Mixed martial arts isn't the first sport you think of when someone mentions statistics, but the more data that is compiled, the more the numbers have a place in the analysis of the sport.
Like any other sport, the numbers mean nothing without perspective.
For example, one glance at the statistical comparison between UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao and TJ Dillashaw can be deceiving.
Dillashaw's statistics in strikes landed per minute, striking accuracy, takedown average and takedown defense are superior to Barao's, per FightMetric.com.
Here's a statistical overview:
|Striking (Significant Strikes)|
Strikes Landed per Min. (SLpM)
Strikes Absorbed per Min. (SApM)
Takedowns Average/15 min.
Submission Average/15 min.
What must be understood is that the two men's numbers were compiled against a different level of competition.
Dillashaw has built his record by beating the likes of Mike Easton, Hugo Viana, Issei Tamura and Vaughan Lee. Barao has risen to stardom on the strength of two wins over Urijah Faber, stoppages of Eddie Wineland and Michael McDonald and a decision win over Scott Jorgensen.
He also owns a 32-fight win streak.
The numbers don't completely deceive. Dillashaw is one heck of a striker, but despite the edge in stats, Barao is better in this area. On Saturday, he seems intent on proving it. Barao told Bleacher Report: "I believe T.J. [Dillashaw] thinks he is a striker now, and he isn't. I think he will mess up and make mistakes in this fight, and this will present the chance for me to finish him. I'm very calm and ready for this fight, and I believe I will win this fight because I'm the better fighter."
Barao's striking numbers are somewhat affected by the world-class competition he's faced but also by the way he fights. He'll throw a combination that is designed to force his opponent to react in a specific way. The moment the opponent moves to avoid a strike, the next attack is already on its way and potentially more dangerous because of the momentum created from the previous strike attempt.
From a statistical standpoint, that brings percentages down, but it's proved to be very effective.
Listen to what MMA writers from around the globe are saying about Barao:
Dillashaw is worthy of a shot at a world title. Perhaps only Raphael Assuncao, the man who beat him in October 2013, is more deserving, but that's another story.
That said, don't get too preoccupied with the statistical advantages that Dillashaw appears to have over Barao. They won't prove relevant on Saturday night. The champion is a good bet to retain his title.
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