This week’s UFC “triple-header” concludes on May 16 with another exciting card taking place in Jacksonville, Florida, headlined by top 10 heavyweights looking to make the leap into title contention. It’s a card littered with intriguing bouts, both stylistically and because of their big-picture implications, mixed with a few fights that could shake the foundation of a handful of divisions.
A handful of matchups are particularly exciting because of the stylistic intricacies that differentiate fighters that might look similar at face value. With that in mind, let’s dive into the numbers to see where those intricacies might live and how they manifest on fight night.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book as of May 15 and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Key Stats: 73.4% significant strike accuracy (1st all-time), +0.90 striking differential (9th), 0.90 knockdowns per 15 mintues (7th)
What It Means: Alistair Overeem is one of the more decorated strikers in the heavyweight ranks after competing as a kickboxer in K-1 for a long time. Big, strong and rangy, Overeem can pick his spots with combinations of kicks and punches, often making it difficult for his opponent to find any sort of rhythm or space to implement their own game plan.
Key Stats: 61.6% significant strike defense (4th all-time among HW), 1.4 knockdowns per 15 minutes (3rd), 6:35 average fight time (6th)
What It Means: Walt Harris has come into his own over the last few fights, and a lot of that has been due to his ability to pick where and when to unleash his powerful shots. All 13 of his wins have come by knockout, and his ability to stay out of the line of fire and remain patient while searching for his own shot has lent itself to three wins in his last four fights.
Although Overeem is the slightly shorter man, he holds an 4-inch reach advantage over Harris. Overeem might find success from range if he can manage the distance, but if Harris can enter the pocket without taking too much damage, he can end the fight early. Overeem showed used a grappling-heavy approach in his last fight, but that ended in a last-second loss, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Overeem rely on his bread-and-butter.
Key Stats: 47.1% takedown accuracy (4th all-time among SW), 33 takedowns landed (2nd all-time among SW), 29.7% control time percentage (5th)
What It Means: Claudia Gadelha is one of the strawweight division’s longest mainstays, and her game plan has always revolved around her grappling acumen. While her striking has improved, she always wants to get the fight to the ground and seek out a submission. That said, her ability to control on the mat allowed her to pick up all of her UFC wins by decision.
Key Stats: 72% takedown defense (4th all-time among SW), 1,179 total strikes landed (2nd all-time among SW), 64.6% significant strike defense (3rd all-time among SW)
What It Means: The always-busy Angela Hill is a fast, in-and-out striker who stays busy, and with her frequent activity has come frequent improvement. While she is often able to stay on the outside and pick her shots, when her opponents do shoot for a takedown, “Overkill” is able to stuff it and get back to where she has her most success.
A classic striker-vs-grappler matchup, this fight likely relies on which athlete gets to impose their style of fight onto the other. If the majority of the bout takes place on the ground, Gadelha is the heavy favorite. Vice versa if the fighters are standing and trading.
Key Stats: 0.68 knockdowns per 15 minutes (tied for 8th), 14:36 average fight time (5th all-time among MW), 3.5% bottom position percentage (10th)
What It Means: The former starting linebacker for the Alabama Crimson Tide has become a workhorse of sorts for the UFC, and while he has gone up and down from light heavyweight to middleweight a handful of times, his durability and power carries both weight classes. He’ll march forward, grind during the whole fight and look for the fight-ending shot.
Key Stats: 913 total strikes landed (2nd), 1.81 strikes absorbed per minute (3rd), +1.03 striking differential (tied 8th)
What It Means: Krzysztof Jotko has made it a habit to use his rangy frame (6-foot-1, 77-inch reach) to frequently hit his opponent while evading their attacks. Most of his wins have come by decision and his best work is done when he is managing range and picking apart his foe.
Anders is a fighter who is there to hit and banks on the fact that he’ll hit his opponent harder, but Jotko is someone who, when on point, is tough to find. That said, his last two losses came by way of a third-round TKO, and Anders carries his power deep into fights, so this is one where Jotko will have to remain on point and focused at all times. It should be an entertaining and intriguing fight for its entire duration.
Key Stats: 7 KO/TKO wins (tied 1st all-time among LW), 80.8% takedown defense (tied 6th*), 982 significant strikes landed (5th*)
What It Means: Edson Barboza is one of the most terrifying strikers in the UFC, with the ability to use any of his limbs to end the fight in stunning fashion. His best work comes at kickboxing range, where he can utilize brutal leg kicks and his blinding speed to enter, throw a flurry of punches, and exit before his opponent can understand what happened.
Key Stats: 50.3% significant strike accuracy (6th), 5th fastest submission in FW history (1:17 vs Danny Henry)
What It Means: One of the newer rising featherweights, Dan Ige has shown acumen everywhere the fight goes. His striking is tight, and he isn’t a slouch on the ground, either. That said, he admitted to have underwhelming second rounds, so while that’s not a stat per se, it is something to watch for in all his fights.
While Ige is a swift striker in his own right, it wouldn’t be surprising if his approach started with some wrestling first, but Barboza has been able to keep lightweights from that same game plan for years. That said, Barboza’s speed difference is something to watching going down 10 pounds. This projects to be a highly entertaining, all-around contest that can shape the look of the featherweight rankings.