By @fightnomics We saw several high performing strikers come through with big wins at UFC 194, and now we’ve arrived at the final fight card of the year. It’s a FOX card too, so we know it will be stacked with fan-friendly strikers hoping to draw new mainstream fans to the sport, as well as sending out with a bang. But not all strikers are created equal, and even among good strikers, some excel in different ways. So let’s review the FOX 17 fighters on their offensive metrics to see who stands out, and specifically how. As we’ll see, there are some freakishly high performers in several categories, and some pairings that should turn into striking duels. How the Graph Works This balloon (or bubble) chart includes the fighters competing this weekend with sufficient sample size. Many of them with move with more time, but it’s a good snapshot of how they’ve performed to date. The four metrics in the graph are all related to offensive striking. First, the vertical axis is the power head striking accuracy. This is a general reflection of a striker’s skill level in technique. But some fighters are more aggressive than others, while some are primarily counter-strikers, and those characteristics lead to very different striking styles. So the horizontal axis indicates the ratio of strike attempts while standing compared to the same fighter’s opponents. It’s a measure of output, and a proxy for aggression. An even 1.0 ratio means a guy matches the pace of his opponents when standing and trading, while a higher number shows more aggressive and higher-volume strikers compared to lower ratios indicating counter-strikers. The dots are plotted based on those two metrics, but two more variables are also shown. The size of the bubble is based on the fighter’s Knockdown Rate in the UFC/Strikeforce/WEC. Bigger bubbles mean a lot more power, while the small specks indicate fighters who haven’t logged a knockdown in recorded competition. And lastly, southpaw/switch stance strikers are in red. Lefties are rare, but are worth highlighting as most fighters have trouble with Southpaws.
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Best in Class Florida’s own Josh Samman has one of the smaller sample sizes on the graph, but his performances to date have been impressively ferocious. After a string of finishes on The Ultimate Fighter show, and after falling just short of the finals, Josh has since finished all three opponents in Octagon competition, including two KO victories. In those official UFC bouts, not only did he dominate the pace of action while on the feet, he did so with power accuracy that is well above average, and a Knockdown Rate of 17% on two knockdowns scored. One of the knockdowns came from a brutal high-kick/tree-felling that has occupied its fair share of highlight reels. Although Samman’s opponent is still listed on the graph due to his six prior UFC appearances, it’s important to note that McCrory has been out of the UFC six years, and his performance metrics are much less relevant due to time decay. Among the veterans of the Octagon, Junior dos Santos deserves recognition for his superior striking. He has dominated his opposition with the sole exception of then-champion Cain Velasquez on two occasions, but also besting the champ once. Dos Santos too combines the rare traits of precision with aggression and power. Snipers Opposite Junior dos Santos will be another feared striker, albeit feared for different reasons. Alistair Overeem is arguably the most accurate striker in the Heavyweight division, but is notably a little trigger shy. He is generally conservative in his strike selection, but boasts a hit rate that is remarkably high at 50%. However, it’s also worth noting that the giant Dutchman doesn’t aim at the head nearly as often as most strikers, but rather employs his kicking game to the legs and body at an unusually high rate. Regardless, the matchup between Overeem and dos Santos is likely to be an intriguing (and potentially short) striking war that will determine who remains in the mix along with Stipe Miocic and Andrei Arlovski for a title shot in 2016. Other highly accurate power strikers include Josh Samman, Junior dos Santos, Sarah Kaufman, and Nate Marquardt. High-Pressure Strikers With yet another nod to Josh Samman and Junior dos Santos, we look to the matchup pairings on the card and see that two of the highest paced and assertive strikers will be facing off against each other. They’re also the only two Southpaws listed. Nate Diaz and Michael Johnson both like to push opponents back and outwork them, but that cannot be true this weekend for both men. Something’s got to give. And while Diaz is more technical with tighter defense, Johnson is more powerful. And their strike selections are in more stark contrast of each other, as Diaz uses a high mix of precise jabs, while Johnson likes to swing with more power and mix in body kicks. One other matchup is worth noting in that Nik Letz is an aggressive striker, while his opponent Danny Castillo is more reserved. But this matchup will certainly see some takedowns mixed into the standup. Sluggers Again, Samman’s sample size is limited, but it’s hard to argue with his brutal finishes. Yet among the fighters with more experience, Donald Cerrone clocks in with a Knockdown Rate of 7.8% from a whopping 13 knockdowns scored in WEC/UFC competition. Cerrone’s Knockdown Rate is not only much higher than the Lightweight average, but it’s higher than even the Heavyweight average, including both highly ranked Heavyweights competing earlier on the card. Additional honorable mentions go to Junior dos Santos at 6.7%, Myles Jury at 4.8%, and Nate Marquardt at 4.7%. Michael Johnson’s rate is above the division average, and he gets mentioned here for having scored eight total knockdowns. Keeping it on the Ground Defending Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos did not get to where he is by being a dominant striker. In fact, when he faced former champ Anthony Pettis, the man famous for the Wall-Walk “Showtime” Kick, it was the strong wrestling of dos Anjos which trumped Pettis’s finesse striking. That stylistic imbalance will again be at play when RDA defends his title against the diverse and dangerous striking of Donald Cerrone. The odds are relatively close in that fight, reflecting the fact that each man has a path to victory in different ways. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here.