Gabriel Gonzaga vs Mirko Cro Cop 2 – UFC Fight Night 64 Statistical Analysis and Pick

UFC Fight Night 64 April 11th, 2015 Heavyweight Matchup: Gabriel Gonzaga vs Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic By @fightnomics A rematch nearly eight years in the making will headline the UFC’s first trip to Poland, and the theme of card will be “uncertainty.” Not only are 10 fighters on the card making their first UFC appearance, but Mirko Filipovic (aka “Cro Cop”) won’t have graced the Octagon with his presence in 1,243 days. Gonzaga opened a mild favorite, and despite some volatility, has settled at -170 with the underdog Cro Cop at +150. It was Gonzaga who prevailed in their first meeting. Despite being a +400 underdog at UFC 70, Gonzaga landed a head kick knockout that effectively “Cro Cop’d” Cro Cop on the way to a title shot. But now eight years later, both men are coming off consecutive losses in the UFC. Cro Cop has remained active since leaving the promotion and has accumulated recent wins in Japan, while Gonzaga is already in his second run in the UFC and has been facing higher-level competition. Someone will rebound with a UFC win, so let’s see if the numbers can sway us one way or the other.  Summary Stats:

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

  Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tape is glaring on the age line. Both men are on the wrong side of age 35, with Cro Cop making a rare appearance in the Octagon as a 40-year old. To date, only 18 fighters in UFC history have ever appeared in the Octagon over 40 years of age, so Cro Cop would be the 19th. Unfortunately for him, that peer group hasn’t fared well, with an overall win rate of just 37% in 52 total fights. Size-wise, Gonzaga gets a mild reach advantage, but Cro Cop uses a Southpaw stance, which has likely helped his kick-heavy attack. Both men have fought as recently as December, which ultimately might hurt Gonzaga due to the short recovery time since his last TKO loss. Overall, the factors here are pretty close, and the age of both fighters is a big liability that adds uncertainty overall.   Striking Matchup: It’s hard to tell where the fight will spend most of its time due to stylistic differences. In their first fight, the finish came on the feet at a distance, but Gonzaga had already utilized an extended period of ground and pound prior to setting up the head kick. Generally, most would identify Cro Cop as the more technical striker, and certainly his long and decorated career in kickboxing would support a big striking advantage over Gonzaga. On paper (in UFC competition only), it’s actually a much closer matchup. Both men are deliberate, but slow to engage on the feet. They each average less than seven strike attempts per minute while standing at a distance, and each man tends to get outworked by his opponents. Historically, that may be partially due to their sizes. Both men have a shorter than average reach for the Heavyweight division, meaning they’ve been outranged by longer opponents more often than not. Here the difference won’t be as large, but Gonzaga will still benefit from added range while Cro Cop will be in the familiar spot of trying to keep his distance. Once they engage with strikes, the surprise here is that while they have identical power head strike accuracy, and a similar mix of jabs to power strikes, Gonzaga has actually scored knockdowns at nearly twice the rate of the kickboxer, Cro Cop. However, the technical edges still suggest Cro Cop is the more skilled striker, with a sharp jab and excellent head strike avoidance for a Heavyweight. His accuracy, on par with Gonzaga’s, may be deflated due to his reliance on powerful, but lower success rate kicks. Defensively, while Cro Cop gets hit less often, his does tend to take a lot of damage when he does. His knockdown resiliency (“chin”) rating is very poor, and he also tends to wear visible damage. That means Gonzaga doesn’t need to land too often to threaten with his strikes, and just one punch (or kick) could at least cut Cro Cop, and possible knock him down. So overall there’s a lot of give and take here. Both men are dangerous, but also clearly vulnerable. And while Cro Cop should have the technical edge, it’s cancelled out by Gonzaga’s added range, greater pure power and slightly better resiliency. These are all reasons to view this fight as a coin flip type of matchup, where either fighter could win by highlight reel knockout. However, due to the low pace and hesitant engagement of both fighters, that knockout might take time to develop.   Grappling Matchup: On the mat there’s finally more of a separation in assessments. Gonzaga is a 4th degree BJJ black belt, and has scored the majority of his career wins by submission. He has never been submitted in MMA, and also boasts impressive grappling credentials outside of MMA. Stylistically, this appears to give him the biggest advantage in the fight over a kickboxing specialist opponent. In their first meeting, Gonzaga landed his only takedown attempt, and definitely took the momentum in the fight via vicious elbows from the top. It was only a referee standup the changed the course of the fight, and led to the epic head kick KO heard around the world. While statistically Gonzaga’s takedown offense is not very efficient, it’s certainly tenacious. He caught a body kick from Cro Cop to take him down, and that could be effective again in their rematch, as Cro Cop’s overall takedown defense is well above average. Whether Gonzaga converts early, or is forced to make multiple attempts, if he gets in top control he will effectively seal a round in his favor, and possibly set up a finish via strikes or submissions. Meanwhile, Cro Cop is very unlikely to implement a grappling offensive, as he’ll mostly be playing defense to keep the fight standing where he has the best chance. With only two landed takedowns in his UFC career, Cro Cop knows better than to fight from a submission ace’s guard. So this aspect of the fight gives the clearest mismatch potential between the two, and sways the overall edge further in Gonzaga’s favor.   Reed’s Pick: Gonzaga to Win (Click for latest MMA odds)   Reed’s Recommended Play:  Forced to make a pick here, Gonzaga has more paths to victory and deserves the lean. But the current odds appear to be roughly accurate, and don’t present much value. This fight also presents extreme volatility. One strike by either man could end it quickly, or it could turn into a clinching stalemate, or even a ground and pound approach for Gonzaga. Gonzaga is a deserving favorite this time around, but not more than two-to-one. Once fatigue sets in for each man in later rounds, it could be anyone’s fight. The Under of 1.5 rounds at +100 is also a risky conundrum. Despite all the offensive finishing potential and defensive vulnerabilities of these two veterans, an early finish is not guaranteed. The striking profiles suggest a lot of feeling out could take place, and the potential for Gonzaga to use his ground game could also prevent truly violent exchanges from a distance. Taking a side and playing the total in this case both would benefit from a wait and see strategy. And at their respective ages, a peak at weigh in photos wouldn’t hurt either to see how each man has kept in shape of late. Should the total lines move significantly in either direction, some value may present itself on the flipside.   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.

Written by Reed Kuhn

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