Anthony Pettis vs Gilbert Melendez – UFC 181 Statistical Analysis and Fight Pick

UFC 181 December 6, 2014 Lightweight Title Matchup: Anthony Pettis vs Gilbert Melendez By @fightnomics   Big Picture:  There’s no argument about matchmaking when the consensus #1 ranked challenger in the division takes on the champ, but the lack of drama in The Ultimate Fighter series may have people sleeping on this matchup. It may just be a co-main event, but we get to see a veteran Scrap Packer another shot at the title, as well as the overdue return of Anthony Pettis after his stunning submission victory of Benson Henderson in August of 2013 to win the title. The champion Pettis opened as a mild favorite, but has since climbed to -250. The underdog Melendez is now +210. These aren’t the runaway lines that we see in title fights in some divisions (ahem, Ronda), and that’s because the Lightweight roster is one the deepest and most competitive in the UFC (and if you read the appropriately number Page 155 of Fightnomics, you know why!). So we’ll have to look closely at the numbers to see who really has the edge, and where the value lies.   Summary Stats:

UberTape UFC 181 Pettis-Melendez To see more Uber Tales of the Tape for this UFC fight card, check out MMA Oddsbreaker Premium.

  Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional metrics on the Tale of the Tape are very close, but with a slight edge to Pettis. The one-inch reach differential is too close to be significant, but the nearly five-year age differential is a big enough Youth Advantage to give Pettis an edge right out of the gates.   Striking Matchup: In striking, these two have very different metrics. Pettis is above average in every single major striking metric, including power, accuracy, cage control, pace, and defense. Meanwhile, Melendez is average in his accuracy and defense, and below average in his power. The biggest differentiators are the knockdown power of Pettis, versus the pace of Melendez – both of which are far ahead of their peers. Given that Melendez works at a busy pace and tends to throw almost 50% more volume at his opponents than he has to defend, there will be a battle between his aggression versus the precision counter striking of Pettis. And that may not work out well for Melendez. Volume is great for winning rounds, but it can also walk you into dangerous counters, strikes that Pettis is more than capable of throwing from nearly every angle. Although there is risk round-to-round for Pettis if he can’t counter Melendez’s combination and volume, Pettis is still much more likely to land the most dangerous blows. And five rounds is a long time to play that game. The results here are mixed, but given Pettis’s skills he still gets the edge if Melendez comes forward to much, and Pettis is no slouch in terms of pace either.   Grappling Matchup: The ground game will be trickier to predict. Melendez is more likely to attempt takedowns, and Pettis has been controlled on the mat by solid wrestlers before. Pettis has presumably worked on his takedown defense, and historically his metric was already fairly good, but he is also dangerous off his back as Benson Henderson found out the hard way. The submission skill of these two is similarly high-level, but Pettis is much more active in using submissions so Melendez shouldn’t spend too much time taking risks from guard. Melendez may take a round or two with his wrestling, but keeping the fight on the mat will be tough, and Pettis will definitely get his chances on the feet.   Reed’s Pick: Pettis inside the distance (Click for latest MMA odds)   Reed’s Recommended Play:  Pettis has enough advantages along the stat-line to justify him as a clear favorite. There is some risk due to the long layoff and unknowns of his injury recovery, but assuming we see the same dynamic striker return to the cage, Pettis should find a way to get his hand raised. Early sharps that grabbed Pettis when his price was under -200 were fortunate. Now in fight week, with the risk of Pettis’s line rising closer to three-to-one for, you may have to use Pettis as parlay material. Among the top three fights on the card, Pettis is probably the safest play, and therefore the anchor for some parlays. The Over of 4.5 rounds is -180, the Under +150, meaning the market thinks these two are likely to go to a decision. But 4.5 rounds is a long time for Pettis to find an opening for one of his powerful kicks. While he is unlikely to be finished easily, Melendez has been vulnerable to power strikes in the past. And Melendez is even more unlikely to get a finish himself. So the Under is really a play on Pettis to finish. Instead consider a small prop on Pettis inside the distance at +175 and hope that Pettis lives up to his highlight reel potential. “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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