All bouts have to start with two fighters standing at a distance, and when they do there is 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 often it sets up an early finish. That means that identifying knockout potential on a card could mean big points for your fantasy 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.
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.
Dooho Choi has just 4.5 minutes of Octagon time, and yet I was obligated to include him here because those few minutes spanned his first three entire fights in the UFC. Which means, of course, that they did not last long. Choi knocked out all three opponents in the first round, something he did a lot of before even arriving in the UFC. Those three knockdowns scored came at a vicious rate of 22.5% in terms of Knockdown Rate. That kind of number is on Vitor Belfort levels, but again the sample size here is tiny. He will take a big step up in competition by facing the elite veteran featherweight Cub Swanson, so we’ll see if Choi’s knockout prowess is just beginner’s luck, or a true pattern.
We’ve spotlighted Donald Cerrone before. That’s because he’s logged 17 WEC/UFC career knockdowns to date, which is not a number you see often except among the most notorious knockout artists like Anderson Silva or Anthony Johnson. Cerrone has no hesitation standing in the pocket, which is another reason his matchup against the durable and similarly dangerous striker Matt Brown is all the more interesting. Brown himself comes in at third on the list in terms of Knockdown rate, with seven knockdowns to date. His seven knockdowns scored are second most on the card behind Cerrone. But strike-for-strike, there’s a big gap between them, with Cerrone’s Knockdown Rate nearly twice as a high as Brown’s.
Also above average is former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, who will be an underdog for the first time since he won that belt by upset back in 2013. Having lost that title, Pettis has still generally been seen as a top contender since, especially with the move down to featherweight. But that didn’t stop them from making his opponent Max Holloway the favorite in their interim-title matchup.
Don’t Expect a KO
Despite 191 minutes of combined Octagon time, neither Dustin Ortiz or Zach Makovsky has yet to score a knockdown in the UFC. The only other experienced fighter with zero knockdowns to date is Drew Dober. He’ll be the slight underdog to Canadian Olivier Aubin-Mercier. If Dober is at a slight disadvantage while standing, it is his opponents wrestling that’s an even bigger threat.
At Risk for a KO
The fighters competing at UFC 206 are not especially vulnerable. The average age is relatively low, and the highest defensive Knockdown Rate, Tim Kennedy’s, isn’t even above average for the middleweight division (or for anyone having faced Yoel Romero!).
But if we had to pick a fighter with a growing vulnerability, it would have to be Matt Brown. He’s suffered four knockdowns to date, more than anyone on the fight card. What’s more subtle is his apparent susceptibility to body shots, which is reminiscent of Scott Smith about a decade ago. Brown has been crumpled by body kicks now on multiple occasions, and that’s a dangerous trait to exhibit against a striker as diverse as Cerrone.
Visit Fightnomics for more MMA stats and analysis.
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.