MMA Ratings Podcast

August 17, 2020

UFC 252: By the Numbers

By Raphael Garcia

UFC 252 ended one of the most important heavyweight trilogies in mixed martial arts history. Stipe Miocic walked out of UFC Apex with the title belt around his waist, defeating former two-division champion Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision. While numbers do not tell the entire story, they can frequently give interesting insights into what occurs within the cage or point out some oddball moments. With that in mind, here is UFC 252 – by the numbers.

Shifts in Heavyweight Strategy

Miocic and Cormier fought for twenty-five minutes on Saturday night, the first time that they have gone the distance in three outings. Their second fight ended late in the fourth round when Miocic stopped Cormier via strikes. What was interesting about this bout was that from a statistical standpoint, the two fighters accounted for lower outputs in the third outing as compared to the second, even though they had nearly six more minutes worth of action.
To compare, Cormier ended fight two at 181 strikes landed of 263 attempted. Miocic was at 123 strikes landed of 229. In fight three those stats were at 105 of 183 and 115 of 187, respectively. That's understandable, as it's worth noting that Cormier’s eye injury played a large part in his struggles after the third round, when the eye poke occurred. However, Miocic also made some interesting strategy adjustments that helped him negate Cormier’s wrestle-box style and movement.

Miocic employed two wrestling positions against the cage to help him control much of the positional battle. One was double underhooks to keep Cormier’s back against the cage. The second was the underhook on Cormier’s left side while controlling his right wrist. This allowed Miocic to avoid the clinch-right hook combination that floored him in the first fight and scored a lot of points for Cormier in the second. Miocic negated that offensive staple in this bout, which helped him limit Cormier’s output, especially in the first three rounds. It was a telling shift in strategy that comes out in the final numbers of the affair.

One and Done

Felice Herrig has fought professionally since 2009. Since then she is competed for some of the smallest and largest promotions in the sport. She has battled big name fighters like Carla Esparza, Barb Honchak, Tecia Torres, and Michelle Waterson. And while she may not be a “pioneer” in any sense, she has been around long enough to have earned the respect of fighters breaking into the industry today.
During those eleven years of competition Herrig had never experienced a defeat via finish. That was quite an accomplishment considering her longevity in the MMA space. But all of that came to an end at UFC 252 where Virna Jandiroba needed less than one round and a single takedown to break that streak. Herrig threw and landed only one significant strike before she was overwhelmed by Jandiroba’s grappling.

This was Herrig’s third straight loss in a strawweight division that has quickly become one of the deepest in the UFC. And Jandiroba announced herself to the weight class in a manner that positioned her as an interesting dark horse at 115 pounds, all while limiting Herrig in a manner that she has never experienced in her career.

The Distance Game

Kai Kamaka vs. Tony Kelley was an excellent opening bout that got everyone watching excited about the card. Both men went into this fight ready to battle from start to finish, barely taking their feet off the gas pedal at any point. Kamaka jumped out to an early lead, and it looked like he was going to punish Kelley for the remainder of the fight. But Kelley made an adjustment in the distance game which helped him close the gap and almost escape with the win.

In round one, Kelley struggled to close any distance on Kamaka, which allowed Kamaka to pummel with boxing combinations to the head and body. In the first round, Kamaka landed 43 of 72 shots – all of which were to the head and body. During that same time, Kelley only threw and landed only two shots from clinch distance. But that would soon change.

In rounds two and three, Kelley shifted his strategy to blitz Kamaka, and his clinch stats drastically changed. He landed 19 of 21 strikes in the second and 17 of 21 in the third, changing the trajectory of that fight. This forced Kamaka to lower his hands and prepare to defend against those clinch knees, which also reduced his ability to attack Kelley’s head, one of his main targets in round one. If Kelley had more time to better implement this change in strategy, there is a chance he could have altered the outcome of the fight.

Stats alone can't tell you what went down this past weekend at UFC 252. But if you watched the main event, the Felice Herris bout, and the opener, you might have noticed subtleties about those fights that are reflected in the numbers. Stipe Miocic, Virna Jandiroba, and Kai Kamaka made every moment in the Octagon count, so it's only right for us to look more closely at the stats worth counting.

UFC 252
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier (UFC Heavyweight Championship): Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47).

UFC 252
Felice Herrig vs. Virna Jandiroba: Virna Jandiroba def. Felice Herrig via submission (armbar) at 1:44 of Round 1.

UFC 252
Kai Kamaka III vs. Tony Kelley: Kai Kamaka def. Tony Kelley via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3 (formerly UFC 252) was due to take place July 11, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was rescheduled/relocated to August 15, 2020 at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 252 Analysis

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