Joseph Benavidez vs John Moraga – UFC 187 Statistical Analysis and Pick

UFC 187 May 23rd, 2015 Flyweight Matchup: Joseph Benavidez vs John Moraga By @fightnomics It’s rare to see Joseph Benavidez not near the top of a fight card, but then it’s tough for Flyweights to get recognition by MMA fans. He’s not fighting for a title this weekend, which means he’s also going to be an overwhelming favorite. Since losing to Dominick Cruz at Bantamweight twice, and then losing twice to current Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, Benavidez has had to take what he can get, and that means leading off the pay-per-view portion of the card against John Moraga, despite both fighters being ranked in the top five of the division, and both remaining in the title picture. On paper it’s a competitive pairing, with both men only having losses to the current champion or the current number one contender, and yet the market has taken an extreme position. In the steepest odds of the entire card, the #2 ranked Flyweight Benavidez is currently a -600 favorite over the #5 ranked Moraga at +450.  With such a high price for the favorite, it wouldn’t take much to sway value towards the underdog. So let’s see if the numbers can support that.   Summary Stats:

Uber Tape Benavidez-Moraga (1) 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 is a close call on paper. While the underdog Moraga has a small but potentially significant reach advantage of two inches, Benavidez strikes as a Southpaw. The age differential of less than half a year makes this all a wash. So in order to justify Benavidez as such an overwhelming favorite, we’ll need to see the performance stats.   Striking Matchup: Here we’re seeing why Benavidez is the favorite, as he gets the edge in nearly every metric. Neither guy has very high power striking accuracy, but then Flyweights are a quickest and evasive weight class, so it’s not surprising. Benavidez gets the edge in power, pace, and durability and that should be enough for him to win the standing matchup. In fact, Benavidez has above average power for the Flyweight division, and has even set up finishes of several opponents with strikes to the body – a rare feat. Moraga on the other hand, has not demonstrated power from a distance, and yet has been dropped at a rate that is worse than the division average. That makes for knockout potential more strongly in favor of Benavidez. In terms of pace, it’s also a mismatch. Benavidez averages the highest rate of striking of any fighter on the card, while Moraga is actually one of the lowest. Combined with the tendency for Benavidez to control the cage and outwork his opponents, the likelihood of winning rounds even without a knockdown are good. It’s not to say that Moraga doesn’t have a puncher’s chance – he does – and Benavidez learned the hard way what being too aggressive can lead to in his shocking knockout loss to Demetrious Johnson. But it would be even more shocking to see that again here from Moraga. Round-to-round expect the pressure from Benavidez to combine strikes and also takedown attempts to win rounds. And don’t sleep on the power of the Flyweights.   Grappling Matchup: On the ground we see another near-sweep of metrics in favor of Benavidez. Both fighters have low takedown success rates, but Benavidez has still managed to use his wrestling effectively. And that’s despite some of his numbers including a close 25-minute split decision to Dominick Cruz at Bantamweight, which saw the Dominator land six takedowns on nine attempts. Moraga does have solid wrestling credentials, but his ground control stat is very low at 17%, meaning he has been controlled by opponents the majority of the time. Benavidez fell short in wrestling against top talent like Cruz and also Mighty Mouse, but generally he has gotten the better of opponents. Furthermore, his ground game also offers a variety of submissions, which have led to many of his career wins. Should the fight end up on the ground, it’s more likely to be Benavidez in control or threatening with chokes should Moraga shoot too aggressively.   Reed’s Pick: Benavidez Inside the Distance, the Under (Click for latest MMA odds)   Reed’s Recommended Play:  The current price of -600 makes Benavidez straight up way to expensive, and it could conceivably go higher if he’s used in parlays with any of the other (many) clear favorites on the card. But he’s supported as a winner by the numbers, so pair him with Weidman, Browne, and Hall before prices rise any further for an even return parlay. But also consider other angles here. The Over of 2.5 rounds is currently -200, the Under +170. Obviously the market thinks these Flyweights will fight to a decision. But the striking mismatch in power mentioned above, combined with the frequent submission attempts of Benavidez make an early finish a little more likely than the typical Flyweight matchup. Take the Under, or just consider a prop play on Benavidez Inside the Distance if you can get it at a higher return than the Under. Currently, the two are priced the same, but parlay action on the Over could add value to the Under, which also hedges against Moraga’s puncher’s chance. If the lines tighten, it’s conceivable the prop go could win out.   For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here. 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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