Fans Blow A Gasket Over UFC 278 Lineup Change

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“Literally the difference between buying the PPV or not.” At some point over the last 48 hours, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) quietly tinkered with its UFC 278 pay-per-v…


UFC Fight Night: Yanan v Inoue
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“Literally the difference between buying the PPV or not.”

At some point over the last 48 hours, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) quietly tinkered with its UFC 278 pay-per-view (PPV) lineup, pulling the heavyweight banger between Marcin Tybura and Alexandr Romanov and sending it to the ESPN/ABC/ESPN+ preliminary card this Sat. night (Aug. 20) at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Taking its place? Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova at 135 pounds.

UFC fans did not react well to the lineup change, insisting it was a “joke” and “literally the difference between buying the PPV or not” for an already “brutal card.” Some fans suggested the opening fight between unheralded light heavyweight bruisers Tyson Pedro and Harry Hunsucker was the bout to poach in favor of “random WMMA fights.”

Read all the dissenting opinions on Twitter below:

It should be noted that Yanan and Pudilova have three “Fight of the Night” bonuses between them so they’ve certainly earned their spot on the PPV main card, it’s just a shame that it came at the expense of Tybura vs. Romanov. UFC PPV events cost $74.99 along with a subscription to ESPN+, so these days, every fight counts.

To see the revised UFC 278: “Usman vs. Edwards 2” fight card and PPV lineup click here.

UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards alternative stats

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A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 278 fight card from Salt Lake City. UFC 276 goes down Saturday night in Utah with the re…


UFC 278 Press Conference
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 278 fight card from Salt Lake City.

UFC 276 goes down Saturday night in Utah with the return of pound-for-pound #1 ranked champion Kamaru Usman. He’ll square up in a rematch with Leon Edwards, seven years in the making.

The co-main event features a long-awaited return of former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold who hasn’t fought since before the world knew what Covid-19 is, and hopefully has had ample time for his chin to recover from some devastating knockout losses.

So let’s jump into the numbers for UFC 278’s headliner fights.

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.


Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards

Edwards and Usman are both are coming in on very nice winning streaks. Usman last tasted defeat over nine years ago when he was choked out on the undercard of CFA 11. And the last time Edwards lost, it was almost seven years ago to Usman – in the early prelims of UFC on FOX 17, two fights after Francis N’Gannou opened the show in his promotional debut.

So it’s definitely been a while.

While they’ve each had long streaks, the dominance edge easily goes to Usman. Even though Edwards has been winning, his scraps tend to be much closer. Put another way, the most statistically dominant fight of Edwards’ 14-bout UFC career was his last-second KO of Peter Sobotta in 2018. Meanwhile, Usman’s had eight showings in his perfect 15-0 UFC career that have been even more dominant than Edwards at his best.

This is partly because Usman has the ability to dominate opponents in multiple ways. In four of his wins, he had over 10 minutes of ground control. In one of his wins, it was over 10 minutes of clinch control. And in three of his wins, he did his thing at distance for over 18 minutes. While wrestling is Usman’s bread and butter, he’s an extremely well rounded fighter.

But all rounds start at distance where Usman and Edwards both tend to spend around three of every five minutes, yet in different ways. Edwards isn’t much of a jabber, throwing 34% fewer head jabs than the average welterweight and 40% fewer than Usman. Edwards also throws a slightly less than average power volume, but when he unleashes those attacks, he’s accurate.

Edwards connects with half of his power strikes at distance. This is partly because he’s accurate to the head (41% vs Usman’s 37%) and partly because he does a good job mixing in more higher percentage shots to the body and legs (75% head, 15% body, 10% legs). Tagging your opponents is a good thing, but one issue Edwards has had is that opponents don’t tend to fall when he lands with power. While Edwards has four total knockdowns to his name, once we account for his time in the Octagon and activity levels, his three knockdown metrics come in 41-56% lower than the typical welterweight and 73-80% below Usman’s.

Meanwhile Usman is more active and accurate with head jabs and, while his power volume makes up for slightly less accuracy, Usman’s relative knockdown power was just shown above.

The end result, though, is that Edwards appears to be very much a live dog at distance. But if the fight moves to the clinch or ground, the numbers don’t crunch in his favor.

While both fighters spend 41 seconds to a minute of every round clinched up, Usman is the controlling fighter 74% of the time to Edwards’ 42%. And since damage is what really matters, while he’s there Usman blasts a +10.9 power strike differential (per five minutes in the position, P5M) to Edwards’ +2.8. And then there are takedowns. Usman attempts clinch takedowns at an average rate but completes a rock solid 60% (46% average). He’s also never been taken down anywhere, at distance or the clinch.

If Edwards does hit the canvas, in spite of his average to slightly better than average takedown defense, Usman’s maintained 100% top control during his time on the ground (68% for Edwards).

100%!

