Welcome to the latest biggest UFC event in the entire history of time.
That's not true, of course. It will be very difficult for UFC 168 to bypass the fabled UFC 100 event in terms of sheer monetary power; I wouldn't be surprised to see the event go over 1 million pay-per-view buys, but 1.65 million (the alleged number UFC 100 pulled in)? Nonsense.
But that's okay. What we're looking at here is still one of the biggest rematches in UFC history and certainly the biggest pay-per-view event of 2013. It's a fitting way to close out a year of exciting fights. You've got the main event rematch with Anderson Silva trying to avenge the first loss of his UFC career against the young champion who desperately wants to prove the first time around wasn't the fluke it appeared to be.
You've got the most heated rivalry in women's mixed martial arts, with the dominant champion taking on the opponent she already once beat. And on top of that, you've got a few more excellent stylistic fights that should lead to fireworks (knock on wood).
Today, we take a deep dive into the statistics behind the fights, provided by my good friend Reed Kuhn from Fightnomics. He's the Bill James of mixed martial arts, combing and analyzing statistics and data to see if any trends can be spotted. Today, we'll take a look at some of those statistical categories and try to figure out if they can give us any sort of betting advantage over our peers.
Let's get started. Oh, and as per our new custom with these previews, be sure to look out for the Just For Fun and $5 Parlay on the final page.
Anderson Silva: -150
Chris Weidman: +130
I can't remember a more intriguing fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At least not in the last few years. It won't be the biggest fight ever, and any talk of this pay-per-view doing more than UFC 100 is nonsensical at best.
But it's one of the most interesting fights in UFC history, to be sure. It's a rematch that every fight fan has looked forward to since July 6, when Chris Weidman became the second Team Serra Longo fighter to score a gigantic UFC upset over a historic champion. Weidman knocked out Silva that night, wresting control of the middleweight championship from a man who had begun to border on the invincible.
Or at least it appeared that way. Because it turned out the weakest link in Silva's armor was hubris, and that's the most embarrassing thing of all. Even at 38 years old, Silva still has the skills to make virtually anyone he faces look like a rank amateur...when he isn't acting like a fool. But he acted the fool that night, and whether it's due to aging reflexes or Weidman simply being the best opponent Silva had ever faced, he paid for it.
But here we are again. This time around, Weidman is defending the belt. But once again, Silva is the betting favorite, and once again, I'm going to pick him.
Despite being knocked out in their last fight, I believe Silva is still the man we've watched dominate the middleweight division for years. Weidman has some statistical advantages; he attempts more significant strikes per minute than Silva. And while this is typically an indicator of a heavy advantage, I'm not sure it's the case with Silva. His game is heavily predicated on counter-striking, on making his opponents miss and drilling them with accurate strikes. His 67 percent Significant Striking Accuracy is the highest on the card by a wide margin, and his 1.8 Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute is the third lowest on the card, behind only Ronda Rousey (1.4) and Siyar Bahazurdada (1.5).
Silva is also a southpaw, and southpaws always have a statistical advantage when fighting orthodox stance fighters. It may not play out that way in individual fights, but in the long run it does.
But there's one major advantage Weidman brings to the table, and it's not even a skill he perfected: He's much younger than the challenger. At 38.7, Silva is long past the date when he should have been expected to start slowing down. And perhaps we saw evidence of that decline in his last fight. But perhaps not; perhaps Silva just got caught being dumb.
I do not deny that Weidman is a fantastic fighter who is likely to hold the middleweight championship for a very long time. He will. His combination of power, athleticism and wrestling makes him a very dangerous opponent for anyone he will face. But I'm going with the proven veteran here and can recommend a play on Silva anywhere up to -200.
PREDICTION: Anderson Silva by KO, Round 1
THE PLAY: Silva up to -200
Ronda Rousey: -800
Miesha Tate: +550
From a statistical perspective, there isn't much to chew on here. That's because Rousey hasn't had very many fights, and her fights haven't lasted very long. She has 11.2 analyzed minutes (compared to Tate's 91 analyzed minutes), and it's hard to extrapolate anything from those minutes.
