The UFC holds its first double-title event, or even single-title, of 2020 this Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX when Jon Jones puts his light heavyweight belt on the line against the undefeated challenger Dominick Reyes and Valentina Shevchenko defends her flyweight strap against the #1 contender, and prohibitive underdog, Katlyn Chookagian.
Only two other fights on the card have good data, but we’ll be focusing on the main and co-main events. Just for fun, the PPV main card opens with “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis taking on Ilir Latifi, the latter being a fighter whose three knockdown metrics are all somehow better than or equal to Lewis’ – albeit from a different division – and whose knockdown defense metrics are all worse than Lewis. So that could be fun.
Remember, what you’re about to read are not official UFC statistics. They’re alternative stats generated from official statistics designed to (1) give more weight to the recent present than the distant past and (2) not let one huge or horrible performance dominate the data.
See the notes at the bottom for definitions of certain statistics and check out an earlier piece for an explanation of how this works.
Jon Jones vs. Dominick Reyes
Jones is settling in for his fourth fight in in 13 months while Reyes is coming off six UFC fights in 2 ½ years, statistically dominating all but his March scrap with Volkan Oezdemir.
Reyes enters this 25-minute title fight with Jones with an average UFC fight time of just 5:24. In that limited time, he’s managed to bust up opponents’ faces in 20% of his 10 UFC rounds, 3x better than an average light heavyweight. Yet this stat might be taken with a grain of salt since both of those bloody faces came in two separate rounds against a single opponent, OSP.
Statistically, Reyes is more of a volume power striker at distance to the tune of 79.7 attempts per five minutes in the position (P5M) while rarely tossing out a head jab (3.3 P5M) to mix things up or kick off combinations. Reyes lands his distance power strikes at a 61% clip while his opponents have attempted less than half of his volume and only landed 40%. The net result is Reyes’ distance power differential is an absurd +35.7 P5M.
But Reyes isn’t fighting an OSP, Oezdemir, or an aging Chris Weidman on Saturday. He’s getting in a cage fight with the pound-for-pound #1 ranked male fighter on the planet and possible MMA GOAT. Like Reyes, Jon Jones spends around 3 ½ minutes of every round in space at distance where his game isn’t volume, but rather unpredictability. 42% of the time, a power strike is coming for your skull. 23% of the time it’s a jab to your head. With 18% of his strikes, it’s power to your ribs or solar plexus, and with 18% again it’s a shin or foot coming for your legs. And Jones lands efficiently, 35% on head jabs to Reyes’ 19% and 52% on his power strikes verses a 38% light heavyweight average.
While both fighters tend to spend around 50 seconds of each round in the clinch, Jones is usually the controlling fighter (66%) and Reyes tends to have his back against the cage (68%). Yet they’ve both still tended to be the damaging fighter in these positions. Each throws slightly better than average power volume and mixes in shots to the body nicely (and to the legs, for Jones) resulting in a +10.6 clinch power differential P5M for Jones and +17.4 for Reyes.
If either fighter chooses to try to take things to the ground, it may end up not mattering much since both Jones and Reyes pop back to their feet at a staggering pace. With 25.4 (Jones) and 21.7 (Reyes) standups P5M of being controlled, these guys rocket back to their feet 8.7-10x better than the light heavyweight average of 2.5.
But if a takedown is going to happen, it should be Jones using his 39% accuracy from distance (31% average) or 49% accuracy from the clinch (46% average) to plop Reyes to the canvas just as 4-of-6 of Reyes’ UFC opponents have successfully done in the past. With 99% top control, over 50% more landed power volume than average, and having never been swept, Jones is a menace from the ground. Reyes at least keeps his opponents from getting to half-guard or better (only 1% of his bottom time), but Jones can do massive damage from guard and, of course, can submit from anywhere, finishing five of his 10 submission attempts and locking in a sixth one tight.
Jones may be an all-time great, but he’s not unbeatable when Steve Mazzagatti isn’t the referee. Even with one good leg for much of their fight, Jones’ most recent opponent Thiago Santos took a 48-47 decision on one of the judge’s scorecards and took 3-of-5 rounds according to RoboJudge.