It’s hard to compare power strike differentials in this world since Usman’s only been controlled for basically a rounding error amount of time – 2 seconds of his 78 ground minutes – but his offensive GnP game connects with opponents 55% more than an average welterweight and 134% more than Edwards.

While the submission game is certainly a possibility – both guys have tapped out one opponent in the UFC – they don’t attempt them with much frequency and neither has been tapped in their time with Zuffa.

So how does this fight go down? In what should statistically be one of Usman’s worlds or at distance where the stats are much less certain of the outcome? I can’t wait to find out.


Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

The co-main event also has streaks, but not the good kind. Costa and Rockhold each enter the cage Saturday on two-fight losing skids.

While Costa was the victim of an Israel Adesanya “Flawless Victory” two years ago, he at least took 2-of-5 rounds against Marvin Vettori last year. The concerning thing for Rockhold is he’s been on the receiving end of highlight reel knockouts in three of his last four outings.

When they start at distance, Rockhold still maintains small but positive head jab and power differentials. He also mixes in body and leg strikes extremely well. But Costa’s got a nasty power volume and differential. Spending 4:30 of every five minutes standing in open space, Costa throws almost twice the power volume of a typical middleweight and he out-strike’s his opponents with a +14.8 differential P5M.

Against recent-Rockhold, it’s very possible that only one of those 14.8 will be needed to shut the lights off. Costa’s knockdown round percentage is more than double the average middleweight, and in alternative stats, so is Rockhold’s rate of getting cracked – his knocked down round percentage.

If Rockhold takes Izzy’s advice and tries to “start wrestling straight away,” he’s probably going to want to clinch up first. Costa’s defended 15-of-16 takedown attempts at distance while Rockhold’s only landed a measly 1-of-18. Rockhold’s at least been better in the clinch, going 5-of-15 on lower body takedown attempts. And while Costa’s only faced three such attempts in his UFC career, he’s twice succumbed and only once successfully defended.

While in the clinch, Rockhold tends to be the fighter with control against the cage (59% to Costa’s 4%), and if he’s able to take the fight to the ground, he’s the top position fighter 61% of the time to Costa’s 32%. And we know the danger Rockhold poses from there.

Rockhold’s got a nasty +47.1 power strike GnP differential from the ground (P5M) and he throws up 2.4 sub attempts per five modified ground minutes (see notes below) completing 43%. That means he attempts 72% more submissions than a typical middleweight and has a 70% better completion percentage.

The man is dangerous on the ground.

But will Rockhold ever have a chance to get there without it being for Costa’s finishing blows? That’s the big question which leads me to say:

Bring on the glorious fights!

Statistical Notes: 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). 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.

Paul writes about MMA analytics and officiating at Bloody Elbow and MMA business at Forbes. He’s also an ABC-certified referee and judge. Follow him @MMAanalytics. Fight data provided by FightMetric.

Rockhold Lays Into Full Send Reporter For Vera “Disrespect”

Turns out it’s not just the Nelk Boys who former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold sees as “degenerates,” it’s also their Full Send MMA reporter. As the popular YouTube group’s association with the UFC has grown — pe…

Turns out it’s not just the Nelk Boys who former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold sees as “degenerates,” it’s also their Full Send MMA reporter. As the popular YouTube group’s association with the UFC has grown — peaking with a contract-awarding role on an episode of Dana White Lookin’ For a Fight — they’ve been…

Continue Reading Rockhold Lays Into Full Send Reporter For Vera “Disrespect” at MMA News.

Esparza Vs Weili Planned For UFC 281 In New York

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Reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strawweight champion Carla Esparza is expected to defend her 115-pound strap against former division titleholder Zhang Weili in…


UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Till
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strawweight champion Carla Esparza is expected to defend her 115-pound strap against former division titleholder Zhang Weili in the upcoming UFC 281 pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event scheduled for Sat., Nov. 12, 2022 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City.

That’s according to Ariel Helwani (via Marcel Dorff).

Esparza, 34, captured the crown with a tepid decision win over longtime rival Rose Namajunas at UFC 274 back in May. “Cookie Monster” (19-6) is the winner of six straight with three of those contests ending by way of split decision. As for the 33 year-old Weili (22-3), she dropped consecutive title fights to Namajunas but recently bounced back by knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275.

The promotion has yet to make an official announcement.

UFC 281 will be headlined by the middleweight title fight pitting current 185-pound kingpin Israel Adesanya against longtime kickboxing rival Alex Pereira, who already holds two victories (including one knockout) over “The Last Stylebender.” Elsewhere on the card, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to battle Ryan Spann.

For the latest UFC 281 fight card and PPV lineup click here.

