Statistical Impact of Benson Henderson's Clinch Game and other notes from UFC Fight Night 79

In the main event, Henderson held the significant strike advantage over Masvidal 86 to 77. However, when it comes to total strikes, Masvidal held the edge 217 to 138. The concept of Significant Strikes was developed by Fight Metric and is fully explained here. Basically, it excludes strikes that are thrown simply to keep busy in the clinch and on the ground. Since this fight was mostly contested on the feet, most of these insignificant strikes came in the clinch position. The disparity between the fighters in terms of total strikes is expected, because Henderson continually forced clinch fighting along the cage. While he held position and looked for takedowns, Masvidal tried to score as best he could. 

The Unified Rules state, "judges shall use a sliding scale and recognize the length of time the fighters are either standing or on the ground as follows... if the mixed martial artists spent a majority of a round standing, then: effective striking is weighed first." Despite this, fighters pushing their opponents into a clinch position along the cage and doing very little are continually rewarded. There are tons of examples, but Randy Couture's robbery decision win over Brandon Vera is probably the best example of "wall and stall" influencing a judge's decision.

This belies the genius and effectiveness of Henderson's strategy.  His failed takedowns and clinches might seem like a cheap tactic to hold position along the cage, but the difference between the significant strike and total strike numbers show the actual genius in the strategy. By forcing the clinch on a more skilled striker, Henderson forced Masvidal to resort to throwing strikes without much impact. At the same time, Henderson was able to be the better striker on the StrikeScore scale in three of the five rounds.

Henderson is a true master of distance. In his fights, he always appears to strive to be either all the way or all the way out. He is either close enough to clinch and avoid strikes or far enough away that opponents can not touch him with strikes. Masvidal was able to give him problems by scoring with a rangy kicking game, but Henderson's strategy ultimately paid off again. The former champion is now 6-1 in five-round decisions in the UFC and WEC. Interestingly enough, his only defeat in such a fight came against one of the most dangerous range kickers in the sport, Anthony Pettis.

Henderson vs. Masvidal StrikeScore (Significant and Total)

Dong Hyun Kim shutout Dominic Waters
Waters did not even manage an attempted strike against Kim. After a brief clinch exchange, Kim took Waters down and secure the crucifix position. Kim attempted 95 total strikes during the fight. The result is a career-high 8100 StrikeScore for the South Korean fighter.

Judges find Akiyama slightly less Sexy
Yes, StrikeScore had Yoshihiro Akiyama over Alberto Mina. It most likely came down to the first round in the eyes of the judges which was admittedly close. StrikeScore MMA is still in the process of setting a criteria for a 10-8 round score, but Akiyama's 338 to -2 dominance as well as Mina's apparent disinterest in competing should probably qualify for a 10-8 third round.

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Alberto Mina StrikeScore

Korean Superboy Continues Knockout Tour
Doo Ho Choi's first-round knockout of Sam Sicilia rated a 389 on the StrikeScore scale. Amazingly that is a step down from his UFC debut, a 7600 StrikeScore performance against Juan Manuel Puig. Choi's first two wins have come in less than two minutes of cage time. Insert cliche about getting paid by the hour here.

Despite strange line movement Tae Hyun Bang defeats Leo Kuntz
Bang began as a -180 favorite. He stayed the favorite until late Friday night. On Saturday morning, he could be found as high as +321. Late line movement does occur, but it is rarely that drastic. The back and forth contest put to bed any notion of a fixed fight and Bang took the decision with a 218 performance.

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