Striking Assessment: UFC Flyweight Division

Analyzing an entire UFC weight class with a point in time assessment allows us to see how fighters might match up, even though they may not face each other for a long time (if ever). And since every fight at least starts standing up, striking performance is an important measure of a fighter’s potential. The UFC Flyweights comprise the smallest division, both in size, and in numbers. So let’s begin with them and see how these guys all stack up so far.

The Analysis:

In order to understand standup striking performance, which is more multifaceted in MMA than it is in boxing, I need to boil down a few of the most important variables that determine success as a striker. These are fairly uncomplicated variables in isolation, but together they can summarize a fighter’s overall capabilities. Here, I’ve focused on three fundamental, offensive metrics:

  • Accuracy: I’ve used power head striking accuracy (as opposed to body or leg strikes, or jabs to the head), where the average for UFC Flyweights is about 25%. Certainly, great strikers can attack the body and legs, but the most likely way to end a fight by strikes is by aiming at the head. And in order to keep this comparison apples-to-apples, we can’t have a guy that throws a lot of high accuracy leg kicks skewing his accuracy stat. The accuracy of the power head strike is a great indicator of a fighter’s striking prowess, and there’s a wide range within a single division as we’ll see. This is the vertical axis, so more accurate fighters are higher in the graph.
  • Standup Striking Pace: prior analysis reveals that outpacing your opponent is a key predictor of success, and certainly correlates with winning decisions as it reflects which fighter is dictating the pace of the fight. Here I’ve used the total number of standup strikes thrown as a ratio to the same output from a fighter’s opponents. All strikes attempted from a standup position are counted, including body shots and leg kicks. This is the horizontal axis in the graph, and the average for the whole division must be 1, so fighters with superior pace appear further to the right.
  • Knockdown Rate: the objective of every strike thrown is to hurt your opponent, and knockdowns reflect a fighter that has connected with a powerful strike. I’ve used the total number of knockdowns a fighter landed divided by the number of landed power head strikes to see who does the most damage per strike landed. The size of the bubble for a fighter indicates their relative knockdown rate; the bigger the bubble, the higher their knockdown rate. The very small bubbles indicate fighters who have yet to score a knockdown in their Zuffa fights.

The data includes all UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce fights through 2012, through UFC 155. Many of these fighters competed in other, higher weight classes, but for the purposes of this exercise, that data was still included and analyzed. Obviously, this analysis was run before the Johnson-Dodson flyweight title fight on FOX, so expect this graph to evolve with time. But here’s how they look at the start of the 2013.

UFC striking statistics analysis flyweight 125 lb division accuracy pace knockouts

The Winners

Sniper Award: Louis Gaudinot landed 49% of his power head strikes in his two UFC appearances, while his most recent slugfest earned him Fight of the Night honors against Lineker.

Energizer Bunny Award: Southpaw Brazilian John Lineker has outpaced his opponents by 60% while standing.

Biggest Ball(s) Award: John Dodson has landed 3 knockdowns in his 26 minutes of UFC action, finishing two fights by TKO. Given that size does matter in MMA when it comes to knockouts, it’s not surprising that a lot of flyweights haven’t scored a knockdown yet. But statistically speaking, Dodson is definitely punching above his weight.


The Losers

Swing and a Miss Award: Newcomer Phil Harris landed just 1 of his 17 attempted power head strikes in his debut loss, resulting in his division lowest 6% accuracy.

Smallest Ball(s): the Flyweights get a pass here, as 10 of 14 fighters have yet to record a knockdown. With more cage time, we’ll see how this shakes out.

Starnes Award for Inaction: Jussier Da Silva (aka Jussier Formiga) was severely outworked in his UFC debut, barely attempting one third as many strikes as his opponent, John Dodson. Not surprisingly, Jussier has never recorded a (T)KO victory in his 14 career wins.

Introduced barely a year ago, Flyweights haven’t had a lot of cage time yet, and I do expect these numbers to shift with more fights recorded and as the sample size grows. And keep in mind that that caliber of opponents also influences a fighter’s performance, so the “MMA Math” trap also applies here. This Saturday we’ll see if Demetrious Johnson’s experience against top tier opponents in larger weight classes will allow him to outstrike John Dodson, the division’s current best in class striker.

More divisions will be presented very soon, so Follow, Like or Bookmark to see the latest research.


Like Fightnomics on Facebook, or follow on Twitter @Fightnomics to hear when new research and blog posts are available. This analysis was posted at CagePotato, and is part of a running series examining striking performance in all UFC division.  Raw data for the analysis was provided by, and in partnership with FightMetric, and all analysis is performed by Mr. Kuhn.




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