Anybody can just scan a UFC card and make a couple of seat-of-the-pants calls. But we here at HalfGuarded.com go the extra-mile and actually use the most cutting-edge, state-of-the-art statistical fighter data to SCIENTIFICALLY predict the outcome of MMA bouts. Basing our prognostications on striking, grappling and submission data culled from Fight Metric, we take into consideration a wealth of mathematical figures when it comes time to make our bet-the-house-and-the-kids’-college-savings predictions. So, wondering who you ought to drop your 401(K) on at UFC 199? Don’t even bother with the Vegas line – the following stats-driven picks are as good as money in the bank.
Middleweight Championship Bout
Luke Rockhold (15-2-0-0) vs. Michael Bisping (29-7-0-0)
In their first encounter, Rockhold caught Bisping in a choke and finished off his foe via early second-round submission. That alone would give you a pretty big incentive to tilt the outcome of the rematch in favor of the defending champ, but – statistically speaking – Rockhold has Bisping beat in several other categories as well. For one thing, he has a two-inch height advantage and a nearly a half-a-foot reach advantage. He connects on nearly half of his significant strikes, while Bisping barely manages to land a third of his. While the Brit gulps down 2.5 significant strikes per minute, Rockhold is eating just 2. And oh yeah, those submissions – Rockhold averages 1.5 per 15-minute bout, while Bisping averages a paltry 0.4. While “The Count” does outdo the former Strikeforce champ in several categories – the most significant being his 1.20 takedowns per fight compared to Rockhold’s 0.58 – it’s pretty hard to not look at the numbers and say Rockhold has this one in the bag. While Bisping has indeed looked pretty good in his last three bouts, keep in mind those were hard-fought victories against way past their prime competitors like Anderson Silva and Thales Leites. Meanwhile, Rockhold has had no difficulties dispatching an array of young, spry fighters like Chris Weidman, Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo Souza over the last five years. I think Bisping has enough in his gas tank to make it competitive for a round, but the longer this fight drags on, the more it benefits the current belt holder. The Count will do a little bit better than he did in his first match against Rockhold, but ultimately, their second showdown is destined to end in an almost identical fashion.
Prediction: Rockhold, Submission (Round Three)
Bantamweight Championship Bout
Dominick Cruz (21-1-0-0) vs. Urijah Faber (33-8-0-0)
Perhaps owing it to some lengthy layovers, Cruz has gone undefeated as an MMA competitor since 2007. Fittingly enough, the last man to best him in battle was Urijah Faber, who goes into his fourth Bantamweight Championship title shot knowing full well that this may be his last opportunity to strap UFC gold around his waist. Cruz has a slight height and reach advantage and lands more significant strikes per minute than Faber (although Faber is a bit more accurate with his shots.) Grappling is the big variable here, as Cruz outclasses Faber in terms of takedowns per fight (3.75 versus 1.58), as well as takedown accuracy and defense. The only category where Faber has a substantial lead on Cruz is submissions, as Faber is executing one submission per fifteen minutes of fight time compared to the champ’s 0.1 per fifteen minutes. While Cruz was able to keep Faber at bay in their second match-up in 2011, the notoriously injury-plagued belt-holder goes into the fight with two bad knees, which could make him vulnerable standing. If Cruz were 100 percent healthy, I would have no problem giving him the bout. However, considering Cruz is coming off back-to-back ACL surgeries, I just have a sinking feeling that he’s a lot more vulnerable heading into the bout than it may appear – and that’s going to bode well for “The California Kid,” who I anticipate controlling the tempo of the bout en route to a late fourth round finish.
Prediction: Faber, Submission (Round Four)
Max Holloway (15-3-0-0) vs. Ricardo Lamas (16-4-0-0)
This ought to be a good one. Riding an eight-fight win streak, one has to assume Holloway is just one more “W” away from a much-deserved title shot. However, Lamas is certainly no pushover, having scored victories over the likes of Diego Sanchez, Dennis Bermudez and Erik Koch over the last three years. Standing, you have got to give it to Holloway, whose average of 5.49 significant strikes per minute is nearly double the striking average of his opponent. Alas, while he is also taking more shots per minute than Lamas, Holloway nonetheless posts better striking accuracy and overall striking defense numbers. Conversely, the ground game seems like it favors Lamas, whose 1.82 takedowns per fight and 1.1. submissions per fight averages outclass Holloway’s stats by a considerable margin. Ultimately, I have a bit more faith in Holloway’s striking game than Lamas’ wrestling abilities, however, and while it could be close – perhaps with “The Bully” even winning a round – this fight is nonetheless Holloway’s to lose.
