In baseball, statistics are ubiquitous because of the length of the game and the lack of action. The sport also grew from radio where information was necessary to sustain people's interests. People have tried to translate the application of statistics to other sports, but their relevance is not always transferable. MMA is an example of how statistics do not always offer any insight.
During UFC 153, Mike Goldberg declared that Anderson Silva had the second best takedown defense among UFC middleweights. Chael Sonnen clearly demonstrated that Anderson Silva does not possess meritorious takedown defense.
Those who believe his ribs were the reason that he was dominated in the first fight had that dispelled with the first round of their second fight. It was only when Anderson grabbed Chael's shorts and broke the rules that he was able to prevent Chael from taking him down.
Anderson's takedown defense is 70 percent. The reason for his success in defending takedowns is because of his ability to control the range and his striking prowess does not allow for a decent shot to be executed.
The middleweight with the best takedown defense is Brad Tavares. Tavares has no wrestling accolades of note, nor would any legitimate source of MMA knowledge credit him as the best in the division. Middleweight fighters such as Dan Henderson, Tim Boetsch, CB Dollaway, Mark Munoz and Hector Lombard all have better takedown defense than Silva and Tavares.
Do you find value in UFC stats?
One important note is that people game-plan for their opponent. The maxim in boxing is brawl a boxer and box a brawler. The same principle applies to MMA. Wrestle a striker, and strike with a wrestler.
If a fighter is very skilled in wrestling, naturally they will have fewer options to defend a takedown because their opponents will not employ a strategy to implement takedowns. As a result, their takedown statistics will not reflect their skill level.
According to Fight Metric, the UFC fighters within the top 10 takedown defense include Andrei Arlovski at No. 2 at 89.5 percent and Mathew Riddle tied at No. 5 with Brad Tavares at 85.7 percent. With all due respect to these fighters, I would suggest that very few people would state that their takedown defenses are accurately represented by these stats.
Goldberg stated that Anderson was at No. 2 in the Middleweight division at 70 percent. However, Sonnen is at 71 percent and Yushin Okami is at 83 percent, so I don't know how Anderson ranks second.
Jon Fitch had a great fight with Erik Silva. It was announced that Fitch's statistics reflected his impressive submission defense skills because of the number of submissions attempted against him that did not produce a submission.
A great grappler would not even allow the submission to be attempted. This is akin to stating that Rocky has the best defense in boxing because he was so rarely knocked out.
How often do you see Roger Gracie, Demian Maia and Jacare escaping subs? This is because the high level players do not put themselves in a position to allow a submission attempt. As a result, they would have fewer submission attempts defended statistically.
A final point to consider when evaluating the legitimacy of these statistics is to recognize that there are various of degrees in skill level throughout the UFC. Mathew Riddle and Brad Tavares are not fighting the same calibre of opponents as those title holders and title challengers. Obviously, it is easier to have positive statistics when facing less skilled opponents.
I think that in fighting, no statistics are important. There is only one factor of importance: performance. There is no quantifiable means to measure how well one fights. One can fight excellently and lose; similarly, it is possible to fight poorly and win. So I discount the win/loss stat.
Creating ridiculous stats to fill air time and to make oneself appear to be erudite is typical Mike Goldberg chatter and impedes the viewer's enjoyment of great UFC action. Sometimes, less is more. Hopefully, the trend of using stats in MMA will fade as quickly as a submission attempt labelled by Joe Rogan to be a "wrap."