Mayweather vs McGregor – Smile and the world smiles with you…

In a little over a week, one of the most anticipated boxing matches in history is due to take place.

Initial estimations are that this fight could be the most watched in history. The 4 stop, 3 country press tour filled stadiums at every venue. TV stations and websites around the world are reporting on any tidbit of information, from their clothes to the size of their gloves. I even saw a recent article on a movie website invoking the fighters in an attempt to sell the new Bruce Lee biopic.

No – it isn’t between the sports two greatest current stars in their sporting prime, there are no belts on the line, and one of them has never even boxed professionally before.

Yes – unless you are either completely devoid of sporting interest of any kind, or you live in an internet/TV free cave somewhere, you know this fight is between UFC Lightweight Champion, Conor McGregor, and potential boxing Greatest Of All Time, Floyd Mayweather.

Orbiting this behemoth of a fight is one that hardcore fans have been clamouring for since early last year, between Gennady Golovkin – the WBA, IBO and WBC champion and Canelo Alvarez, the Ring champion and holder of the lineal middleweight championship. Combined their record is an unholy 86-1-1. The fight, scheduled for September 16, has barely moved the dial comparatively in terms of google search figures and mainstream media attention.

How can a fight between the boxing GOAT and a fighter with literally no professional boxing experience even compete with the blue ribbon fight in its shadow?

Hardcore boxing fans are not happy.  Serious boxing journalists are not happy.

The obvious answer, as far as I can tell, is the majority of people who are buzzing about the fight are not hardcore fans, and they don’t really care what serious boxing journalists have to say. People will shell out for something that stirs their imagination, something that seems like fun.

As a fan of any and all fight sports, I am excited by both. As a boxing fan, I am a little bit sad that GGG v Canelo isn’t a bigger deal to the mainstream, but I can certainly see why it isn’t.

With all the power in the hands of promoters, and many competing organisations with a multitude of “World Titles” and “Super Champions” etc., how is the general public supposed to take any belts seriously? How is Joe Average to know that the WBA belt is worth more than the IBO? For which weight class? Whos undefeated record is padded and whos isn’t?

Before the recognised global belt was split amongst the various private offerings, it was easy for Joe Average to know who the best boxer in the world was – the narrative was uncluttered and simple to understand. To be acknowledged as the best, you had to beat the guy with the belt. Boxing has become a sport that only the hardcore fans can truly understand, because they are the ones who could be bothered to dig a little bit beyond the hyperbole to uncover the true narrative.

Meanwhile, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has grown from strongman contests of the early 90’s to a global phenomenon. Leading the way from the very beginning has been the Ultimate Fighting Championship. They have aggressively bought out any serious competition – attracting the very best fighters in the sport to their promotion and exercising complete control over who fights for their belts. In this way, with varying degrees of accuracy, the narrative is much easier to sell to the general public. The UFC champions are generally acknowledged by fans and Joe Average as being the best MMA fighters in the world. You don’t have to be a hardcore fan of MMA to understand the narrative at a glance.

The Mayweather v McGregor fight is so incredibly popular because more than anyone in the recent history of boxing, Floyd Mayweather has managed to earn himself the reputation as the very finest boxer of his age. Anyone with even a cursory interest in boxing is aware of Floyd Mayweather, and rightfully so. He might very well be the best boxer in history. Conor McGregor has likewise earned himself a formidable reputation in MMA, understanding very well the power of his own brand, and the machinery of hype, he has become the first person to hold belts in two different weight classes concurrently and has become, by far, the biggest PPV draw in MMA history.

Joe Average is well aware of both combatants. He knows that Floyd is the best boxer, but that he is old, he also knows that Conor is in his prime and has a history of knocking people out on his feet. While boxing and MMA are vastly different sports, Conor has shown a proficiency of striking skills that has kept him at the top of two different weight classes – not any of the other myriad skills that make up a modern MMA champion.

