A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 285 fight card from Las Vegas.
Saturday’s UFC 285 will bring the first promotional PPV event of 2023 to U.S. soil with a fun main card and a poster solely focused on a single matchup: Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane. Jones, the arguable MMA GOAT, has completed his transition up to the heavyweight division and will throw down against former-interim champion Gane for the now-undisputed heavyweight strap since Francis Ngannou exercised his contractual right to take his talents… somewhere yet to be determined.
While Jones had a long string of statistically-dominant light heavyweight performances from the days of Matt Hamill in 2009 to Glover Teixeira in 2014 (Lyoto Machida and Alexander Gustafsson were the only two opponents in that range where Jones had less than 86% dominance), he won his two most recent outings via decision with an extremely low 38% dominance measure against Thiago Santos and an even smaller 34% showing in his most recent fight versus Dominick Reyes, adding to the intrigue of Saturday night.
So let’s jump on into the numbers.
Remember, what you’re about to read are not official UFC statistics. They’re alternative stats generated from official statistics and designed to (1) give more weight to the recent present than the distant past and (2) minimize the effects of one huge or horrible performance more quickly as time goes by. See the notes at the bottom for definitions of certain statistics.
Jon Jones vs. Ciryl Gane
Keep in mind that all of Jones statistics are from his tenure as a UFC light heavyweight. How well they’ll translate over to heavyweight is yet to be seen, but we’ve got no other option when working with MMA data. Take all of Jones’ stats with a grain of salt.
While Jones has certainly shown an ability to dictate the position of his fights, he ends up spending the majority of his bout time operating in space at distance (3:44 of every five minutes). Gane spends even more time at distance (4:08), but he’s much more likely to be spending time there out of necessity. Gane isn’t much of a takedown artist (1-of-8 at distance and 24% success from the clinch), he only spends 26 seconds of every round clinched up, and he’s been on his back for 75% of his ground time.
That being said, Gane is an incredibly efficient fighter during the four minutes of each round he spends in his preferred position. He lands head jabs with 44% accuracy while opponents only manage to land 17% back. With power strikes to the head, body, and legs, Gane successfully connects 44%, 71%, and 96% of the time while his opponents can only muster connect rates of 22%, 56%, and 72% back at him. So in the game of hit-and-don’t-get-hit, Gane’s been an exceptional distance operator. In the head jab department alone, he’s landed 133 strikes and only absorbed 19.
While efficiency isn’t the end-all-be-all of striking, Gane’s also been able to mesh his efforts with higher volume than his opponents for head jabs and power strikes to the body and legs. The only area Gane’s opponents out-work him is power shots to the head. But even in this situation, while Gane’s opponents throw four more attempts per five minutes in the position (p5m), they still end up getting out-struck by two strikes p5m. Basically when it comes to power to the head, Gane’s opponents throw while he lands.
While we don’t yet know how Jones’ skills will translate in his new heavyweight home, one thing we know for sure is Jones is the arguable MMA GOAT for a reason.
The man shows no glaring statistical weakness.
While he doesn’t overwhelm opponents with volume, he still ends up with positive striking differentials to all three target areas of the head, body, and legs at distance. And boy does he mix things up well with his power, landing and almost perfectly evenly distributed 4.1, 4.2, and 4.2 shots to the head, body, and legs respectively p5m.
Then throw in the fact that Jones has never been knocked down, has only been taken down twice (and got back up with a standup rate over 10x the heavyweight average), tends to be the controlling fighter in the clinch (63% of the time), is almost always the top fighter on the ground (99% of the time), has never been submitted, and has only faced one serious submission attempt in his UFC career, and Gane has definitely got his hands full with the heavyweight neophyte.
If the fight ends up an almost entirely distance affair, the striking battle should be incredibly interesting to see how Jones’ abilities translate against an extremely talented opponent.
But if Jones is able to find success with his statistically average distance takedown abilities (28% versus 26% heavyweight average) and clinch takedowns (39% versus 50% average, but with solid volume for Jones), the fight would move into a world where Jones tends to have control (99%), Gane tends to be controlled (75%), and Gane struggles to get back to his feet with a 37% worse standup rate than a typical heavyweight. Jones’ 30.1 power strikes landed p5m of ground control (20.7 heavyweight average) and 50% submission success would come into play and could easily spell serious trouble for Gane.
But there’s a reason they lock the cage doors and let us revel in the regulated violence – to see how this all plays out. Saturday can’t come fast enough.
Bring on the glorious fights!
Statistical Notes: Strike attempts are per an entire five minute round in each position (p5m) and are categorized as jab or power. A jab is just a non-power strike. Strikes are documented based on where they land or are targeted (head, body, legs), not the type that is thrown (punch, elbow, kick, knee). Clinch control is having the opponent pressed against the cage. Ground control is having top position or the opponent’s back.
About the author: Paul writes about MMA analytics and officiating at Bloody Elbow and MMA business at Forbes Sports. He was also formerly licensed as a referee and judge. Follow him @MMAanalytics. Fight data provided by FightMetric. (full bio)