UFC Fight Night 60 February 14th, 2015 Welterweight Matchup: Neil Magny vs Kiichi Kunimoto By @fightnomics Big Picture: In the lead up to the UFC’s odd choice to compete with everyone’s Valentine’s Day plans (on a Saturday no less!), an injury prone merry-go-round of potential Welterweight combatants has kept the fight card in constant flux. Ultimately, former Lightweight champ Bensen Henderson stepped up to fill the headline role opposite Brandon Thatch at Welterweight. That’s because after several potential Welterweight fights were scrapped, the next step down on the card with Welterweights seemed too far. Neil Magny and Kiichi Kunimoto are two guys with a combined eight-fight win streak but who lack widespread fame. For one of these men, a win on the main card this weekend that extends their active win streak could finally bring a notable opponent and a chance to earn a spot in the rankings. Unfortunately, ranked-Reebok money will still be at least one fight off, even for the winner, as their notoriety in the crowded Welterweight division is still lacking. A strong performance will be needed to turn heads. That’s because the market is viewing this fight as a layup for the hometown fighter from the Grudge Training Center in Denver. Magny opened as the solid favorite at -310, but steady action has driven the price to a whopping -600, with the current comeback on Kunimoto at +450. With so much steam behind the heavy favorite, let’s see if the numbers agree that this is a lopsided matchup. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape reveals a key point for Magny; he has the longest reach for a Welterweight in UFC history! His 81-inch reach is one of the longest on record for any weightclass, so it’s pretty remarkable to see it at Welterweight. Against Kunimoto, Magny will be eight inches longer, and also six years younger. That alone accounts for some of the juice on Magny, so let’s dive deeper and see if there’s more evidence to support the favorite. Striking Matchup: The striking portion of the metrics show a clean sweep for Magny, and this matchup will definitely turn into a striker versus grappler matchup. Magny not only has a long reach, but he shows all the signs of utilizing his range quite well. That means a high mix of jabs and good accuracy while maintaining a high pace of attack and strong cage control. And he does this all while avoiding much damage. Fully 75% of his head strikes are jabs, and he lands them with above average success and at a very high pace. Those jabs are important to Magny winning rounds on the cards, as he has done in four out of five fights in the UFC that went to a decision. He’s also been quite active, tying the UFC record for five wins in a single calendar year in 2014 with a pace of fights that only Cowboy Cerrone could keep up with. So Magny is likely to be fit, and in the high altitude of his hometown of Denver he’ll have an even greater advantage should the fight go the distance. On the other side of the cage Kunimoto will be looking to close the distance and get the fight to the ground. But despite maintaining average accuracy and pace in his striking, he has eaten a lot of punches in his three UFC fights. Kunimoto’s head strike defense is abnormally low, and he’s already been dropped three times. That could be a disaster if he’s forced to walk forward in pursuit against a much longer and very precise striker in Magny. Overall, these standup striking factors are as lopsided as the line suggests. Grappling Matchup: The ground game could be a different matchup altogether, as Kunimoto has won most of his fights by submission. We haven’t really seen him tested against elite competition here, as his UFC opponents have a combined losing record. But Kunimoto’s best highlight is probably his submission of BJJ black belt Daniel Sarafian. He’ll need to be able to get Magny to the ground for this to even be a factor in the fight. To date, Kunimoto’s takedown success rate has been terrible. Not for lack of effort, as he has attempted numerous takedowns at a high rate, he just couldn’t convert many of them. Magny on the other hand has a 70% takedown defense, putting him above average by that metric. He may also be helped here but the large reach discrepancy and the lack of striking threat from Kunimoto. If Magny utilizes his range as he has done in the past, he should be able to stay out of trouble. That said, if the fight does hit the mat, Kunimoto has proven to be very effective there, and that does present some risk for the heavy favorite. Reed’s Pick: Magny to Win (Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The stats agree that Magny has all the ingredients to win the standup affair, assuming he can keep the fight there. He might even land enough strikes to set up a finish for the vulnerable Kunimoto. But what was once a reasonable yet steep price has now become exorbitant. The action behind Magny has eliminated most value from his play, but he remains core parlay fodder which could continue to cause his price to rise. Sure, use him in multi-play parlays if that’s your game, otherwise be prepared to lay a ton of juice on a price that could continue to rise. If you play Magny straight, consider a small hedge on Kunimoto by submission at +950. The limit of 2.5 rounds is a trickier angle, and the lines are quite close at -129 for the Under, and +105 for the Over. Magny hasn’t been a fast starter, and in his finishes they usually came late. But the combination of Kunimoto’s vulnerable chin and poor strike avoidance here could combine to present some value on the Under, or a Magny by T/KO prop at +105. Depending where the price falls, lean Under as long as you don’t pay too much or take the prop for better value. The Under also hedges Kunimoto getting a shocking upset submission. “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.