All bouts have to start with two fighters standing at a distance, and when they do there’s always a chance that someone is going to get dropped. Once a fighter scores a knockdown in a fight, their chances of winning rise dramatically and it often sets up an early finish. That means that identifying knockout potential on a card can mean big points for your fantasy team.
So where does that potential lie among the UFC 201 competitors? Here is how this weekend’s fighters stack up in their historical performance of scoring and receiving knockdowns in the cage.
Knockdown Rate here is defined as Distance Knockdowns per Distance Landed Power Head Strike. It’s not a perfect metric, but it’s a great proxy to understand how those highlight reel finishes happen. The UFC average for Knockdown Rate is 2.3%, meaning there are typically 43 power head strikes landed before a knockdown occurs, each with a 2.3% chance of being the strike that does the job. But there’s a lot of variation between weight classes and the individual athletes within them.
For fantasy players, this boils down to knowing who has a good chance to drop their opponent on fight night, and who is most at risk for getting knocked out. In both cases, it’s better to be at the top of the graph, and worse to be near the bottom.
Welterweight title challenger Tyron Woodley has the skill base of an NCAA Division I wrestler, but he has impressively added heavy leather to his offensive arsenal. Arguably the hardest hitter in the entire division, Woodley is a greater threat with his power than any of Robbie Lawler’s prior title fight opponents. It’s also interesting that Lawler has taken more head strikes while standing at a distance than all but 4 active UFC fighters, so his days of relying on an iron chin will eventually catch up with him. Woodley is the underdog here, so he’ll be priced affordably and yet could return big points in an upset should he connect early against Lawler. Players taking the risk for a championship upset will be hoping for that KO.
Flyweights Ryan Benoit and Freddy Serrano have each scored one knockdown in their limited UFC appearances so far. It’s hard to guess who has a better chance here with such limited data, so it’s actually better to avoid assuming these Flyweights will keep up their Knockdown Rate in this matchup and instead regress towards the division’s average.
Better to look at fighters with more history to analyze, like Matt Brown with seven knockdowns to date. He takes on Jake Ellenberger, who has scored nine knockdowns, more than any fighter on the card. If they force a standup war, the more resilient fighter should prevail. The success of Brown’s takedown defense will ultimately be the determinant of position in this matchup.
Don’t Expect a KO
Women’s Strawweights Rose Namajunas and Karolina Kowalkiewicz don’t have a large sample size to date, but neither is known as a power striker. Neither has scored a knockdown in the UFC, nor has either been dropped. You can, however, expect a pretty frenzied pace of fighting out of the gates, as the two combine for 34.7 striking attempts per minute while they are standing at a distance – more than any other pairing on the fight card. Rose is the favorite, likely because of her submission game.
At Risk for a KO
Wilson Reis has been dropped four times so far in his UFC tenure, but it’s his ground game that keeps him in any fight. That ground game was good enough to propel him to a title shot against Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, but an injury to “Mighty Mouse” leaves Reis now taking on a UFC newcomer. Experience goes a long way when it comes to ground fighting, and given Reis’s history of knockdowns it would be a much safer strategy for him to try to get this fight to the ground early.
Francisco Rivera tops the list xfor knockdowns received at six, and he’s also facing the relatively new, but so far heavy-handed Erik Perez. Should the two stand and bang, that could mean an early finish for Perez.
Matt Brown scores highly in power, and has the techniques to do damage at close range as well as from a distance. If Jake Ellenberger can’t utilize his wrestling early and often, he could also be in trouble. He’ll have to grind Brown on the mat for three rounds if he wants the upset, which also diminishes the points he would return if he’s able to pull that off. Ellenberger is to be avoided due to limited upside.
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