UFC Fight Night 55 November 7, 2014 Lightweight Matchup: Ross Pearson vs Al Iaquinta By @fightnomics Big Picture: In the evening’s co-main event from Sydney, the TUF Season nine winner Ross Pearson takes on the more recent TUF 15 finalist Al Iaquinta in a really solid matchup within one of the UFC’s deepest divisions. Instead of the bitter feud we’re getting in the main event, this fight presents a solid matchup of talented fighters each trying to scratch their way into the rankings – and that’s plenty of reason for a compelling fight. They may not have animosity, but both have a lot on the line. Pearson is currently a -145 favorite over the underdog Iaquinta at +125. Pearson flirted with even stronger odds around -185, but the recent trend has been back towards parity. So who gets the statistical edge in this close matchup? Let’s check the Uber Tale of the Tape. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional metrics on the Tale of the Tape say this is essentially an even matchup. Both fighters are right around their physical peak, and neither is over the 32-year hump (or worse). The slightest of differentials in reach and the 2.6-year Youth Advantage both favor the underdog, but these levels are not really significant. Striking Matchup: The standup combination here is tricky. Ross Pearson is a striker first, and a skilled one at that. He’s been lighting people up on their feet for a long time, with above average accuracy and power, and good head strike defense. He comes in exactly at average in overall pace and cage control volume, and uses a very standard mix of strikes. What he does best is simply to box – hit, and don’t get hit. Iaquinta, perhaps surprisingly, comes in with even higher accuracy in both hands. He operates at both a high overall pace of striking on his feet, and also outworks his opponents in volume. While he eats punches at a seemingly average rate, those are really mostly jabs. When it comes to avoiding power head strikes, he’s actually the best fighter in this metric on the entire card. So Iaquinta excels at coming forward and pressing the pace, which is something that infamously worked against Pearson when he faced Diego Sanchez. Volume and staying busy account for a lot, and it’s hard to win a round when you’re moving backwards. That scenario could play out here to some extent, given Iaquinta’s pressing strategy. He has much better accuracy and defense than Diego Sanchez, so if Pearson hasn’t corrected his mistakes, he’ll be in for some very close rounds and possible disappointment from the judges’ scores. Grappling Matchup: On the mat things are a little clearer. Neither fighter is a submission specialist, which means Iaquinta’s key deficiency is not at risk in this matchup. And it’s not that Pearson’s grappling stats are bad, their just about average, while Iaquinta is superior in every major metric. Pearson has gotten better at staying off his back, and his 79% takedown defense is probably his best metric in terms of wrestling. But Iaquinta is more likely to mix frequent takedowns into his standup game and eventually drag Pearson down. If Iaquinta accomplishes this, winning rounds will become a lot easier. He’s not especially dangerous on the mat to finish Pearson, but this is a close fight that will likely go to the cards, and fighter position and control counts for a lot in that department. Reed’s Pick: Iaquinta by Split Decision (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Picking upsets is tricky business, but at least it’s less risky. If the price on Iaquinta rises to good plus money, he’s worth a stab for the straight play upset. Otherwise, look for value in the props. Both guys are durable, and neither is likely to submit the other. Each man has some power, but the threat of the ground game might also slow things down, forcing a decision. The Under of 2.5 rounds is +185, the Over -245, which means the market is in hearty agreement that is one hits the cards. The safest total here is the Over, but while you’re at it just take the Fight Goes to a Decision prop at -205 for a better return. Use this in parlays with another confident favorite to lower the juice. The best value in a single play may be for Iaquinta by Decision at +225. “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.