UFC on FOX December 13, 2014 Heavyweight Matchup: Matt Mitrione vs Gabriel Gonzaga By @fightnomics Big Picture: Leading off a monster “Big FOX” card this weekend is a clash between two big boys, ranked Heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Gabriel Gonzaga. Both men have had their ups and downs in this volatile division, with each having rarely been out of the first round of fights. Perhaps the UFC is banking on their high risk styles of fighting to lead off the card with a bang. The #14 ranked Heavyweight Matt Mitrione is hanging on as the slight favorite at -140, with the underdog #12 Gonzaga at +100. The close line suggests the market is torn on this one, with betting lines on the opposite side of the ranks once more. So we’ll check the statline to see if it offers any help in taking a side. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape reveals a big factor that could influence the outcome of this fight: reach. Mitrione has a long reach for the heavyweight division, and among the longest wingspans in the entire UFC. In fact, if the 82” measurement is solid, it means Mitrione has the third longest reach in UFC history, behind only Jon Jones (84.5”) and fellow Heavyweight FOX 13 combatant Stefan Struve (83”). Meanwhile, Gonzaga measures up at 76” – slightly below the Heavyweight average. The net effect here is a six-inch reach differential that normally confers a large advantage for the longer fighter absent any significant differentials in stance or age, neither of which are present here. So overall, we immediately see a reason to lean towards Mitrione. But the performance metrics in this matchup will also be revealing. Striking Matchup: The striking metrics also support Mitrione in this matchup. He has advantages in accuracy, pace, cage control, and even defense in terms of avoiding strikes and being able to withstand them. Mitrione’s striking metrics are above average in many ways for his division, with the exception being his volume ratio. However, in facing a much shorter-ranged opponent, it’s unlikely that Mitrione will be on the retreat while on his feet against Gonzaga. The one area where Gonzaga is ahead is in Knockdown Rate. Both men have scored seven knockdowns in their UFC careers, but Gonzaga has required fewer strikes to do so, and his head kick KO of Mirko Cro Cop certainly boosts that metric. In a matchup such as this however, both men being powerful means their knockdown resilience (“chin”) is just as important, and Mitrione gets a big advantage in that department. Mitrione’s durability has been above average for this division, while Gonzaga’s has been below average. That may have to do with the career lengths of the two sluggers, as Gonzaga has simply been in the sport longer and taken more damage over time. Overall, Mitrione’s speed and boxing will be more dangerous here, and he should win the standup exchanges and threaten Gonzaga with a finish the longer it stays standing. Mitrione is mostly a head-hunter with his hands, while Gonzaga likes to throw more kicks. But if Mitrione focuses on his boxing strengths and uses his superior speed, he’ll land more punches from long-range, any one of which could wobble Gonzaga. Grappling Matchup: And here’s where things get flipped on their heads. For as many advantages on the feet that Mitrione has, Gonzaga has even more on the mat. Mitrione’s entire professional MMA career has been in the UFC, and through 11 fights and 70 minutes of Octagon fight time, he has yet to attempt a single takedown. He has managed to defend takedowns at an above average rate, and not be held down for an inordinate amount of time, but as his submission loss to Brendan Schaub demonstrated, his ground game remains his greatest weakness. Gonzaga knows that too. With an already high takedown attempt rate, Gonzaga will undoubtedly try early and often to put Mitrione on his back. Again, the range advantage for Mitrione will have an effect here, and he should have been training appropriately, but nonetheless this is the wildcard of the fight. If Gonzaga gets this to the ground, stifling top control, ability to advance position, and his frequent submission attempts will all come into play and have Mtirione playing defense and possibly holding on for dear consciousness. The reality is that if this hits the ground, all advantages Mitrione had on his feet are gone, and it’s now Gonzaga’s fight to lose. The trick is whether or not Gonzaga can close the distance without taking damage and succeed in his takedown attempts. Gonzaga’s takedown game is about average, while defensively Mitrione is slightly above average. Mix in the reach differential and Mitrione should be able to keep this fight on its feet long enough to launch some attacks – but for how long? Fortunately for Mitrione, this fight will be a full-size Octagon, so he won’t have issues with tight quarters hampering his movement as he’s claimed in prior fights in the small cage. Reed’s Pick: Mitrione to Win (Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The edges in standup for Mitrione are significant, and that’s obviously where the fight will start. The challenge for Mitrione is that he must keep it there in order to win. If we give him credit for his takedown defense and suppose he will be diligently trying to prevent Gonzaga from getting the fight down, Mitrione chances for success are better than even. Once factoring in his long reach advantage, that sways the metrics further in support of Mitrione. And while few envision this getting to the cards, it still could, and Mitrione’s athleticism and higher pace of activity should help him win rounds. So despite Mitrione’s suspect capacity for reasoning, the analysis likes the favorite play here thanks to the reasonable price. The totals limit of 1.5 rounds is already low, but the Under 1.5 rounds is a steep -190, which shows the strong market lean for an early finish. The Over is +150 and taking it means these two somehow survive each other’s weapons for more than 7.5 minutes of fight time. It’s a tight limit, and a steep price on the early finish, making it difficult to play. A obvious low-value prop that the fight Does Not Go the Distance could be used later in the week in parlays, but avoid paying too much for the Under given that both fighters are aware of the danger the other poses and will work to avoid those risks. “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.