Ultimate Fighting Championship: Crunching The Numbers (Updated)

Flyin' HawaiianAnalyst IJanuary 12, 2009

Unlike anything else in this world, mixed martial arts is something that is capable of absorbing me completely. As an avid fan, I spend a great deal of time immersed in the sport, whether it be training, watching, discussing, or simply thinking. 

Quite often I find myself lying awake at night pondering a wide variety of subjects, ranging from fight predictions and outcomes, to Arianny Celeste, to Dana White's UFC video blog.  In one way or another, I am intrigued by nearly every aspect of the sport.

Just a few days ago, I began thinking from a more statistical point of view.  I started asking questions like:  "How often do fights end in triangle choke?  How about TKO?  How many title fights actually go all five rounds?"  These were questions that needed answers, despite their triviality.

That being said, over the past 72 hours I have collected data from every UFC Pay-Per-View event since UFC 31, and analyzed the statistics.  I chose UFC 31 as a starting point due to it's historical significance.  This event, held on May 4, 2001, was the first PPV put on 100 percent by Zuffa, and was the first time the UFC introduced the five weight-class system.  UFC 31 also marked the MMA debut of a certain 22-year-old Hawaiian prodigy I happen to be a fan of.

Before I begin, I would just like to clarify a few things:

1.  This data is for UFC PPV events only (UFC 31 to UFC 92), and does not include UFC Fight Nights or Ultimate Fighter Finales.

2.  Title fights include title defenses, title unifications, interim title fights, and fights for vacant belts. 

3.  Decisions include unanimous, split, and majority. 

4.  Knockouts include KO's, KTFO's and TKO's (referee stoppage, injury, etc).

5.  Over the years, there have been a handful of catchweight fights due to fighters not making weight.  Instead of creating a catchweight category, I've included these fights in their intended weight divisions.  The 175-lb catchweight fight between Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie at UFC 60 was considered a welterweight fight.

Overall Breakdown:

Since UFC 31, there have been a total of 546 fights inside the octagon.  Of these, 225 have ended by knockout, 138 by submission, 141 by unanimous decision, 31 by split decision, three by majority decision, and three by disqualification.  There have also been three draws and two no-contests.


There have been 107 lightweight fights since the Zuffa era began.  The lightweights have gone the distance 47 percent of the time, which is the most of any division by far.  27 percent of fights have ended by submission, and 25 percent by knockout.


Welterweight is the busiest division in the UFC with 120 total fights.  The welterweights also seem to be the most well-rounded, with 39 knockouts, 34 submissions, and 36 unanimous decisions.  


The middleweights have fought 108 times.  The totals for knockouts (40) and submissions (39) are nearly identical.  Only 29 percent of the fights have gone to a decision, which is a steady decrease from their lightweight (47 percent) and welterweight (38 percent) counterparts. 

Light Heavyweights:

This is the least busy division in the UFC, with a total of 103 fights.  Over half the fights have ended by knockout (51 percent), but only 15 percent by submission.  Two of the three DQ's in UFC history have come in this division.


The heavyweights are tied with the middleweights with 108 fights.  A staggering 80 percent of these fights have been finished (61 percent by knockout, 19 percent by submission).  We have seen heavyweight fights end seven different ways: knockout, submission, unanimous decision, split decision, majority decision, disqualification, and draw. 

Title Fights:

There have been 69 title fights in UFC history.  Of these 69 fights, 52 percent have ended by knockout.  Overall, there have been 18 title fights in the heavyweight division, 16 in each the light heavyweight and welterweight divisions, 12 in the middleweight division, and only 7 in the lightweight division.

Did You Know?

None of the fights at UFC 40 went the distance, making it the only event without a single decision.

Benji Radach vs. Steve Berger at UFC 37 resulted in the UFC's first ever No Contest.

Frank Mir has the only wins via toehold (UFC 41 vs. Tank Abbot) and kneebar (UFC 81 vs. Brock Lesnar) in UFC history.

Only two middleweight fights have ended via split decision (Thales Leites vs. Nate Marquardt at UFC 85 and Patrick Cote vs. Ricardo Almeida at UFC 86). 

Only 16 light heavyweight fights have ever ended via submission.  In comparison, Jeremy Horn alone has 16 submission victories since UFC 31—though not all have come inside the octagon.

In 2002 and 2004, no heavyweight fight went the distance.

The most effective submission has been the rear naked choke with 40 victories.  The armbar and guillotine follow with 24 and 23 victories, respectively.

The only draws in UFC history were BJ Penn vs. Caol Uno at UFC 41, Ian Freeman vs. Vernon White at UFC 43, and Tito Ortiz vs. Rashad Evans at UFC 73.

BJ Penn vs. Caol Uno was also the only draw in title fight history.

Between UFC 45 and UFC 57, no title fight went the distance (the longest streak in UFC history). 

In title fights, the defending champion has been victorious 64% of the time.

BJ Penn vs. Jens Pulver at UFC 35 resulted in the only majority decision in lightweight history.  It was also the only majority decision in title fight history.

No title fight has ever been decided by split decision.

Joe Riggs (UFC 56) and Travis Lutter (UFC 67) are the only fighters to miss weight before a title fight.  In Riggs' defense, he was a late replacement for Karo Parisyan.

Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, and Sean Sherk are the only champions to be stripped of their titles due to steroid use.

Tony DeSouza has the only successful Peruvian Necktie in UFC history.  This does not include the Ultimate Fight Night: Silva vs. Irvin event, when C.B. Dolloway used the hold to submit Jesse Taylor.

There have been more submissions due to strikes (12) than submissions due to triangle choke (10). 

With the exception of UFC 31 (Carlos Newton vs. Pat Militich), Matt Hughes and/or Georges St. Pierre have been involved in every welterweight title fight. 

BJ Penn has defeated every other man who has ever held the lightweight title.

53 of the 63 PPV events have included at least one title fight.  UFC 37.5, UFC 47, UFC 60, UFC 70, UFC 72, UFC 76, UFC 78, UFC 85, UFC 88, and UFC 89 have not included title fights.

That concludes my statistical breakdown of the Zuffa era.  It'll be interesting to see how 2009 plays out, and if the results are consistent with this data.  Considering the unpredictability of MMA, I'm sure it won't be.  Every time I think I have this sport figured out, I am always proved wrong.  That's what makes MMA great.

If you have any questions or would like a copy of this data, leave me a post.  Thanks for reading.


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