UFC on FOX 19 April 16th, 2016 Middleweight Matchup: Lyoto Machida vs Dan Henderson By @fightnomics Big Picture: It’s hard to imagine that this weekend will mark the 19th time the UFC has put fights on network primetime, and yet here we are with a FOX card loaded with veterans and fresh stars alike as part of the new norm. And the UFC knows it has to deliver on the bigger stage, so the main card features several future contenders in the first two match-ups, while the last two fights offer bouts between former champions and title contenders. In the co-main event, former Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida takes on Former two-time PRIDE champion and UFC title challenger Dan Henderson – although the fight will be held at Middleweight. It’s a legend-circuit type match-up between guys with star power and entire nations behind them, but also who are not expected to vie for the title again before they retire. So forget about title implications, and just sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Oddsmakers opened Machida as a -270 favorite, but he has since drifted further to -355. Henderson started at just +190, and is now +295. Let’s check the statline to see if the numbers support Machida as a favorite worth playing. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape highlights the fact that Henderson is now the oldest active UFC competitor. Admirably, he has tallied multiple wins in the UFC even after turning 40, but he also dropped six fights in his second UFC run, including all four of his last losses by finish. The two men are similarly sized, while Machida is a hard to deal with Southpaw. The biggest factor remains the age of both, but especially of Henderson. Striking Matchup: The matchup here is a glaring contrast of strength and weakness. Machida’s karate style striking has caused problems for a lot of opponents through the years, and his stats are remarkable. He’s second all-time in the UFC (Silva) for career knockdowns, and his offensive accuracy and defensive avoidance are also among the best around. If he has lagged anywhere, it’s been his pace of output and initiation of exchanges, which at times has been downright hesitant. And yet that’s part of his style. Meanwhile, Henderson will forever live in highlight reel Valhalla thanks to his big right “H-Bomb” hand, which ended the nights of many opponents in one swing. He may not land it often, but when he does, it counts for a lot. But despite that power, the problem with Henderson’s striking is the liability of his poor head striking defense and diminishing durability. He’s tied for the most knockdowns suffered of any UFC fighter in history (not a metric that gets publicized), and his head strike avoidance is below average to begin with. The combination of these strengths for Machida and weaknesses for Henderson generate a strong lean towards Machida finding his target early, and likely hurting Henderson enough for a finish. Henderson has his own threat of power, but Machida’s evasiveness is just as key here as his striking accuracy. Grappling Matchup: These two both have ground credentials, but in opposing styles. Henderson is the all-American wrestler, while Machida has the black belt in BJJ. While Machida isn’t known for submissions, it is interesting that he has performed well on the mat and against strong wrestlers, while Henderson’s ground game has been mixed at best. Machida is no stranger to opponents wanting to get him to the ground to neutralize his striking. And were this matchup in a small-sized cage like Machida’s last fight (a loss to wrestler Yoel Romero), Henderson’s wrestling might be more of a threat. But Machida knows how to circle and move, staying out of range of wrestlers and waiting for openings for strikes. And even if Machida is taken down, he usually stays out of danger, or gets back up. A finish on the mat is unlikely, although it could stretch the duration of the fight. Reed’s Pick: Machida by TKO, Under, ITD (Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The metrics are lopsided, and while many fans would hate to see Henderson take another KO loss, the factors at play here support Machida’s ability to land a decisive blow at some point. Playing Machida straight up was originally good parlay fodder, but as the line steadily climbs, it doesn’t return much value while the risk of Henderson finding a way to start a wrestling match becomes more costly. It’s not really his style, but at this point in his career he doesn’t have many options. The best single play is Machida by T/KO which has run +100, and should stay close to an affordable slight favorite. While the ITD prop of -285 is also reasonable for parlays and hedges for the H-Bomb. The limit is 1.5 rounds, with the Under currently -190, agreeing with the strong possibility of an early finish. If you’re not playing props, the Under is a decent value play that also hedges on an H-Bomb taking advantage of Machida’s own recent accumulation of damage. But the limit is still tight, as Machida is often too willing to wait on his opponent to advance, and Henderson often does the same. A staring match for a few rounds would be costly. The lowest risk play is Machida (Scorecards = No Action) at -500, which cancels the bet if something strange occurs and they go three rounds. For more statistical analysis of MMA, get the book “Fightnomics: the Hidden Numbers and Science in Mixed Martial Arts.”