The numbered UFC events are extremely title fight heavy towards the end of 2015. UFC 193 had both women’s belts up for grabs (and seriously, what an amazing couple of fights they were), and UFC 194 has both the men’s Bantamweight and Middleweight titles on the line.
Can the men live up to the fiery precedent set by the ladies last time out?
For UFC 194 I will be taking a close look at both the title fights, by comparing the statistical information available for each fighter to try and work out what will happen and who will come out on top.
For my analysis of the headlining Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor fight, go here.
The results of my UFC 193 prognostications can be found here. But really, isn’t the journey to the augury more fun than the accuracy of the predictions? I’ll just keep telling myself that and move along…
Chris Weidman has had an interesting career thus far. After a spotless 4 & 0 career in the regionals (including this particularly vicious stoppage of Uriah Hall for the ROC title in 2010) he cut his way quickly to a title shot against Anderson Silva.
Despite the talk of his well-rounded skills and split expert predictions, I believed that beating Mark Munoz and Demian Maia was not enough qualification to be granted a title shot against ‘The Spider’.
A couple of minutes and a fantastically executed KO later, I was prepared to don the requisite egg on face. Chris Weidman is for real.
This wasn’t enough to settle the argument though. The MMA community was chock full of arguments – “Anderson was just clowning, it was a lucky punch”, and my personal favourite – “Weidman didn’t win, Anderson lost”.
And so the scene was set for the second fight – surely this would finally cement either fighter as clearly the better fight. Then we were treated to the image of Silva’s leg wrapping around Weidman’s later and really, no one wanted the answer anymore. Weidman is the undisputed champion, but without the emphatic, clear victory he wanted – all after a truncated run to the title.
Even after a clear decision victory over the famed Lyoto Machida wasn’t enough to bring the fans across. His frustration at not receiving the kind of support he felt he deserved was evidenced by his rambling post-fight interview with Joe Rogan after his first round demolition of Vitor Belfort.
Luke Rockhold is no stranger to first round knockouts involving Vitor Belfort. Unfortunately he was on the receiving end during Belfort’s much publicized TRT run, which Belfort was off prior to his loss to Weidman.
He also seems to have no problems attracting support from the general public.
The former Strikeforce Middleweight champion began his career with a chequered 1 & 1 record before making his way to a major promotion. There he managed to solidify a reputation as a dangerous all round fighter, paying his dues through the organisation before his sensational victory over Ronaldo Souza for the championship in 2011. He defended his title twice before making his way to the UFC (and into Belfort’s flying TRT juiced leg).
Since then he has been in amazing form, working his way up the ladder with devastating victories over progressively tougher opponents, highlighted by his one sided destruction of Lyoto Machida.
‘Well-rounded’ is a very common phrase when looking at descriptions for both fighters. Looking at their career summaries bears this out.
|Chris Weidman||Luke Rockhold|
Both fighters have a mix of KO/TKO victories, interspersed with submissions and decisions. While both fighters are notable BJJ black belts who have never been submitted, Weidman has not scored a submission victory since 2011, while Rockhold has finished his last 3 fights via submission, which included Machida (black belt) and Michael Bisping (brown). Rockhold definitely has the recent form in the BJJ stakes.
Next up let’s take a look at the combined career records of their opponents. If one of the fighters has only faced opponents with a proportionately large number of losses, then the value of their own record comes under question.
|Chris Weidman||Luke Rockhold|
Weidman has the advantage here, especially in the Major fights* category, with his opponents showing both a greater amount of average experience at a higher level and a better success rate.
Now we come to the meat of the analysis. What do the fighters try to do in the cage? How successful are they in implementing their game plan? All will be revealed.
In Weidman’s 9 UFC fights, he has pretty evenly divided his victories between KO/TKO (4), Decisions (3) and Submissions (2). I took a look at his aggregate fight statistics for each of these modes, in order to see what factors led to the result.
