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 often it 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 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.
Dong Hyun Kim, perhaps surprisingly, tops the list. His four knockdowns scored came at a very high rate of 8.7%, partially because Kim has not spent much time on his feet, and did a lot of damage when he did. His wrestling has been strong, which has limited his standup striking in sample size. Still, punch for punch, Kim offers solid power, sometimes through unorthodox means like spinning back elbows. Against the seasoned striker Tarec Saffiedine, it will be interesting to see if Kim is willing to stand and trade, or prefers to get the fight to the ground.
Brandon Thatch burst onto the scene with back-to-back first-round KO finishes. But he was then proved mortal by Benson Henderson, setting off a string of three consecutive submission losses. Thatch has gone from main event to fight pass prelims in a sharp career turn, and will have his back against the wall at UFC 207. His striking remains very dangerous, as long as he can keep the fight where he wants it. He’ll face UFC newcomer Niko Price in an attempt to keep a roster spot, and I think Thatch is a safe play.
Also worth noting are two smaller weight class fighters, John Lineker and Cody Garbrandt, who are both underdogs on the main card. Both punch well above their weight class with dangerous power, leading to most of their wins coming by way of knockout. For fantasy players, underdogs with strong punchers chance could be both affordable, and offer big points in the case of the upset. There’s a lot of risk given the matchups, but big rewards if they pull it off.
Don’t Expect a KO
Ray Borg’s striking stats are arguably the worst at UFC 207. That’s because he’s the most frequent wrestler on the card. While he’ll be at a big disadvantage against Smolka while on the feet, it’s worth noting that Smolka has poor takedown defense, which could work to Borg’s advantage. Borg has the tools to grind out a decision, but probably not a flashy early finish.
At Risk for a KO
Unsurprisingly, the oldest fighter on the card also has the worst defensive Knockdown Rate. Seasoned veteran Mike Pyle has suffered six knockdowns to date, more than any other fighter on the card. Pyle’s rate of knockdowns received is especially worrying given that he’s in the Welterweight division, making his defensive number look even worse. He should avoid getting into a striking shootout with a much younger opponent. Pyle is still dangerous, so overall this matchup has escalated finishing potential.
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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.