Any attempt at using analytics in sports is going to be hampered by varying levels of competition. This is even more of an issue in combat sports. Fighters can build immaculate records without facing any real opposition or pad their striking stats against tomato cans.
In the main event of UFC Fight Night 87, Alistair Overeem holds the career StrikeScore advantage over Andrei Arlovski 309 to 157 respectively. The proprietary stat, in its raw form, measures striking efficiency without opponent adjustment. Overeem’s score is one of the highest recorded, but since the stat uses data from all bouts in the Fight Metric database, it includes fights like the Reem’s 36-second knockout of professional wrestler Tomohiko Hashimoto.
So, to cut through the noise and provide a clearer picture of this fight, we have implemented the following strategies. The first step is to compare the performance of Overeem and Arlovski against the rest of the ranked fighters in the UFC heavyweight division. Second, for this exercise we will only include the last five fights listed in the database. Third, we will measure not just striking performance but also level of competition.
The end result is the following scatter plot. The X axis is the average Fight Matrix rankings of the fighter’s last five opponents (with No. 1 being best), while the Y axis is the average of the fighter’s last five StrikeScores.
As you can see Arlovski has faced slightly better competition, but Overeem blows him away in terms of striking performance. Striking wise, Overeem is the big favorite and that is reflected in the betting odds.
Also of note, the large cluster of points shows that the UFC continually does a good job of making fights between top fighters. In boxing, or even other MMA promotions, the dots would most likely be more spread along the X axis.
Before signing with Strikeforce in 2011, Germaine de Randamie was probably best known in the U.S. as a viral video star of sorts. She faced male Belgian actor Tom Waes in a kickboxing match and scored a pretty sweet knockout
Mad Dog Ground Game
Reza Madadi has been unable to capture a UFC victory unless he catches a submission. Yan Cabral is a much more classically trained grappler and has never been tapped in MMA. On top of that, Cabral has cut down to lightweight after starting his career at middleweight and that size advantage will pay dividends in a grappling battle.
Race to be the second best flyweight
If you throw out his title challenge against Demetrious Johnson, Kyoji Horiguchi has the sig strike advantage over his opposition 248-134. In terms of common opponent, both Horiguchi and Neil Seery have scored stoppage victories over Jon Delos Reyes. Horiguchi knocked him out in 2014, while Seery scored a second-round submission last fall.
Sailing in Dangerous Waters
Leon Edwards has looked pretty solid in the UFC when he was not stuck on the bottom against Kamaru Usman. This fight will likely play out on the feet, which is bad news for Dominic Waters. In his two UFC fights, he has been outstruck 60 to 13 in sig strikes and he failed to land in his last fight against Dong Hyun Kim.
Both Yuta Sasaki and Willie Gates have negative StrikeScores after three fights in the Octagon. Sasaki is mostly a grappler, while Gates has engaged in some ill advised brawls. The opener will be an interesting contrast between refined ground skill and physicality.