By @fightnomics The main event features a classic striker vs wrestler matchup, but it’s not the only fight where styles will contrast. Most fans readily accept that a Team Alpha Male fighter is probably good at wrestling, but how often does Chad Mendes really utilize his base? It turns out, an awful lot. This metric shows what percentage of a fighter’s total fight time is spent not only on the ground, but controlling their opponent. Scoring high on this metric means a fighter is not only attempting a lot of takedowns, but landing them, and keeping opponents down. It also means they aren’t getting reversed. The UFC average is about 15%.
For more on these and other MMA performance metrics, get the book “Fightnomics.”
Best in Class Wrestler This just in from Captain Obvious: Chad Mendes is the most effective wrestler at UFC 189. He has spent more than one third of every minute spent in the Octagon owning his opponents on the mat. That’s not bad at all. Given the range disadvantage and the clearly dangerous striking of his opponent, wrestling McGregor would be a wise strategy here. It’s also what all non-McGregor fans are hoping to see in order to halt the hype train that has yet to pass through elite wrestling country. Other Frequent Wrestlers Dennis Bermudez is another guy with wrestling stats that match his NCAA D1 experience. He attempts takedowns even more frequently than Mendes, but doesn’t land them at quite as high a success rate. Still, with very high takedown defense, the vast majority of his time on the mat sees him in control. You may be shocked to see McGregor coming in at third on this list given how good his precision striking is, but there are a few good reasons. First, most of his fights ended quickly by strikes. Second, in the one fight that he took the distance against Max Holloway, McGregor tore an ACL and chose to use wrestling more as the fight went on. He landed four of five takedowns in that fight and spent much of the third round in control. That fight alone skews his wrestling time upward compared to his quick striking victories. It’s still early, but in his first few fights Garcia has mixed in wrestling when needed, including eight takedowns landed against Sean Spencer. Still, his matchup against Swick may be determined on the feet. Brad Pickett may be nick-named “One Punch,” but he’s attempted nearly twice the takedowns of his opponents and averages one landed takedown per round. Meanwhile, his opponent Thomas Almeida has yet to attempt a takedown in his two UFC appearances to date. Above Average Control Time John Howard is a grinder, and in his second UFC run has utilized his wrestling effectively on occasion. He now finds himself potentially fighting for a roster spot against Cathal Pendred. Howard may want to use his wrestling, but he also has big power in his hands that could play a factor here. Gunnar Nelson is the least active striker on the card, but most would consider his ground game to be his best asset. He’ll need his wrestling on point to neutralize the striking threat of Brandon Thatch. Jeremy Stephens has decent wrestling stats, but his hands are way more dangerous. Against a wrestler like Bermudez, Stephens will likely be on the defense to keep this standing. Unfortunately his takedown defense is just about average to date, so he may not have much time to do damage before ending up on his back. Rory MacDonald is comfortable fighting all over the cage. Specifically against Lawler however, we may see more of his wrestling than usual. As Rory climbed through the ranks, he was most praised as one of the few fighters who could win rounds over his training partner Georges St-Pierre, one of the best MMA wrestlers in the division. The position battle in the co-main event will be very interesting to watch. Mike Swick is another guy who has ended a number of fights very quickly with strikes, so his wrestling time in longer fights stretches his true intentions. While he’s still competent on the mat, Swick is a striker at heart, and his matchup with Garcia should be a striking duel. Matt Brown is one of the more aggressive and dangerous strikers in the UFC, but he’s also utilized his wrestling when needed. His takedowns of striker Stephen Thompson led to a lopsided beating via ground and pound, so Brown has this capability in his back pocket even if he doesn’t seem to favor using it out of the gates. Keeping it Standing We know Louis Smolka works at a very high pace on his feet, but he hasn’t avoided the mat altogether. He’s a busy fighter, and he’ll take this fight where he needs it to go. In this matchup, that probably means to the mat. Cathal Pendred is another aggressive striker, and also spends a lot of time clinching. What he doesn’t do a lot of is wrestle. While he’s the busier fighter in this matchup, he’ll need his takedown defense to remain solid against Howard, as it has been so far. Robbie Lawler hasn’t needed his wrestling much, and why mess with a good thing? His hands have knockout power, and he’s gone toe-to-toe with plenty of good strikers. Against MacDonald, he’ll likely want to keep the fight standing, although that may be hard to do. Neil Seery is a great counter-striker, and he’ll need his backward striking to be on point if he’s going to keep Smolka off of him. Seery definitely doesn’t have the ground advantage in this matchup. Tim Means rarely utilizes wrestling, which adds one more reason to why his fight with Matt Brown could be a slobberknocker. Bringing up the rear is newcomer Thomas Almeida. As mentioned, he has yet to attempt a single takedown in two fights so far, and time will tell if that trend remains true for this Muay Thai Striker. He’s the biggest favorite on the card over Brad Picket, partly thanks to the 13-year Youth Advantage that Almeida will have. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here.