Edson Barboza vs Michael Johnson – UFC Fight Night 61 Statistical Analysis and Pick

UFC Fight Night 61 February 22nd, 2015 Lightweight Matchup: Edson Barboza vs Michael Johnson By @fightnomics   Big Picture:  In the co-main event from Brazil this Sunday are two ranked Lightweights each trying to position themselves for a title run down the road. The odds for Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson opened among the closest on the entire card, fitting for arguably the UFC’s most competitive division. Early action pushed #6 ranked Lightweight Barboza to a mild -175 favorite over the #12 ranked Johnson at +135. Barboza may be getting some support due to the home-cage advantage, but it’s worth checking the stat line on such a close matchup to see where these fighters differ or excel.   Summary Stats:

Uber Tape FN61 Barboza-Johnson To see more Uber Tales of the Tape for this UFC fight card, check out MMA Oddsbreaker Premium.

  Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape shows two very similar bodies in the cage. The two men are just months apart in age, and Barboza is only a slight bit larger in frame, though not enough to make a significant difference. Both men are very long for the Lightweight division, meaning they usually enjoy a reach advantage over opponents, but neither will get that here. Johnson does get a very slight edge due to his Southpaw stance, but overall this part of the tape is quite close.   Striking Matchup: Before we even look at the stats, we need to accept that Barboza is easily one of the most ferocious strikers to ever compete in UFC’s Lightweight division. On a power/danger basis for striking, only Donald Cerrone and Melvin Guillard can claim to do more damage per strike attempt than Barboza, but Barboza’s pure Knockdown Rate is currently tops in the division. Barboza is a long-range power striker who makes heavy use of his legs in his attacks. That influences his metrics as we’ll see, because kickers usually come across as more powerful, but less accurate. The stats confirm this trend in the fighter who holds black belts in multiple striking styles. Barboza mixes his strikes to a high degree, attacks the legs and body more than average, and uses plenty of kicks even in his head strikes. Overall, his accuracy is only average for the division, but his Knockdown Rate is still the highest in Lightweight history. All that kicking comes at a pretty high pace too, as he keeps up a good clip of volume and tends to outwork his opponents. These factors have all contributed to one of the most devastating knockouts the highlight reel has ever seen (vs Terry Etim), plus several sneaky TKO’s by leg kicks that are rarely seen in the UFC. Defensively however, his evasiveness is below average, and he’s been dropped twice at a rate per strike that is just slightly worse than average. So while he remains extremely dangerous, he is not invulnerable. Johnson, on the other hand, has quietly amassed some impressive wins after losing in Ultimate Fighter Season 12 Finale, including several stoppage finishes. While he isn’t known as a knockout artist, his stats reveal eight knockdowns scored in the UFC, which is just as many as Barboza. Johnson has excellent technical striking with high accuracy and good defense, all while maintaining a very high pace of strikes that is even higher than Barboza’s. The one time Johnson was dropped (by Danny Castillo), he was able to recover and win the fight by KO. To date, Johnson has never been defeated by T/KO, and his excellent defensive capabilities are a good reason why. And he’ll need those here. It’s worth noting that both men are reluctant to attempt takedowns, so we could see a duel between contrasting striking styles here. At least, let’s hope so. Ultimately, this matchup will be about Barboza’s ability to land some of his vicious kicks successfully on an evasive target while avoiding Johnson’s precise and still powerful counters. The stats here show a lot of back and forth, with plausible paths to victory for both men via strikes.   Grappling Matchup: The ground game may not be a factor considering each man attempts a paltry 0.1 takedowns per minute of standing time. That has led both fighters to spend more time on their feet trading than is average, and both men have faced far more takedowns from opponents than they’ve initiated themselves. That said, Johnson is slightly more likely to attempt takedowns, and he has a college wrestling base. Barboza isn’t known for his jiu-jitsu, so taking a Brazilian to the mat here isn’t quite as dangerous as it normally might be. This will be an important early factor in the fight to see whether Johnson wants to mix in wrestling to slow the pace of violence and mitigate Barboza’s best weapons. Johnson’s takedown success rate is just above average, while Barboza’s takedown defense is one of the best in the division. And overall, Johnson has not fared well controlling the ground game, finding himself on his back more often than not. That all bodes well for Barboza to keep it standing, but we could see some forward aggression from Johnson that stifles some of the action even if it’s not effective. That could sway a round or two his way, especially if he lands one or two takedowns throughout. Overall, the ground game is a bit of a wash between Johnson’s greater likelihood of initiating and Barboza’s stout defense. But in a fight this close, that doesn’t help fix the uncertainty as Johnson does get a slight edge here.   Reed’s Pick: The Under (Click for latest MMA odds)    Reed’s Recommended Play:  The stats confirm a close striking duel between contrasting styles, but while Barboza is more dangerous, he’s also more vulnerable. Johnson’s tendency to strike plays into Barboza’s strength, and there’s no doubting who is the more gifted striker. The current slight lean in the odds towards Barboza is accurate, but don’t lay any more juice than that. Johnson has enough power and accuracy to hurt Barboza as well, and there should be plenty of exchanges on the feet where that could happen. Taking either side here is risky, and you may simply want to wait to see where the line goes. Enough divergence could make an underdog play reasonable, while a tightening of the odds would create value in the home-town play. The limit is 2.5 rounds, with the Over currently -135 and +105 for the Under. That’s an ever so slight lean that this goes the distance. For Lightweights with this kind of finishing potential and the likelihood that they will stand and bang, the Under presents more value here.   “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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