UFC on FOX December 13, 2014 Lightweight Matchup: Daron Cruickshank vs KJ Noons By @fightnomics Big Picture: In a busy weekend for the UFC, a few fights might be flying under the radar. Between the crowning of the first ever UFC Women’s Strawweight champion and the blockbuster card the next night on “Big Fox,” there’s a few matchups that some people are forgetting about. One of them features two guys who like to stand and trade, and given the small cage planned for that event at the Palms Casino, it should make for a fun striking duel. Daron Cruickshank may have the shorter win streak, but he’s currently the favorite priced at -210, with the underdog KJ Noons +160. Despite Noons’s brief appearance at Welterweight in his last fight against Sam Stout, this matchup is again in the Lightweight division where both fighters belong. Neither man is ranked, but both have shown good potential in their wins, with losses primarily to high-quality opponents. So one of them will advance up the Lightweight ladder to flirt with a ranked position, and we’ll check the numbers to see where gets the edge to accomplish this. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: While there are slight age and reach advantages that favor Cruickshank, his ability to switch stance may be more important in what is likely to be a mostly striking affair. On paper, in terms of traditional anthropometrics, Cruickshank sweeps the advantages but only to a small extent in each category. Striking Matchup: On the feet is where these fighters like to spend most of their time, each coming from a striking base. Noons got his start in Karate, while Cruickshank trained Tae Kwon Do. Both guys love to stand and trade and spend more fight time on the feet at a distance than is normal. So understanding the differences in their striking metrics is critical, as that’s what will likely determine the outcome of the fight. Both men have similar target selection, throwing more body kicks than usual, but fewer leg kicks, which makes sense given their stylistic backgrounds. And when it comes to landing power head strikes from a distance, each man has a success rate right at the UFC benchmark average, although arguably they have done so with more kicks than is normal, which would normally lower that accuracy. Noons has landed his jab more often and has averaged a higher baseline pace of striking, but Cruickshank has managed to outwork his opponents at a greater rate despite lower volume. The kicking game will be critical here, and the high Knockdown Rate of Cruickshank is definitely a credit to his head kicks. Noons’s Knockdown Rate is just about average, meaning strike-for-strike trading bombs in the long run will eventually favor Cruickshank. Defensively, Noons gets a small edge in his head strike avoidance, but he’s also been dropped before while Cruickshank has proven more durable – albeit with less fight time. So it’s a close matchup on the feet, but the power advantage for Cruickshank seems to be the biggest difference between the two, and the strength of his kicks will also score points and do more damage round-to-round. Look for him to try to create space for kicks, and switch stance to keep Noons guessing the angles. Grappling Matchup: The ground game may not be a factor at all, as both men are primarily strikers and attempt few takedowns. With neither fighter looking for a takedown and both men having above average takedown defense, it’s unlikely this fight will be going to the ground for long. If it does, however, it’s more likely that Cruickshank will be the one taking it there, as he does have more wrestling in his past than Noons. Cruickshank has utilized some takedowns in the past with decent success, so should he get into trouble or feel the need to seal a round, he could conceivably go for a takedown. If the fight hits the mat, neither man is really a submission threat, with no submission wins between them on the big stage. Both have likely worked on their defense knowing that other fighters will look to take them down, so overall expect stalling out should the fight somehow end up on the ground. Reed’s Pick: Cruickshank to Win(Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: Cruickshank has enough edges on the statline to justify him as a solid favorite here. If the line runs too far, however, he may be better off in parlays, as a duel between talented strikers is always risky. The Over of 2.5 rounds is -155, the Under +115, meaning the market thinks these guys are more likely to fight to a decision than finish early. But remember, this is a small cage at the TUF20 Finale, making a finish more probable. With such skilled strikers slugging it out in close quarters, take plus money on the Under. “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.