For some reason, this fight is offensive to many serious boxing journalists and hardcore fans. Take a look at the outcry from a bit of Conor McGregor’s warmup routine.

I have to admit that I found David Haye’s lampooning hilarious, but really – boxing royalty are going to mock Conor McGregor’s warm up? His method of shoulder loosening is somehow proof that he will be destroyed by Mayweather?

Again, as a boxing fan I am disappointed. Many segments of the boxing fraternity are wasting energy crying about the fight despoiling a sport that has 68 “world titles” covering 17 weight divisions, not to mention the 9 divisional “Super Champions” of the WBA.

How can a fight that guarantees millions of Joe Averages pouring their hard earned money into an event that will most likely see boxing’s best defeat the upstart MMA champion, be worse for the sport than the continuing world title farce?

I would love to see McGregor defeat Mayweather, not only because Mayweather is a piece of human garbage  – but because in the lead up to this fight hardcore boxing fans and media have made themselves out to be old fashioned elitists, complaining about this fight while ignoring the real, systemic issues with the professional sport.

At the end of the day I really don’t care about the outcome. This fight is fun. Professional fighting is entertainment, and entertainment is subjective. I enjoy a good contest between a sports brightest stars and for that reason I will be watching GGG v Canelo, but I also don’t mind fighters who have the guts to strive for greatness, to test themselves against the best, even though the rest of the world thinks they will lose. For that reason I will be watching Mayweather v McGregor.

I will finish with the following line from Jonathan Snowden’s excellent article on the fight

“Fans and media will have two choices about how they respond to this fight. They can either cross their arms, harrumph and write a series of grumpy tweets complaining about the sanctity of legalized fist fighting, or they can take a deep breath, smile and enjoy the show.

I’m grinning already. “

 

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UFC 195 – Title Fight Analysis – Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit

After a blockbuster record breaking 2015, the UFC is trying to start the New Year with some fireworks – booking two of the most popular action fighters in the UFC to fight for the welterweight strap, on top of a pivotal heavyweight clash between Andrei Arlovski and Stipe Miocic.

Can ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler defend his title against Carlos Condit, or will the ‘Natural Born Killer’ take his belt away?

Background

Both fighters have had long and storied careers, most notably Lawler who was one of the stars who made his name as the UFC emerged from the ‘Dark Ages’ between 1997 and 2001. His team at the time, Miletich Fighting Systems, became as famous for its rough training regimen as the seeming conveyor belt of championship level talent.

He stayed loyal to the team through the peaks and troughs until the fighters went their separate ways. Between MFS and his self-managed training camps he managed a respectable record (19 wins, 8 losses, 1 no contest) in some of the best promotions in the world.

This wasn’t enough for the future UFC welterweight champ – after more or less alternating wins and losses in Strikeforce he decided to make the full time move to American Top Team.

Since then he has gone 7-1, the sole blemish coming in a close fought decision loss to then title holder Johny Hendricks.

Carlos Condit debuted in September 2002, a little over a year after Lawler. His career took a little while longer to get going at the highest level, which isn’t surprising given his first opponents. Of his first 12 career opponents, a startling 5 had never fought before – the rest had a combined record of 32 wins, 17 losses, 2 draws and 1 no contest (22 of those wins coming from 2 fighters).

Condit really started to make his mark after he was signed by WEC, going undefeated in that promotion over the course of 5 fights, winning the welterweight title and defending it 3 times.

Since the ugly split decision loss to Martin Kampmann on his UFC debut, Condit has built a solid reputation as a fun action fighter – losing only to divisional ruler Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks before a heavy leg kick by Tyrone Woodley seemingly ended his immediate title prospects. A win over the middling Thiago Alves later and here we are – with Woodley subsequently losing decisively to Rory MacDonald, who then lost a war against Lawler, the UFC needed a bankable alternative.

 

Career records

Both fighters have an enormous amount of experience at the highest level of the sport, and that means they have 6 common opponents between them.