Will Reyes be able to be as competitive as Santos or perhaps better? Can’t wait to find out.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Katlyn Chookagian
When studying the stat sheet for this matchup, it didn’t take long to realize that a statistical preview of relative strengths and weaknesses wouldn’t really be possible. The goal quickly became to find some sort of metric, any metric, supportive of Chookagian winning over and above a puncher’s chance or a Jon Jones’ toe type situation.
I could only find one – pretty crazy considering that Chookagian is the legit #1 contender in the women’s flyweight division and not some low-ranked fighter who was gifted a title shot.
Here’s how Shevchenko statistically dominates Chookagian.
Chookagian is a below average knockdown artist in all three metrics (knockdown round percentage, knockdown rate, and knockdown percentage) while Shevchenko is anywhere from 63-180% above average on all three.
Chookagian outlands her opponents with power to the head at distance with a +2.4 differential P5M. Shevchenko’s same differential is +8.5. With power to the body and legs, Chookagian’s differentials are +1.2 and -1.3 while Shevchenko comes in at +3.7 and -0.2.
On the defensive end at distance, Chookagian only gets hit by a very respectable 20% of her opponents’ power strikes to the head. Yet the champ Shevchenko scoffs at that number then asks how her 12% tastes.
In the fight positioning game, Chookagian has never landed a single takedown. Shevchenko, on the other hand, completes an incredible 66% of her takedowns at distance and a solid 55% in the clinch. On the defensive side, Chookagian gets taken down by 39% of her opponents’ distance shots and 43% of attempts in the clinch. Shevchenko’s numbers run 3% and 27%, respectively.
When in the clinch, Chookagian has her back pressed to the cage 79% of the time to Shevchenko’s 33%. On the ground, Chookagian has top control a puny 6% of the time. Shevchenko’s on top 83% of the time.
Chookagian attempts submissions 74% less than the average women’s flyweight and has never completed a single one or locked in what FightMetric classifies as a “tight” sub. While Shevchenko doesn’t attempt submissions at a terribly high rate either (40% less than average), she finishes 39% of them in the alternative stats world and 50% (2-of-4) with lifetime stats.
Statistically speaking, where does Chookagian win?
They’re getting locked in a cage on Saturday night where we’ve seen time and time again that anything can happen. But what we’re talking about right now are statistical edges, and as far as I can tell, Chookagian’s stats only show one, and it’s pretty thin.
While fighting at distance, Chookagian lands jabs to her opponents’ head with a differential of +2.2 P5M to Shevchenko’s +1.1. And it takes Chookagian 32.9 attempts P5M to get to that differential as compared to only 8.0 attempts for Shevchenko.
So outside of a freak finish, will Chookagian head jab Shevchenko into oblivion at distance while somehow evading the multitude of other statistical disadvantages she faces on Saturday night? You surely know what the fight computer’s win probability will say. For the exact number, come back to Bloody Elbow on Saturday afternoon.
Dan Ige vs. Mirsad Bektic
Andrea Lee vs. Lauren Murphy
Predictions can be made for four of the 12 scheduled bouts. Be sure to return to Bloody Elbow on Saturday for precise win probabilities and possible bets before UFC 247 starts.
Statistical Notes: A bout closeness measure towards zero means a fighter tends to be in blowouts (win or lose) and towards 100 means they tend to be in very close fights. Strike attempts are per an entire five minute round in each position (P5M) and are categorized as jab or power. A jab is just a non-power strike. Strikes are documented based on where they land or are targeted (head, body, legs), not the type that is thrown (punch, elbow, kick, knee). Visible damage rate is per five minutes the fighter is not on his back. It’s hard to bust up someone’s face while lying on your back. Damage percentage is per power head strike and distance head jab landed. Knockdown rate is per five minutes at distance or in the clinch off the cage. Knockdown percentage is per power head strike landed while standing. It’s really hard to knock someone down if they’re already on the ground. Knockdown/Damage round percentage is the percentage of rounds with at least one knockdown or busted up face, respectively. Clinch control is having the opponent pressed against the cage. Ground control is having top position or the opponent’s back. Submission attempts are per five minutes of ground control minus time spent in the opponent’s guard plus time spent with the opponent in guard.
About the author