Jon Jones vs. The World, UFC 197 Fight Forecast

On Saturday, Jon Jones returns from his exile and faces Ovince Saint Preux in the main event of UFC 197. Jones was originally set to face Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title that was taken from him due to his legal issues.

With or without the title, Jones is head and shoulders above the rest of the division. In addition to being virtually undefeated and most accomplished, he also holds the highest StrikeScore and striking differential by wide margins.

To quantify accomplishment let’s look at Fight Matrix ranking points. The software ranking uses a system of points. Fighters with most points are awarded the higher rankings. For the purpose of this exercise, we will average a fighter’s ranking points over the last eight quarters. This will provide a baseline for what a fighter has accomplished over the last two years.

StrikeScore measures striking efficiency and awards fighters for being effective offensively and defensively. Striking differential is simply how many strikes did a fighter land versus how many their opponent landed (Fighter A sig strikes - Fighter B sig strikes = Striking Differential). For striking differential data from each fighter’s last five fights was used.

As you can see in the following two plots. Jones is in a league of his own. The following plots contain all fighters currently listed in the UFC rankings.

In terms of rankings points, striking differential and StrikeScore, Jones is far above the rest of the division. Cormier and Anthony Johnson seem to be his closest opposition, which makes sense, because they will likely be his next challengers. 

Saint Preux will probably need a lot of luck to take home a victory over the former champion. If there is one glimmer of hope, it is in the power department. When it comes to sig strikes landed per knockout, Jones actually comes in 15th out of the 16 ranked UFC light heavyweights with 229. On the other hand, Saint Preux is 6th with a knockout every 67.5 sig strikes. Of course, Jones has always been hard to land against. During his UFC run, his opponents have only landed 34 percent of their sig strikes.

Fight Forecast
Fight Forecast previews the event by providing the fighter's career StrikeScore as well as UFC Fantasy predictions, betting odds, DraftKings prices and Fight Matrix rankings. In the following table, predicted winners are in blue and predicted losers are in red. 

StrikeScore is a proprietary stat that measures striking efficiency. The formula uses Fightmetric data, so fighters without fights in the database are not included. Also, a fighter must have at least three fights in the database before the formula can considered at all predictive.

UFC Fantasy numbers are the percent of players who have picked each fighter to win. (Numbers are current as of 4/22/2016 2:15 PM EST)

Odds is the betting line of 5Dimes taken from BestFightOdds.com. (Numbers are current as of 4/22/2016 2:15 PM EST)

DraftKings prices listed below are the dollar value used for the fantasy game.

Fight Matrix column represents the fighter's current unbiased and objective ranking.

* Fighters without three fights in FightMetric database

* Fighters without three fights in FightMetric database

Other Notes:

Henry Cejudo’s Defense leads the way
In his UFC career, Cejudo has been extremely effective from a defensive perspective. He has avoided 74 percent of his opponents’ sig strikes attempts and stopped 100 percent takedown attempts against him. He will need to replicate that defense here to pull the upset. Demetrious Johnson and Matt Hume are one of the best tandems for game planning in MMA history.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk tanks Carla Esparza’s StrikeScore
Esparza’s StrikeScore is considered unofficial, because she only has two fights in the FightMetric database. However, it is hard to miss the fact that she is coming into this fight with a -4 socre. Well, that is what happens to a lot of strawweights after they run into Jedrzejczyk. Following her victory over Rose Namajunas, Esparza’s score was 171. Following losing her title it fell all the way to -4.

Anthony Pettis takes nearly as much as he dishes out
Pettis has a well deserve reputation as a dynamic standup fighter. After all, he jumps off cages in the middle of fights. However, in the overall MMA game, he often gets caught in certain positions and eats a lot of strikes. For his UFC career, he has landed 211 sig strikes but eaten 210.