Robbie Lawler Carlos Condit
Fighter
Johny Hendricks Loss (Dec) – Win (S-Dec) Loss (Dec)
Nick Diaz Loss (KO) Win (Dec)
Rory MacDonald Win (S-Dec) – Win (TKO) Win (TKO)
Jake Ellenberger Win (TKO) Win (S-Dec)
Jake Shields Loss (Sub) Loss (Dec)
Frank Trigg Win (KO) Win (Sub)

 

Comparison of the outcomes of these fights is inconclusive. Lawler has the advantage by having a split decision win over Johny Hendricks, and a TKO of Jake Ellenberger (instead of a split decision victory by Condit).

Condit does have a recent win over Nick Diaz (compared to a KO loss suffered at UFC 47 by Lawlor), but given the nearly 11 year gap it loses a certain amount of relevance.

While each fighter has accumulated a similar amount of overall fight experience, there are some key differences in their career fight outcomes.

Robbie Lawler Carlos Condit
Wins 26 30
KO/TKO 20 15
Submission 1 13
Decision 5 2
Losses 10 8
KO/TKO 1 1
Submission 5 3
Decision 4 4
N/C 1 0

 

With a TKO/KO rate of 77%, Lawler lives up to his ‘Ruthless’ moniker. He wants to knock you out, and he has proven power in his hands to make this dream a reality.

Condit’s preferred method of victory is also TKO/KO with 50%, but right behind that at 43% are submissions. It is surprising then that he hasn’t recorded a submission victory since Carlo Prater in February 2008, 12 fights ago.

Another key point about Condit’s figures – of the 6 times his fights have reached the judge’s score cards he has only won twice. What is it about his fight style that seems to lose him decisions?

 

Fight Statistics

What I do in this section is take a look at the official statistics provided by FightMetric.com to work out what each fighter does in the cage. This can paint a picture of the preferred style utilised by each fighter, represented by what they attempt and what actually pays off.

As each fight starts on the feet, so too does my analysis.

Robbie Lawler Carlos Condit
Attack Career Career
Significant Strike Accuracy 44% 41%
% Significant of Total 89% 64%
Knock Downs 15 7
% Standing Strikes 69% 70%
% Clinch Strikes 18% 10%
Strikes Landed Per Minute 3.49 3.41
Defence
Significant Strike Accuracy 62% 58%
% Significant of Total 90% 72%
Knock Downs 1 3
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute 3.39 2.18

 

Here the differences in each fighters striking style becomes apparent. With a significant strike percentage of total strikes nearly 90%, and more than double the amount of recorded knock downs, Lawler’s career knockout record starts making much more sense.

With a fantastic defensive record of 62%, somehow Lawler still manages to get hit almost as many times per minute as he hits his opponents. This, and the fact he has a relatively high proportion of clinch strikes to total, suggests that he prospers by encouraging a firefight with his opponents – one which he almost always wins. With only one career knockdown recorded against him, it would be very hard to bet against his chin.

By contrast, Condit’s varied attack is evidenced by the 64/36 split between significant and total strikes, and the fact that he coaxes similar proportions from his opponents. Even with a good defensive record of 58%, Condit gets hit much less than Lawler per minute. This suggests a varied fighter who is adept at creating distance to discourage incoming strike attempts, and then closing distance to unleash a variety of attacks.

Whichever way the stand-up plays out, both fighters have shown a willingness and ability to take the fight to the floor.

Robbie Lawler Carlos Condit
Grappling Attack Career Career
Take Downs 17 10
Take Down% 68% 56%
Submission Attempts 0 18
Guard Passes 13 41
Position Reversal 4 8
% Ground Strikes to Total 13% 20%
Grappling Defence
Take Downs 33 55
Take Down% 67% 40%
Submission Attempts 8 12
Guard Passes 16 32
Position Reversal 0 10

 

Both fighters are much more likely to be taken down than to initiate takedowns themselves. With a takedown accuracy nearing 70% in both attack and defence, Lawler has proven to be the better wrestler of the two fighters.