But in looking at the data, we see two things: Both fighters are not very good at striking. We knew this already. We also see that Tate prefers to take her opponents down and work her way into a dominant position. Rousey is the same. The only major difference is that it has taken Rousey far less time to actually get into those dominant positions and far less time for her to actually execute a fight-ending submission.
I do not believe Tate is as much of a pushover as she's made out to be, both by the fans and this line. While Rousey has plenty of judo experience, she has very little fighting experience, and she has yet to be taken into deep waters. I think that's exactly what we'll see here, though I do believe the end result will be the same as all of her other fights. It'll just take her longer to finish it.
PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey by submission, Round 3
THE PLAY: Prop bet on Rousey winning in Round 3 (+850)
Josh Barnett -190
Travis Browne: +165
This fight is the most intriguing on the card to me, and it ultimately boils down to one major advantage for each man.
Browne is a heavy striker. Distance Knockdowns per Landed Power Strike (DKpLPS)is 12 percent; this means he's knocking his opponents to the canvas with 12 percent of the distance strikes he throws. Distance strikes, by their very nature, are all counted as power strikes by FightMetric, and those pawing jabs used to measure distance by many fighters are not counted. Barnett's DKpLPS is zero percent, which is to say he has not knocked anyone down from a distance power strike in all of his analyzed minutes.
Barnett's head strike defense is not great. It's on the lower end of the UFC average at 70 percent. His "Chin" rating is 97; that isn't a terrible Chin by any means, but it is lower than the UFC average. Browne's Chin is actually slightly lower at 95 percent.
In the striking department, Barnett is not great. But that isn't Barnett's game, and we all know it. Barnett is all about getting you to the canvas, by hook or by crook and then using his vaunted catch wrestling style to submit you. In this, he is quite effective; he has 1.9 positional advances per takedown, and his Share of Ground Time in Position in full mount is an astounding 21 percent. For comparison's sake, the average of the rest of the card in that statistic is 1.6 percent.
Barnett does not play to the strengths of others. He will not stick around in a war of striking with Browne. Look for him to get the fight to the ground early and often, and look for him to be successful. Browne has defended all seven takedowns attempted against him thus far in his UFC career, but he has never faced someone who can play that part of the game as well as Barnett. This one goes to the ground, and Barnett will eventually secure a late second-round submission.
PREDICTION: Josh Barnett by submission, Round 2
THE PLAY: Small play on Barnett
Jim Miller: -360
Fabricio Camoes: +300
The only advantage Camoes has against Jim Miller is the fact that he's a southpaw. His striking isn't just below average; it's actively poor, and he produces no Visible Damage on his opponents.
That's not his game, of course, and Miller's Takedown Defense of 39 percent is borderline poor. But Camoes has poor takedown accuracy (32 percent) and takedown defense (25), which leaves him susceptible to almost anything Miller wants to do.
And what Miller typically wants to do is grind. He gets you against the cage or on the ground and just breaks your will by the force of his own. He is relentless, rarely tires and is generally a bad matchup for grappling-heavy foes like Camoes. This one goes the way of the New Jersey native, and it may not be thrilling to watch. Just giving you a heads up.
PREDICTION: Jim Miller by unanimous decision
THE PLAY: Prop on Miller winning by three-round decision (+171) and save it for the $5 Parlay.
Dustin Poirier: -235
Diego Brandao: +195
This one feels like a good fight on paper. In reality, it will likely be anything but, and I fully expect Poirier to punish Brandao standing for as long as the fight stays upright. The Louisiana native is the more accurate striker and keeps a much higher pace (8.3, above average) than Brandao (5.0, slightly below average).
Poirier has moments where he can simply space out and make brutal mistakes that end up costing him. But if he's on his game, he's too much for Brandao. Far too much, in fact. A focused Poirier is a dangerous featherweight indeed, and he'll prove that to open up UFC 168's pay-per-view main card in style.
PREDICTION: Dustin Poirier by TKO, Round 1
THE PLAY: Small play on Poirier.
The Just For Fun And $5 Parlay: Silva, Rousey, Miller, Poirier, Hall, Siver, Bahazurdada