UFC 185 March 14th, 2015 Lightweight Matchup: Anthony Pettis vs Rafael dos Anjos By @fightnomics The Lightweight division in the UFC may be the most competitive, and that makes Anthony Pettis a champion among the elite. Yet it’s surprising that there isn’t a challenger worth better than three-to-one odds. But that’s the situation here when Pettis takes on the number one ranked contender, Rafael dos Anjos. The champion Pettis is currently a -450 favorite over Dos Anjos at +360. Both men have looked impressive lately, but do the stats support Pettis as such a big favorite? Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tape is fairly even: both men fight Orthodox, and Pettis is only marginally younger and longer than dos Anjos. In “fight years,” however, dos Anjos has racked up 10 more professional MMA bouts by going pro at just 19 years old, and logged nearly twice the Zuffa cage time that Pettis has. While dos Anjos is more experienced, he’s also more grizzled, and that’s not a good thing. Yet there’s nothing here giving a big edge either way. Striking Matchup: The striking stats confirm what we already knew: Pettis is an excellent striker. Starting with a Tae Kwon Do base, Pettis has now racked up one of the more threatening striking attacks in the division, and has put away some of the best and toughest opponents. And he maintains that power through an elevated striking pace with very high precision. Defensively, he’s been very hard to hit, and never been knocked down. Consider this: Pettis has received only 49 head strikes (includes jabs) from a distance through his WEC/UFC career. Dos Anjos has received 222. Dos Anjos’s striking stats don’t look good on paper, yet he’s been in against some very respectable competition. Pace-wise, he tends to get outworked by opponents, and despite being on the defensive, he hasn’t held up very good accuracy. His defensive avoidance is good, but he’s not landing often. We’ve seen what happens when he does – as he’s not without power – but against an elusive and accurate striker like Pettis, the standup exchanges definitely favor the champion. The longer the fight stays on the feet, the more Pettis can pull away by doing more damage. Pettis can win rounds with his superior technical striking, and he is also a knockout threat right out of the gates. Grappling Matchup: The grappling metrics reveal a more mixed message. Dos Anjos is eager to use his ground game, attempting more takedowns than is average, but landing them at only an average success rate. His takedown defense is slightly above average, but not much. The net-net is that he’s been in control more often than not while on the ground. On the ground his focus is primarily on ground and pound and control, which is less of a threat to ending the fight, but still valuable in winning rounds. That profile does present risk for Pettis, who while reluctant to use his own takedowns, has spent a fair bit of time on his back. Notably, his loss to Clay Guida in his UFC debut was due to Guida’s relentless, though somewhat ineffective, ground attack. Pettis’s takedown defense is actually above average, yet he rarely initiates grappling himself. But when he finds himself on the mat, his submission game has caught people by surprise. Especially Benson Henderson, who was forced to tap in the first round of their title fight. Pettis doesn’t have the jiu jitsu credentials of dos Anjos, but he does seem to be very effective at using submissions, resulting in an overall submission success rate that is twice the UFC average. Dos Anjos will be the more likely fighter to look for the ground, but there’s a good deal of uncertainty about whether he can get it there. If he does, he could easily steal a round, but he’ll also need to fend off Pettis’s active guard game. Grappling presents the likeliest path to victory for the underdog, but remains an unlikely scenario. Reed’s Pick: Pettis Inside the Distance (Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The statline supports Pettis’s striking as the biggest advantage in the matchup. The current juice, however, has drifted into the realm of very low returns, and too much risk for most on a straight play. While Pettis winning is still a high probability outcome, he’s only useful in parlays with another clear winner to limit your exposure. If the price continues to climb, Dos Anjos is too skilled an overall fighter to be dismissed at a massive underdog. Favorites can still break hands or tear muscles on the first exchange, and underdogs can still land an unexpected solid punch that changes the course of the fight. In fact, Dos Anjos was a +440 underdog when he faced (and knocked out) former champ Benson Henderson. There must always be a limit to the price you’re willing to pay. The Over of 2.5 rounds at -135 suggests a slight lean that this fight sees the championship rounds, with a little plus money of +115 on the Under. Picking an early finish here is essentially picking Pettis, and the line for Pettis Inside the Distance is -127. Both finish plays are reasonable, as Pettis’s striking is dangerous enough to cause problems that could end, or just set up the end of the fight. Inside the Distance buys more time given the durability and experience of dos Anjos, so use that play straight or in parlays, and keep an eye on the Under to see if you can get a larger return closer to the fight for a smaller high-return play. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here. Follow along on Twitter for the latest UFC stats and MMA analysis, or on Facebook, if you prefer. Want to put your knowledge to the test in Fantasy MMA for cash? Use the code “FIGHTNOMICS” for an immediate 25% deposit bonus at Kountermove.