Once on the ground though, Condit’s offensive grappling record proves to be a step ahead of Lawler’s – being far more active in guard passes, reversals, submission attempts and ground and pound.

One thing that cannot have escaped the notice of Dan Lambert and the team at ATT is the fact that of his 4 recorded losses, Condit has been outplayed on the ground.

Carlos Condit
Grappling Attack Career Losses
Submission Attempts 18 4
Guard Passes 41 5
Position Reversal 8 3
Grappling Defence
Take Downs 55 32
Take Down% 40% 20%
Submission Attempts 12 7
Guard Passes 32 24
Position Reversal 10 3

 

While both fighter’s striking statistics are largely similar when comparing Career figures to Losses, the one thing that stands out are Condit’s ground statistics in defeat. Given that both Tyron Woodley and Johny Hendricks were decorated NCAA Division 1 wrestlers (both state champs, Hendricks All-American 4 times), and Georges St-Pierre wasn’t such a bad wrestler himself…this makes a bit of sense.

Lawler doesn’t have the wrestling pedigree of these fighters, but is the supposed wrestling advantage he enjoys over Condit going to be enough to base his game plan on?

 

Summary

The game plans of both fighters are pretty obvious – Robbie Lawler is going to try and draw Condit into a brawl, and throw in some takedowns to try his luck playing the positional game.

Carlos Condit is going to try and turn this into a technical striking match, using many and varied attacks to move in and out of range. His danger lies in his exotic moves – spinning kicks and jumping knees. Lately he has indulged in some literal striking exchanges, if he tries the game he used against Woodley it will be a quick night for Lawler.

While a vicious knockout is always a possibility when Condit takes to the cage, I believe that Lawler’s advantage in wrestling and clinch fighting will drag the fight into a brawl – which Lawler’s chin, power and in close defence will ensure victory for the champ.

Prediction – Robbie Lawler by KO, Round 2

 

References

Robbie Lawler Sherdog record

Robbie Lawler FightMetric profile

Robbie Lawler UFC Official Fighter Profile

Carlos Condit Sherdog record

Carlos Condit FightMetric profile

Carlos Condit UFC Official Fighter Profile

 

 

UFC on Fox 17– Dos Anjos vs Cerrone 2 – Statistical Analysis

The helter skelter end to 2015 continues, with the 5th UFC title up for grabs in a little over a month as the lightweight belt is up for grabs.

In the last four fights the incumbent has been relieved of UFC gold 3 times out of 4; will this one be any different? Can dos Anjos show his defeat of Cerrone in 2013 wasn’t a fluke?

To check out my previous MMA rantings and ravings go here.

Context

The UFC Lightweight title has largely been in a state of flux since BJ Penn was outclassed by Frankie Edgar in 2010. 3 different title challengers in a row got a rematch, setting up the embarrassing UFC tradition of immediate rematches for titlists. I get it, if there is a draw or some other amazing circumstance then fine, other than that – let the division roll.

Benson Henderson was the closest thing to a dominant champ, after seeing off Frankie Edgar twice he was able to defend the belt a further two times, before he himself was picked off by the mercurial Anthony Pettis.

The reign of the injury prone Pettis was not to be long, falling at the second hurdle to the underrated Rafael dos Anjos.

dos Anjos arrived at the UFC under extremely tenuous circumstances. After a solid 11-2 career in the regionals, he fell in his first two UFC fights – against tough veterans Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin.

While two fights on the trot could see many fighters sacked, the UFC kept the faith and let the young Brazilian mature into the fighter he is today. To find a possible explanation for his shaky early performance let’s look at the combined records of his pre UFC opponents.