Paulo Costa credits Paddy Pimblett with weight-cutting advice ahead of UFC 278 bout with Luke Rockhold: ‘It’s not a joke anymore’

Paulo CostaAll eyes will be on Paulo Costa when he steps on the scale ahead of his UFC 278 co-main event. The Brazilian will welcome Luke Rockhold back to the Octagon after nearly three years on the shelf. The last time Costa was in action, it was at UFC Vegas 41 when he faced former title […]

Paulo Costa

All eyes will be on Paulo Costa when he steps on the scale ahead of his UFC 278 co-main event. The Brazilian will welcome Luke Rockhold back to the Octagon after nearly three years on the shelf.

The last time Costa was in action, it was at UFC Vegas 41 when he faced former title challenger Marvin Vettori. Arriving at media day events ahead of the scheduled bout, Costa showed up weighing 211 pounds for the 185-pound middleweight contest. Knowing full well he wouldn’t make the necessary weight cut, Costa negotiated to move the bout to a 195-pound catchweight bout. Vettori agreed to the change, but then Costa once again requested the weight limit be moved once again, this time to 205-pounds.

It was a bad look for the man who had just admitted to downing a whole bottle of wine prior to his UFC middleweight world title opportunity against reigning champion Israel Adesanya.

Now Paulo Costa is back and admittedly looking good ahead of the co-main event clash. During his UFC 278 media day appearance, Costa was asked if he had gotten any weight-cutting tips from surging fan-favorite Paddy Pimblett.

“Yeah, he gave me a few instructions. Man, if you look for me and Paddy, it’s not a joke anymore. We have to cut a lot of weight in a short time. When I saw Paddy fight two weeks ago, I tweeted this I said man, this is a short time to cut that much weight, but he did it. He did great, and me as well! We know how to cut weight.”

Paulo Costa Guarantees He Will Make Weight on Friday Ahead of UFC 278

While some within the MMA community have remained skeptical ahead of Paulo Costa’s return to the Octagon given his recent antics, the No. 6 ranked middleweight offered a guarantee that he would be on weight for his UFC 278 bout.

“Yes, I guarantee [he’ll make weight]. If you want to bet, I’ll bet. I can make the weight tonight.”

If his posts on Twitter are any indication, it appears that Paulo Costa is in incredible shape and ready to make another run toward the middleweight championship. First, he has to get through a former middleweight titleholder in Luke Rockhold.

Following his shocking loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 199, Luke Rockhold exited the UFC losing three of his last four bouts. After some time away, Rockhold has had the opportunity to rediscover his love to compete and is feeling a sense of calmness leading into his big return. During his appearance on ‘The MMA Hour‘ with Ariel Helwani, Rockhold discussed how he is feeling ahead of the showdown with Paulo Costa.

“It feels good. It really does, you know. People like me, we thrive off this and these nerves and this test in life. It’s good to be back, you know. I’m not here chasing this one to the end. I’m doing this because I want to, not because I need to. There’s a sense of relaxation that I have in this time and I’m just ready to fight. 

Report – Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili slated for UFC 281 on November 21. at MSG

Zhang WeiliAn undisputed strawweight championship fight between reigning division champion, Carla Esparza, and challenger, former division titleholder, Zhang Weili is set to co-headline UFC 281 on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. Attempting to secure her first successful title defense since beginning her second reign as strawweight champion, Californian veteran, […]

Zhang Weili

An undisputed strawweight championship fight between reigning division champion, Carla Esparza, and challenger, former division titleholder, Zhang Weili is set to co-headline UFC 281 on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.

Attempting to secure her first successful title defense since beginning her second reign as strawweight champion, Californian veteran, Esparza managed to clinch the undisputed crown back in May of this year in a lacklustre UFC 274 co-main event win over common-foe, Rose Namajunas. 

Carla Esparza will look to land her first-ever successful UFC title defense, when paired with Zhang Weili

As for Hebei native, Zhang Weili, the former undisputed champion snapped a run of back-to-back defeats against the aforenoted, Namajunas back in June at UFC 275 in Singapore – stopping another common-opponent, Joanna Jedrzejczyk with a blistering second round spinning back-fist knockout. Ariel Helwani was first to report the news of Carla Esparza’s title defense against Zhang Weili at UFC 281. 

The inaugural UFC strawweight champion, Team Oyama mainstay, Esparza managed to defeat Namajunas first back in December 2014, winning The Ultimate Fighter 20 as a result to boot.

Dropping the title immediately in a dominant striking loss to Jedrzejczyk, Esparza currently finds herself in the midst of an impressive run of six straight wins, adding Namajunas to prior victories against Virna Jandiroba, Alexa Grasso, Michelle Waterson, Marina Rodriguez, and Yan Xiaonan. 

Winning her strawweight title on home soil in an August 2019 knockout win over Jessica Andrade, Weili would turn in a consensus 2020 Fight of the Year performance en route to a decision win over Jedrzejczyk in her sole title defense, before dropping the title to Namajunas in April of last year in a brutal high kick KO loss. 

UFC 281 takes place on November 12. from Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York – with an official headlining bout for the penultimate pay-per-view event of 2022 yet to be determined by the promotion.