By @fightnomics While Demetrious Johnson is the pound-for-pound best fighter competing this weekend at UFC 186, it’s certainly not thanks to his offensive striking accuracy. In fact, “Mighty Mouse” comes in lowest on the list of fighters with sufficient sample size. So clearly the champ has been successful via other strengths. Although, perhaps we should rethink the steep odds the market is giving him to beat the challenger, Kyoji Horiguchi, who comes out near the top of the list. Overall, there are several fighters who come from a striking background and who have translated well into MMA, and others who are still trying. So let’s see how the fighters stack up in terms of success in landing powerful head shots.
Snipers Former Pro-Boxer Fabio Maldonado tops the accuracy list, and it’s no surprise given his professional career using his fists. However, his striking game hasn’t gone full-MMA yet, as he has literally attempted just two leg kicks in his entire UFC career. But when it comes to punching, he has landed with excellent accuracy at 43% to the head, and also mixed in a high share of body shots. His scheduled opponent Rampage Jackson had below average accuracy, but good evasiveness, which would have made for an intriguing striking duel. Instead, Maldonado will face hockey-enforcer turned MMA fighter Steve Bosse in what should remain a standup, if potentially sloppy, affair. John Makdessi, in contrast, has always had a diverse striking game. The “Bull” Makdessi, who trains locally at the Tri-Star gym, boasts credentials in Karate and Tae Kwon Do and owns one of the few spinning attack knockouts in UFC history for his back fist finish of Kyle Watson at UFC 129. His high accuracy is more impressive considering he has a reach that is much shorter than his division’s average. And he’ll need all the range and accuracy he can get facing Muay Thai and Kickboxing specialist Shane Cambell this weekend in his UFC debut. Kyoji Horiguchi is another fighter who got a start in Karate, and so it’s no surprise he has demonstrated excellent accuracy in his MMA striking career thus far. But while his accuracy is well ahead of the division’s average, he has not faced any ranked opponents in the UFC. So his title shot against incumbent champion Demetrious Johnson is going to be an even bigger step up than most challengers are used to. Veteran Joe Riggs has grinded out UFC victories as far back as 2004. This journeyman of MMA is amidst a return, and we’ll reserve judgement of how his skills may have held up as the UFC continues to evolve. But he at least got his start training boxing and displayed sharp hands while he was in the UFC and Strikeforce. His first return fight in the UFC ended early with an injury, and that unfortunately is a concern for a battle-worn fighter like Riggs. Sarah Kaufman loves to stand and trade, and that’s partly because she’s so good at it. Not only does she have accurate punches, she averages 23 striking attempts per minute while standing, which is the highest in UFC/Strikeforce history for any fighter with at least 30 minutes of cage time. Coming in just above average is CB Dollaway. Despite his wrestling base, he has made great strides with his striking. However, while he has been aggressive offensively, his defense has paid the price. Dollaway gets hit more frequently than he delivers strikes, and he has been dropped more often than he has knocked opponents down. If he gets into a barnburner with Michael Bisping, those trends could bite him. Middle of the Pack Some familiar veterans show up in the middle of the pack, suggesting that in the long run, most guys will fare about average. Of the three, Michael Bisping has displayed the most technical striking to date, landing with good success, but doing so with high volume while making opponents miss at a high rate. His boxing and takedown defense will be the key to facing down CB Dollaway. Patrick Cote would also be smart to rely on his striking this weekend, as he is facing the fighter with the worst Knockdown Defense on the card. Cote lands his power strikes at an average rate, and with a Knockdown Rate that is also average. But as we’ve noted, that might be enough to threaten Riggs who has absorbed a lot of punishment in his long years of experience. Similar to Bisping, Yves Jabouin has shown average accuracy, but did so while striking at a high pace and avoiding strikes better than most. While his Knockdown Rate is below average and he has no finishes to his credit while in the UFC, Jabouin made a career of T/KOs prior to joining the promotion. But in his losses, he has also mostly been finished by strikes. So his above average evasiveness is critical to surviving his below average chin. Swing and a Miss Both Alexis Davis and Demetrious Johnson are known for their grappling, more so than their striking offense. Johnson may get a pass here, however, as Flyweights are already the hardest to hit fighters in the UFC, and Johnson has only been facing the best of the division. His accuracy of 25% then may be about average, but against very good competition. Davis on the other hand competes in the Women’s Bantamweight division that actually averages an unusually high accuracy of 31%, putting her accuracy well below her peers. Fortunately for Davis, she has her solid grappling credentials to rely on against a known striker in Sarah Kaufman, but she’ll need to do a better job of keeping the fight where she wants it having already dropped two losses to the same opponent. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here. 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