Prediction: Holloway, Decision (Unanimous)
Dan Henderson (31-14-0-0) vs. Hector Lombard (34-5-1-2)
Depending on how grisly the finish, this one very well could be a “loser must retire” bout. At the ripe old age of 46, Hendo is just a shell of his former self, but his numbers surprisingly match up rather well against Lombard’s. Hendo has the height and reach advantage, better striking accuracy and defense and he’s swallowing less significant strikes per minute (although Lombard’s 2.77 strikes landed per minute average is slightly higher than Dan’s.) When it comes to grappling, it is pretty much a dead heat, with the only significant variable being Lombard’s better takedown defense numbers. In terms of submissions and takedown accuracy, though, the two fighters’ numbers are totally identical. With Lombard’s gas tank always a big question mark, one has to wonder if Hendo has enough firepower left in him to rattle off one more surprise win before calling it a career. Unfortunately, as awesome as it would be if Hendo came out victorious, I think Lombard is definitely the quicker and more powerful fighter at this juncture, and he really has no excuse in the world to drop this match-up – well, until the urine test results come back, anyway.
Prediction: Lombard, KO (Round One)
Dustin Poirier (19-4-0-0) vs. Bobby Green (23-6-0-0)
Both competitors are 4-1 in their last five bouts, and a win here would likely vault the victor into top ten lightweight discussions. Age, height and reach aren’t really a factor here, and the striking stats are very similar, with Green posting slightly better defensive numbers. Grappling data is similar as well, albeit with Green putting up better takedown defense figures while Poirier’s 1.5 submissions per fifteen minutes is much, much higher than Green’s 0.4 per fifteen minute contest. So yeah, sabermetrics-wise, we’re pretty much as well off deciding the outcome of the bout as we are predicting it by flipping a coin. And since Poirier came up George Washington first, by golly, that’s who I’m going to put my moolah on.
Prediction: Poirier, Decision (Split)
…and some quick picks for the undercard…
Brian Ortega vs. Clay Guida
Ortega is a (technically) undefeated submissions machine and Guida was last seen getting choked out by – of all people – Thiago Tavares in under a minute. This … does not look like it will end well.
Prediction: Ortega, Submission (Round One)
Beneil Dariush vs. James Vick
Vick is a dangerous grappler well-versed in submissions, while Dariush is a dude who got a couple of gift-bag decision wins and then got subbed by Michael Chiesa. The first round might be competitive, but I’d be shocked if Dariush makes it out of the second round without having a trained medical staff resuscitate him first.
Prediction: Vick, Submission (Round Two)
Women’s Strawweight Bout
Jessica Penne vs. Jessica Andrade
This one is really tough to call – so rather than spout off some gobbledygook about “significant strikes landed per minute,” I’m just going to go with Penne because her name reminds me of a delicious pasta dish
Prediction: Penne, Decision (Unanimous)
Cole Miller vs. Alex Caceres
After B.J. Penn’s big comeback fight was foiled by blood doping allegations, lanky Georgia native Cole Miller now finds himself taking on “Bruce Leroy” on short notice. While Caceres might be the better grappler, I consider Miller more dangerous on his feet; after a fairly competitive first round, expect Miller to unload a huge load of fist sandwiches and hand-burgers en route to an stoppage victory early in R2.
Prediction: Miller, TKO (Second Round)
Sean Strickland vs. Tom Breese
On paper, this one looks like a really great match-up. Since Breese is more versatile when it comes to finishing fights, however, I’m going to give him a late finish nod.
Prediction: Breese, Submission (Round Three)
Light Heavyweight Bout
Jonathan Wilson vs. Luiz Henrique da Silva
Da Silva doesn’t even have a photograph posted on the UFC website yet, and Wilson’s official nickname is “Johnny Bravo.” We all know who to pick in this one.
Prediction: Wilson, Decision (Unanimous)
Kevin Casey vs. Elvis Mutapcic
Elvis will win this one, after he clips Casey while he temporarily mulls how in the world he is supposed to pronounce his opponent’s last name.
Prediction: Mtapcicu, TKO (Round Two)
Polo Reyes vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Oh goodness, how the mighty have fallen. A former welterweight title contender, “Stun Gun” now finds himself curtain jerkin’ it against a man whose name, roughly translated, means “Chicken King” en Ingles. Kim wins this one, because for God’s sake, he just has to.
Prediction: Kim, TKO (Round Two)
100% Guaranteed? You didn’t even realize that there are two people named Dong Hyun Kim in the UFC. The one fighting in the early preliminaries is not the “Stun Gun.” Perhaps you should use your “stats” to get the fighters right, first.