Opponents records before  and after UFC debut
Rafael dos Anjos
Overall Before After
Win 49 291
Loss 33 79
Other 8 6
Win % 54% 77%
Major Fights
Win 1 138
Loss 7 65
Other 0 3
Win % 13% 67%

As the table above demonstrates, his opponents prior to the UFC had a measly winning percentage of 54%, and were 1 from 8 in Major Fights**.  Jeremy Stephens was easily the most experienced and decorated fighter dos Anjos had ever met up to that stage in his career, with a fight night record of 15 wins for 3 losses.

Cerrone has long been a mainstay of the UFC 155 pound division, racking up 15 in cage bonuses over the course of his 18 fight UFC career. Since February 2011 he has fought on average once every 3.2 months – a rate few (if any) other fighters could match. This is despite a long term stomach injury aggravated in 2012.

 

How do their records stack up?

Both Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone have been around the very highest level for a while now. As such, they not only have a wealth of statistical information for us to analyse, they also have six common opponents and have even faced off already.

Fight Outcomes – Common Opponents
Rafael dos Anjos Donald Cerrone
Opponent
Benson Henderson Win (R1 KO) 2 Loss (Dec, R1 Sub) 1 Win (Dec)
Evan Dunham Win (Dec) Win (R2 Sub)
Anthony Pettis Win (Dec) Loss (R1 KO)
Jeremy Stephens Loss (R3 KO) Win (Dec)
Nate Diaz Win (Dec) Loss (Dec)
Anthony Njokuani Win (Dec) Win (R1 Sub)

As the table demonstrates, dos Anjos has the better of their shared history, with Cerrone only getting the better of Jeremy Stephens, where dos Anjos has wins over multiple fighters with victories recorded against Cerrone.

dos Anjos and Cerrone fought in an entertaining affair at UFC Fight Night 27 in August 2013, with Dos Anjos winning two of the three rounds to pull off a well-deserved decision win.

 

What will their game plans be?

dos Anjos will undoubtedly go into this fight confident after his win two years ago. However, two years is a long time in the fight game, and Cerrone has been on a tear ever since – racking up 8 consecutive victories over some of the biggest names in the game.

How did dos Anjos win the first fight, and what evidence is there to suggest the same thing won’t happen again?

Looking at the total fight statistics, it is clear that the ground game played a very small part in this contest, so I will just be looking at the statistics of the stand-up.

Donald Cerrone Rafael dos Anjos
Stand-up
Sig Strike 40 39
Sig Attempted 80 109
Significant Accuracy 50.0% 35.8%
Total Strike 43 58
Total Attempted 83 128
Total Accuracy 51.8% 45.3%
% Sig of Total 96.4% 85.2%
KDs 0 1

 

The table above makes for interesting reading, for a fight with such a clearly deserving winner in dos Anjos, the statistics are remarkably close. The round-by-round figures complete the image.

KD SIG. STR. SIG. STR. % TOTAL STR.
ROUND 1
Donald Cerrone 0 11 of 22 50% 11 of 22
Rafael dos Anjos 1 17 of 40 42% 28 of 51
ROUND 2
Donald Cerrone 0 10 of 18 55% 12 of 20
Rafael dos Anjos 0 15 of 37 40% 23 of 45
ROUND 3
Donald Cerrone 0 19 of 40 47% 20 of 41
Rafael dos Anjos 0 7 of 32 21% 7 of 32

 

If watching any Cerrone fight one thing starts becoming clear – he starts slow to find his range and build a rhythm and then uses his peerless cardio to punish his opponents down the stretch.

This fight was no different. After being beaten on his feet for round one and two, Cerrone managed to turn things around in the third – almost doubling his offensive output in terms of strikes landed and critically (especially in the case of dos Anjos) he managed to evade nearly 80% of strikes thrown at him.

Comparing the career statistics of both fighters to the records of fights they have lost helps to identify what strategies are successful in defeating each fighter, and what went wrong.

