Snapstats: Who is the Hardest to Hit at UFC Fight Night 55?

By @fightnomics   The long-anticipated second sparring session between Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping will come this weekend in Sydney Australia. Bisping claims he bested Rockhold back in their first meeting in the gym, while Rockhold claims he simply wasn’t bringing his best that day. After a continual escalation of words, it will be time to settle it once and for all. If a stand-up duel is afoot, then we should all be excited to see two very skilled strikers go toe-to-toe. Both fighters are able to find their target, and yet both are also hard to hit. And this realization had me noticing an interesting variable among this week’s competitors. There’s quite a spread among them in the important defensive variable of Distance Power Head Strike Defense. Here’s how the guys in Sydney will stack up this weekend.

Snapstats Hardest to Hit at UFC FN55

The overall UFC average for this metric is 75%. For more on the nuances and benchmarks for MMA statistics get the book “Fightnomics” at Amazon.

  Hardest to Hit: The top three matchups on the card all feature fighters that excel in this metric, which will make for some technical striking duels at the end of the card. Rockhold gets a slight edge over Bisping in his head strike avoidance, but add in the fact that Rockhold is a Southpaw and will have a reach advantage, and these factors are piling up in favor of the young favorite. Meanwhile, Al Iaquinta will need every elusive bit of his striking defense when he faces skilled pugilist Ross Pearson. Pearson is the harder hitter among the two, so should he find his target early, this may become a matchup of differing styles leading Iaquinta to take this fight to the ground. Clint Hester and Robert Whittaker also both prove hard to hit, making their matchup a little more interesting. To date, Hester has the better striking accuracy and power, giving him an edge in this standup matchup. Also worth noting is that Vagner Rocha has excellent head strike defense, while his opponent Jake Matthews (not shown due to <15 minutes of data) had terrible defense in his UFC debut. In fact, Matthews landed only one-punch (it was a jab) while defending only 43% of power head strikes, which would put him at the bottom of the chart. Despite a terrible statistical performance, Matthews won that debut via third-round submission after relentless takedowns. It’s another example of early results often being skewed before more data averages them out. Currently, the local boy Matthews is the strong betting favorite over the Brazilian, so we’ll definitely learn a lot about his potential in his matchup this weekend should Matthews pull it off. Or, we’ve seen some reason to be expecting an upset.   Middle of the Pack: The fighters coming in at average here don’t have big sample sizes, so it’s not time to draw conclusions about whether they are truly average, or could go on to differentiate themselves one way or the other. It’s interesting that Marcus Brimage is a huge favorite over Jumabieke Tuerxin despite having a lower metric, but given Tuerxin’s 0-2 record so far in the UFC, it seems he may be outclassed at this level of competition. Smolka and Vaculik have very similar defense and will be facing off against each other. Each man is 1-1 in the UFC and looking to gather some momentum in the shallow Flyweight division. Smolka has been the much busier fighter to date on pace and cage control, so along with his big Youth Advantage he should end up being the favorite.   Eating a Few Too Many: Chris Clements has the dubious honor of eating the most punches among this group. This is a bit odd, given his Tae Kwon Do base and clear preference for standing and trading. Another fighter to keep an eye on is Soa Palelei, who takes a lot of punches for a heavyweight, yet hasn’t yet suffered a knockdown in his UFC career. That may get put to the test against the aggressive and powerful Walt Harris in a fight that no one expects to go the distance. As usual, grappling-centric fighters often appear low in striking metrics, not necessarily because they are unskilled, but because they “sacrifice” their standup in order to get fights to the ground. That could be said for Anthony “the Hippo” Perosh, who has an advanced ground game to go along with his status as the third-oldest active fighter in the UFC (Henderson, Le). He’ll need it against striker Guto Inocente, and we’ll get to see a stylistic contrast in another fight not expected to last long. Sam Alvey and Dylan Andrews will also be facing off in a pairing of fighters a little too willing to take one on the chin. That could mean be we’ll be in for a sloppy slugfest during the prelims. “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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