In 2013, the UFC put on 386 fights in the Octagon, more than any other in its 20 years in business. With fight cards coming faster and faster now, it may all seem like a blur, but it’s worth pausing for a moment and looking back at how everything went down.
Out of those 386 fights, only 65 (or 17 percent) were restricted to pay-per-view audiences, meaning MMA fans had access to more free UFC action than ever before—more than 300 fights worth. Even if you tried watching every single fight, it would be understandable if you missed a few things.
So here’s every UFC fight in 2013 all in one map, by weight class and how the fights ended, including all 19 title fights tagged for special attention.
The graph above is a Marimekko chart, which is an area chart that adjusts the horizontal axis to account for how many fights occurred in the division. Each box within the chart represents a pool of fights that occurred in a certain division and ended a certain way.
The bigger the box, the more fights ended that way. Taller boxes mean more fights ended by a certain method, while wider boxes mean more fights were held in a certain weight class.
There are lots of interesting things to consider here, but please keep in mind, this is a single year of data, and trends are volatile whenever we use a tight control on the timescale. Still, let’s point out a few notables for 2013.
- For the promotion that didn't even have a lightweight division for a time in the mid-2000s, it’s worth noting that more than half of all UFC fights occurred below welterweight. The center of mass has been dropping for some time, and for the last two years, the average fighter weight has been below 170 pounds, which never happened before 2012.
- The UFC roster is still clustered in the middle, as featherweights and women’s bantamweights only had 38 fights between them (skinnier columns), while the lightweight division alone had 75 fights (the thickest column)—almost twice the number of the other two divisions combined. Divisions on the more extreme ends of weight also have fewer roster spots in the UFC.
- Fortunately, smaller fighters still put on great fights and actually bucked the trend of declining finish rates in 2013. In fact, the featherweights and women’s bantamweights finished more fights last year than all other weight classes except the knockout-hungry heavyweights.
- Although heavyweights and lightweights both finished 19 fights by (T)KO, the heavier fighters only needed 28 fights to do it, while the lighter fighters needed 75.
- Not a single heavyweight fight ended by split/majority decision, at least not officially. The one heavyweight fight that led to disagreement on the judges’ cards was Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva, but it was overturned to a no-contest after a failed drug test by Silva.
- The heavyweights ended 68 percent of their fights by (T)KO or referee stoppage, far more than any other weight class. When it comes to submissions, however, it was the bantamweights who were mostly likely to get a tap at 32 percent of the time. The featherweights saw the most scorecards read, going to a decision 59 percent of the time.
- The newest and lightest divisions, as well as the heaviest, have the fewest roster spots in the UFC. They represent the edges of the normal distributions for size, and therefore also have the most limited talent pool in the population at large. So it’s interesting that these divisions had very high finish rates, supporting the theory that there are greater competitive imbalances at more extreme sizes. This also implies the center-of-mass divisions—which have the lowest finish rates—may be the most “competitive.” Stay tuned for more on this complicated subject.
- Titles changed hands only twice in 2013, both times in a finish. Lightweight Benson Henderson lost by submission to Anthony Pettis, while middleweight Anderson Silva was knocked out by Chris Weidman.
- That means champions successfully defended their titles a whopping 89 percent of the time.
- Flyweight Demetrious Johnson was the only champion to defend his title three times, which he did with a winning trifecta of one knockout, one submission and one unanimous decision. All other champions fought twice in 2013.
- Chris Weidman and Cain Velasquez each won both of their title fights by (T)KO, while Georges St-Pierre was the only champion not to get a finish last year.
- Note the two title bouts in the women’s bantamweight division each ended by submission. This was entirely the work of Ronda Rousey, who defended her belt twice by armbar victory and scored the only submission victories in that division to date.
- Split decisions occurred only twice in title fights in the lightweight and welterweight divisions, which are also historically the most competitive.
It was a year chock full of events as well as full of fights that were eventful. Now that 2014 is off and running the UFC wants to put on even more events and fights this year.
Will the Flyweights continue their unusual run of knockout finishes? Will any Women’s Bantamweight other than Ronda Rousey pull of a submission? Will any two Heavyweights fight so closely that we see a split decision? How many titles will change hands this year? Will regression to the mean lead to different trends this year? And how will the new Women’s Strawweight division play out inside the Octagon?
There is plenty to look forward to in 2014.