Rafael dos Anjos Donald Cerrone
Attack Career Losses Career Losses
Significant Accuracy 41% 26% 47% 46%
% Sig of Total 78% 82% 90% 85%
Defence
Significant Accuracy 69% 65% 56% 49%

 

While you can expect any fighter’s performance to drop in a defeat, dos Anjos offensive record in defeats is startling. His respectable career accuracy of 41% drops 15% in fights that he loses – much like round 3 of their first fight. Cerrone was able to make him miss, while tagging him with a high volume of punches. I don’t believe that this is something the wizards at Jackson Winkeljohn MMA will have overlooked.

Since his loss against dos Anjos, Cerrone has been on an impressive 8-0 run. How did he fair against his opponents in the first round of their clashes?

Significant Strikes landed in the 1st
Opponent Donald Cerrone
John Makdessi 32 31
Benson Henderson 27 19
Myles Jury 0 1
Eddie Alvarez 23 19
Jim Miller 22 19
Edson Barboza 28 11
Adriano Martins 13 16
Evan Dunham 14 22

 

As the table can attest, even winning these fights Cerrone is still routinely out-struck in terms of significant strikes in the first round. If he gets tagged in the first round like he did in their first contest, will the five rounds be long enough for Cerrone to make his comeback?

 

Prediction

Here I go again, making the tough call on two outstanding fighters.

Both fighters are excellent submission grapplers – so much so that I have deliberately left analysis of their grappling out of this article. I strongly believe the outcome of this fight will be decided on the feet.

Cerrone will start slow, but I believe his early objective will be to frustrate dos Anjos, and force him to take the offensive. By the time he warms up entering the championship rounds, Cerrone will have found his range and rhythm and will then start to pick Dos Anjos apart.

Donald Cerrone by Decision.

Who do you think will win?

 

References

Donald Cerrone UFC Fighter Profile

Donald Cerrone Sherdog fight record

Donald Cerrone FightMetric fighter Profile

Rafael Dos Anjos UFC Fighter Profile

Rafael Dos Anjos Sherdog fight record

Rafael Dos Anjos FightMetric fighter Profile

 

** Major fights are defined (arbitrarily) as being against either a top notch competitor or in a top notch organisation as listed –

WSOF

World Extreme CageFighting

M1

UFC

Bodog

IFL

Elite XC/Pro Elite/Affliction

Bellator

WEC

Strikeforce

Pride

UFC 194 Statistical Analysis – Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor

And here is the fight that we have been waiting so long to see. Can the ‘Notorious’ hype train bowl over the supreme ‘Scarface’?

I take a look at all of the recorded fight statistics for both combatants to try and sift out reality from the hype. I look at the combined career records of their opponents before delving into their official FightMetric statistics to help determine what each fighter brings to the table. I then make foolish assumptions about who is going to win. Continue reading “UFC 194 Statistical Analysis – Jose Aldo vs Conor McGregor”

UFC 194 Statistical Analysis – Weidman vs Rockhold

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? Continue reading “UFC 194 Statistical Analysis – Weidman vs Rockhold”

UFC 193 Washup – How did my analysis fare against reality?

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A few days have passed since Holly Holm pulled off the unthinkable and annihilated Ronda Rousey. Having a bit of time to reconcile the monumental shift in the UFC landscape helps to put context back in some kind of order.

As ground shattering as this moment was it doesn’t quite erase a pretty solid night of fights, Jedrzejczyk fended off the game Letourneau, Hunt closed the chapter on ‘Big Foot’ Silva, Rob Whittaker took a big step toward UFC legitimacy, and a host of up and coming Aussie talents looked like they belonged against well matched, decent opposition.

For this UFC event I thought I would take my nerdy statistical eye and apply it to the main card fights. I even went so far as to hazard a guess at the outcomes. So, how did I do? Did the fighter’s performances match the great big bag of statistical information they carry with them? Continue reading “UFC 193 Washup – How did my analysis fare against reality?”