Mendes was zero for seven on takedown attempts in their first fight, likely because he focused on them too much and was not a threat with his striking. So if he can mount more a dangerous attack with his hands, Jose Aldo will be forced to pay attention, and it might be enough to open up takedowns. With all the storylines going into UFC 179, which fighters will dominate on the mat is one to pay attention to once the cage doors are shut. “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.