Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 245 fight card from Las Vegas.
UFC 245 goes down this Saturday night in Vegas where for just the fifth time in 471 documented UFC events, three championship belts will be on the line.
In the main event of the evening, the brash, Trump-loving, former interim champion Colby Covington finally gets to try to settle his beef with welterweight titleholder, “The Nigerian Nightmare” Kamaru Usman. In the co-main event, Max Holloway looks to keep things on featherweight cruise control defending his title against up-and-comer Alexander Volkanovski. And in the co-co-main, we get the joy of watching female GOAT Amanda Nunes rematch former kickboxing champion and UFC women’s featherweight trivia answer Germaine De Randamie.
Let’s jump into the numbers.
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.
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
The first thing that stands out on analyzing the hundreds of stats available for the Usman and Covington grudge match is the positioning their fights tend to take place in. They each spend 1:50-1:59 of every five minutes at distance, 1:04-1:19 in the clinch (with 84% control time for both), and 1:42-2:06 on the ground where Usman has control 100% of the time to Covington’s 91%.
And such slight edge’s to Usman may be all he needs to take the fight.
While Covington’s more of the volume striker at distance (33.2 head jab attempts and 62.7 power attempts per five minutes in the position, P5M, to Usman’s 18.0 and 42.7), Usman’s activity comes alive in the clinch, in an unusual way, blasting 32.7 power shots P5M and landing 87%. A typical welterweight attempts 23.0 power strikes and only lands 61% (and 16.1 and 61% for Covington). Usman’s accuracy is so high because 66% of his clinch power shots target the body where he lands an incredible 96%. For perspective, the average welterweight only throws 35% of their clinch power strikes to the body and Covington throws only 20%.
The takedown game edges to Usman in the clinch where both fighters make 6.9 attempts P5M, but Usman lands 63% to Covington’s 53%. And when it comes to getting taken down, Covington’s succumbed to 3-of-5 clinch takedown attempts while Usman’s yet to be taken down from any position.
On the ground, Usman has control 100% of the time while Covington’s spent 3:19, or 9% of his ground time, on his back. Neither fighter’s a spectacular volume striker on the canvas, but they’ve had some submission success (1-of-2 for Usman, 2-of-2 for Covington) and Usman’s 24% better than average at keeping opponents from standing up or sweeping. Covington tends to let opponents back up at a high rate but also tends to get back to his feet quickly with six stand-ups in a little over three minutes on his back.
While the stats tend to show a number of potential small edges for Usman, the distance game could be Covington’s time to shine if he can avoid the T-Wood treatment from Usman. Covington has the volume edge and out lands his opponents by +10.6 power strikes P5M, far superior to Usman’s +0.1 power differential. Covington only absorbs 25% of head power strikes against him, while Usman eats 31%. And while they both attempt around six takedown shots P5M, Covington lands 64% to Usman’s 34%.
But again, Usman is yet to be taken down from any position.
Neither fighter is much of a knockdown or KO artist but if strategic fighting between elite and well-conditioned combatants is your thing, this one should be a treat.
While exact win probabilities will go up on Saturday, the fight computer edges towards Usman to keep the UFC welterweight division great… by keeping Covington beltless.
Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Statistically, what we have here is a fighter in Holloway who spends 4:06 of every round in the open space of distance and the rest usually pressed against the cage or scrambling from the ground versus Volkanovski who spends about half of each round at distance, one minute in the clinch with 83% control, and about one-and-a-half minutes on the ground with 76% control.
So whose positioning game will win the day?
At distance, Holloway lands 12.6 head jabs P5M to Volkanovski’s 5.1 and 26.4 power strikes to Volkanovski’s 14.0. In the differential department, Holloway lands at +6.6 and +8.2 P5M rates with head jabs and overall power strikes while Volkanovski comes in at +2.0 and +0.8.
Volkanovski’s best distance advantage would appear to be power, landing knockdowns and busting up faces in 14.3-14.5% of his rounds (5.2-12.9% for Holloway) and a knockdown rate that’s 59% better than the featherweight average (and Holloway’s 32% below average). But Holloway’s yet to be dropped in his UFC career.
If Volkanovski wants to put his strong distance takedown shots to the test, Holloway has 95% defense waiting for him. If Volkanovski tries his subpar 34% takedown success from the clinch, Holloway has his solid 73% defense to fall back on. And if any of Volkanovski’s takedowns succeed, Holloway scrambles back to his feet 194% better than average.
As for the possibility of Holloway trying to take things to the ground, he hasn’t shown much of that lately, or ever really. With only one takedown attempt in his last five fights and just six attempts across his 21-fight UFC career spanning 4 hours and 17 minutes of standing time, we know where Holloway wants this fight.
It could easily be a standup affair with a little cage pressing mixed in. And the numbers seem to be in Holloway’s favor in that world.
Amanda Nunes vs. Germaine De Randamie
Their first four-minute-long scrap back in 2013 basically went: feints to caught leg to cage work to takedown to two minutes of mount (coded as about a minute-and-a-half of mount and 30 seconds of miscellaneous control time) to elbow ground-and-pound to Herb Dean stoppage.
And the ground could still be GDR’s glaring weakness. She’s been on her back for a total of 5:46 in Zuffa fights, primarily with Nunes and Julie Kedzie on top, and not once was she able to work her way back to her feet.
If that were to continue, it would be a recipe for disaster against the now BJJ black belt Nunes.
The good news for GDR, she’s successfully defended all 22 takedown attempts in her five fights since losing to “The Lioness.” The not-so-good news, those attempts all came from Anna Elmose, Holly Holm, and Raquel Pennington; not exactly elite takedown artists. Although, neither is Nunes.
At distance, we’ve got two outstanding strikers who tend to throw good volume and regularly outland their opponents. GDR comes in at +11.5 and +8.1 in head jab and overall power strike differentials P5M while Nunes is an impressive +5.9 and +26.1. The huge power strike differential for Nunes certainly isn’t from her Shevchenko fights, but she’s also had some pretty quick destructions thrown into the mix.
For an indicator of defense, I like looking at how fighters keep their head from getting touched by power shots. At distance, Nunes only eats 27% of her opponents’ power shots to the head, a solid number below the 32% women’s bantamweight average. But GDR isn’t even in the same ballpark as only 6% of her opponents’ head power strikes connect.
Both fighters have solid power stats with Nunes getting the statistical edge. An average women’s bantamweight drops opponents with 0.6% of their standing power head strikes landed and bloodies up a face with 0.4% of power head strikes and distance head jabs landed. GDR knocks down opponents and busts up faces at 2.5x and 1.5x these rates, respectively, while Nunes is an even more impressive 6.3x and 3.3x.
If she wants to try to take things to the canvas, Nunes hasn’t been terribly successful from distance with only a 9% of her takedown attempts completed. In the clinch, where she got GDR before, her success rate improves to 33%, although is still subpar. The good news for Nunes is GDR’s goose egg in the standup department still hasn’t changed.
Jose Aldo vs. Marlon Moraes
Petr Yan vs. Urijah Faber
Mike Perry vs. Geoff Neal
Ketlen Vieira vs. Irene Aldana
Matt Brown vs. Ben Saunders
Predictions can be made for eight of the 13 scheduled bouts. Be sure to return to Bloody Elbow on Saturday for precise win probabilities and possible bets before UFC 245 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.
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.