Snapstats: Who Really Controls the Cage at UFC 183?

By @fightnomics We’ve already looked at a few striking stats for the competitors at UFC 183, like power, accuracy, and pace. But an important aspect of MMA is controlling the cage, both on the feet, as well as on the ground. And while the evolution of MMA data is only just starting handle standing cage control via the “advancing” measurement, we have several proxy variables that can reveal a lot about how a fighter tends to compete. While standing, the volume of strikes a fighter throws relative their opponent is a rough cut guess at who is controlling the pace of action on the feet. And once on the ground, control is far more explicit via discrete grappling positions. These metrics reveal the relative strengths and weakness of fighters, where they have excelled, and where they may be vulnerable. It’s not perfect, as singular metrics rarely are, but these can still help put performance into better perspective. As the sport continues to evolve, we’ll have much better measurements of true cage control. For now, here’s how it all breaks down for UFC 183 in one chart.

UFC 183 - Cage Control Matrix

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  Upper Right Quadrant: High Total Control The group of fighters excelling in both metrics are likely winners in the typical round of action barring a stoppage. The highest performers at UFC 183 are Sarah McMann and Derek Brunson. Unsurprisingly, these two are favorites in their matchups. They have dominated while on the mat, and still managed to outwork opponents while standing. And handful of other fighters have edged their way above average in both standing and ground control. Rafael Natal, Al Iaquinta, Ed Herman, and Miesha Tate have been in control on the ground more often than not, although not dominantly so. Their striking rates are also more than that of their opponents. These fighters stand a decent chance to win rounds, but in two cases (Herman vs Brunson, and Tate vs McMann) they are facing an opponent with superior metrics. Upper Left Quadrant: Stronger Grapplers MMA is filled with excellent wrestlers and grapplers, and UFC 183 has several noteworthy ones. In some cases, competent grapplers falls short of their opponents’ standup pace for a variety of reasons. Some may still be working on their transition to striking in MMA, others may be baiting opponents towards them to set up takedowns. Regardless, this quadrant clearly reveals a few fighters who will be looking for top control. Tyron Woodley is a decorated collegiate wrestler, with elite takedown defense and a stifling top game. While he has occasionally been gun shy on his feet, he has the power to make the most of each strike, while relying on his wrestling base to help control rounds. Jiu Jitsu aces Joe Lauzon, Jimy Hettes, and Thales Leites love the ground game, and have racked up opponent tapouts to prove it. These guys will be looking to work their submission games in their respective matchups. Diego Brandao has fared decently in the grappling metric, but historically prefers to stand and bang, given that most of his wins come by TKO. It will be interesting to how willing he is to fight on the ground with Hettes. And while Ian McCall began with a wrestling base, it didn’t last far into college. Yet he has performed surprisingly well on the mat considered he has logged 45 minutes of cage time versus some of the division’s best wrestlers, Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. Given the striking strength of his opponent John Lineker, this might be a big hint that McCall will take this fight to the ground.   Lower Right Quadrant: Stronger Strikers John Lineker shows up as the most aggressive striker with the least amount of ground control. As just mentioned, he wants his fight with McCall standing. Nick Diaz is a high level grappler, but in his Strikeforce and UFC career has preferred to rely on his boxing. It remains to be seen if Diaz’s pace can overwhelm the power and precision of Anderson Silva. Silva on the other hand, has also been reluctant to use his ground game, but doesn’t control the cage with high volume. He doesn’t need to – not with his insane ability to knock people out. Thiago Alves once fought GSP for the title and has a highlight reel that includes plenty of violent usage of his knees. But he also has a very short reach for the Welterweight division, making it more difficult to control the cage against rangier opponents. However, his power keeps most opponents wary of getting too aggressive. His matchup with Jordan Mein will be interesting in that Mein is also not one to control the cage, but has very high accuracy. Lower Left Quadrant: Low Total Control The bottom left of the chart is a bad place to be, and fortunately for this crew of fighters, no one is too far into the hole. But a few guys are flirting with this area and need improvement in different ways. Jordan Mein as we mentioned has shown a slightly lower than average standup pace, despite having great accuracy, and has also rarely controlled the action on the ground. In order for this talented young fighter to step up his game, he’ll need to maintain his striking skillset with more aggression, and boost his takedown defense or begin to use wrestling more offensively. Similarly, Tim Boetsch is renowned for his toughness, but he has failed to control the cage on the feet or on the ground. He remains in the upper echelon on the division, but has a difficult matchup with the more dangerous grappler Thales Leites. Lastly, Kelvin Gastelum falls nearly dead center on the graph. His undefeated run to date in the UFC hasn’t been exemplified by a particular skillset, but rather his well-rounded MMA game. He’s used wrestling and striking when needed, not necessarily outperforming, but still getting it done. He’s clearly a guy to watch in this division, and his matchup with Woodley will reveal the true potential of Gastelum.   “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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