In his KO victories he unsurprisingly managed to surpass his career significant striking accuracy, but what is surprising is that his defence also takes a significant tumble, blocking fewer than half of the significant strikes thrown in his direction.
|Sig Attack %||43%||57%|
|Sig Defence %||62%||49%|
This suggests that he is at his most effective offensively when he lets his guard down in the pocket and starts swinging – a dangerous proposition. Also of note, his 3 career UFC knockdowns have come only in his KO/TKO victories. Your best bet against such a fighter is not to engage in a brawl, and to counter punch and move as much as possible.
|Sig Attack %||43%||57%|
|Sig Defence %||65%||70%|
When comparing to Rockhold’s figures, you can see that while his career and KO/TKO striking accuracy is identical to Weidman, there is a great disparity in their defensive statistics. Rockhold is able to affect KO/TKOs by controlling the narrative of the stand-up, not getting drawn into a firefight. This augers well for Rockhold’s chances on the feet.
Due to his long tenure in Strikeforce, there is a great deal of statistical information for Rockhold going back a long way in his career. Of the 12 fights FightMetric offers information on, Rockhold has won by KO/TKO 3 times, Submission 6 times, and Decision twice. The only defeat recorded is the aforementioned knockout at the hands of Belfort.
So what happens when the KO isn’t available for both fighters?
|Chris Weidman||Luke Rockhold|
|Sig Attack %||38%||35%|
|Sig Defence %||64%||62%|
In their decision victories both fighters revert to very similar striking figures, with a high defensive success rate married to modest success in offence, suggesting good control of striking exchanges.
The differences in approach come into focus when looking at their grappling statistics. Being a highly credentialed wrestler, Weidman has a high number of recorded takedowns (enough for 7th among active middleweights), at a very decent completion rate, well over 50%. Over half of these takedowns have occurred in his decision victories. Intriguingly, even though Weidman has 7 attempted submission attempts (for two submission victories) he has never attempted a submission in a fight he has won by decision.
|Career||Chris Weidman||Luke Rockhold|
Also of note, only one fighter has ever even attempted a takedown against Weidman – Demian Maia was unsuccessful from 7 attempts during his decision defeat at UFC on Fox 2. Equally impressive is the fact that no one has even attempted a submission on him. This is a very impressive record, suggesting great control in being able to dictate grappling exchanges in the Octagon, even against decorated BJJ black belts like Maia and to a lesser extent Belfort and Anderson Silva.
In contrast, Rockhold shows his BJJ base – in 12 fights he has only attempted 6 takedowns for 2 successes, while he has been taken down 10 times from 36 attempts. While on the ground Rockhold has proven very active, with 9 submission attempts yielding 6 submission victories.
So what does it all mean?
Well, for starters both fighters have proven that they are well rounded fighters – good on both their feet and on the mat.
Weidman utilises his wrestling prowess to control fights and uses the threat of his takedowns to give himself room on his feet. Once on the ground he is adept at avoiding situations that can create submission attempts while utilising effective ground and pound. His one downside is that he can be drawn into firefights on his feet, and while so far that has worked in his favour, over the course a career it generally isn’t a prudent strategy. In MMA all it can take is one punch (or kick).
Rockhold likes to control the action on the feet, using his cerebral style of kickboxing to set up submission opportunities or knock outs. Feeling very confident in his strong submission game he has proven his ability to submit fighters with strong submission credentials. This focus on BJJ over wrestling has made him more prone to be taken down during his career than Weidman, and his ability to control the action on the mat is in question for this matchup.
The outcome largely depends on which Chris Weidman shows up on the night, if he can utilise his wrestling to control the action then we can expect a decision win for the reigning champ. On the flip side, his apparent need for fan recognition might inspire him towards a stunning knockout/submission victory – which would play right into the hands of the canny Rockhold.
Luke Rockhold by KO – Round 4
** Major fights are defined (arbitrarily) as being against either a top notch competitor or in a top notch organisation as listed –
- World Extreme CageFighting
- Elite XC/Pro Elite/Affliction