WATCH: TOMMY TOE HOLD TIPS, TARGETS AND FADES


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 DraftKings team.

So where does that potential lie among this weekend’s competitors? Here is how they stack up in their historical performance of scoring and receiving knockdowns in the cage.

KO Potential UFC 204

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.


Heavy Hitters

This card is loaded with above average power, meaning fighters at UFC 204 could be scoring lots of points in the fantasy world via early finishes. Tops among them in terms of raw power is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Vitor Belfort.

The Brazilian legend has long been known for his aggressive striking style, and the Southpaw has scored eight knockdowns to date at an absurd Knockdown Rate of 17%. Of his 25 career wins, 18 came by way of strikes. And while he has certainly had a successful career of delivering violence, at age 39 Belfort may not pack the same punch as he once did, having been notoriously affected by the Testosterone Replacement Therapy ban in the UFC. In fact, if it were not for two wins over the even more senior Dan Henderson, Belfort would not have any wins in the last three years, reaching well back into his days of carrying a very different physique. That’s not to say that Belfort isn’t still very dangerous with his striking, but when pitted against younger talent these days, we should not expect him to be dropping opponents once in every six strikes landed!

Second on the list is Adriano Martins, with a Knockdown Rate just under double digits. Though that’s on only two total knockdowns scored, Martins achieved those on relatively few strike attempts, making quick work of several opponents in his young UFC career. This weekend he takes on Leonardo Santos, a submission specialist who would be well advised to turn this into a jiu jitsu match against the more dangerous striker. If Martins can keep it standing, he should have a big advantage.

Next on the list is Ovince Saint Preux, with a threatening Knockdown Rate of 7.7% on six knockdowns scored. However, his opponent Jimi Manuwa is another striker who may in fact prefer to stand and trade over wrestling. If they do stand, Saint Preux not only packs the bigger punch, but is likely the more resilient of the two in taking punches. If your squad can afford him, “OSP” could return big points.

Don’t Expect a KO

Of the fighters with UFC experience, few have yet to score a knockdown on this roster – a reminder of how this fight card has been stacked with power and larger weight classes. But Ian Entwistle brings up the bottom of the power rankings. That’s largely because Entwistle is an expert grappler, which further suggests that he will not want to stand and trade with the Muay Thai striking of Rob Font.

And while the champ in the main event appears low on the offensive power list, we should shift our focus from the left graph to the right one, where we see that his opponent Dan Henderson is especially vulnerable. That makes Bisping a legit candidate for a knockout to cap off the night in patriotic fashion.

At Risk for a KO

Vitor Belfort is a legend in MMA, having made a successful UFC debut at the age of just 19. But 20 years later, and after facing a long list of highly competitive opponents around the world, Father Time is catching up with “The Phenom.” Belfort has not typically engaged in long-lasting striking duels, but rather quick explosions. The result is that despite taking relatively few head strikes through his career, the knockdowns he has received drive an abnormally high defensive Knockdown Rate. That means he’s especially vulnerable to a seasoned striker, which happens to describe Gegard Mousasi. Remember, Mousasi had a matchup with a similar profile of fighter in Dan Henderson, and ended that fight very quickly in the first round. If Belfort doesn’t connect fast and furiously, he’ll could get picked apart on his feet.

Captain Obvious is telling everyone who will listen that Bisping had better watch out for Henderson. Seriously. But there are bigger concerns in the main event, specifically Henderson’s knockdown defense. He’s second to last on the list in terms of not standing up to a power strike, although famously he has taken damage in fights and still rallied to keep going. All things considered, Bisping is more likely to land the first clean shot, or several, and Henderson at age 46 is now ill equipped to withstand that.

All in all, this card is fairly loaded with power, and with fighters who are susceptible to KO’s. So enjoy the action!

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is fightnomics) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on.  Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.