Predicting Method of Victory and Round of Finish

As a logical next step in our fight prediction model, we decided to attempt to predict when and how fights will finish. While predicting a fight outcome can be very profitable, being able to accurately predict the round and method of victory would essentially be like a license to print money. Obviously, achieving this model would be incredibly difficult, and would probably require years and years of work and some luck along the way. We are here to share our preliminary results when attempting to predict the rounds in which fights end and how fights tend to finish.

To start off with, Reed Kuhn over at Fightnomics provides an excellent analysis of how fights tend to finish. The list of fights we use to generate our predictions is much smaller, and only encompasses fighters who have at least 3 fights worth of stats recorded in the fightmetric database.

Division Avg Rnd KO (%) Sub (%) Dec (%)
Heavyweight 1.96 66 15 18
Light Heavy 2.33 29 24 47
Middleweight 2.50 34 3 59
Welterweight 2.25 41 13 46
Lightweight 2.56 41 13 46
Featherweight 2.32 26 17 56
Bantamweight 2.32 26 19 55
Flyweight 2.58 26 32 42

We should note before expanding on this data that we have very few flyweight fights in our database. Therefore, even though the numbers are pretty much in line with the weight classes slightly above, we will not yet put very much stake into the output for that specific division. The division we have the most recorded fights for is the lightweight division with 44 fights. The first thing to notice, and it is probably expected, given the weight cap, is that heavyweight fights finish a third of a round faster than the next fastest division. In addition, an astounding 2/3 heavyweight fight finishes with a referee protecting one of the competitors (TKO/KO). Surprisingly, the only other division with more than 40% of fights ending via TKO/KO is the welterweight division. This may just be an anomaly over the last couple years, but memorable knockouts by Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, Tyron Woodley and newcomer Robbie Lawler all help to make the last couple years especially knockout-filled for the welterweight division.

How can we use this data to our advantage?

The obvious answer is to look for lines that seem advantageous based on the data above. A great example of this, is featherweight champ, Jose Aldo taking on Chan Sung Jung. Our model has Aldo as a very heavy favourite, as most people do according to the odds. The one thing that stands out about the odds though, is Aldo sits at 4.47 to 1 to win by decision. Less than half of the featherweight fights we have observed have finished inside the distance and Aldo has only been able to finish 2 of his last 5 opponents. We see some definite value at 4.47 to 1 in betting on Aldo to win via decision. An example of a well adjusted line would be Johnson vs Moraga going the distance sitting at 1.48 to 1. Flyweights generally lack the power to knock each other out and submissions tend to happen less frequently than knockouts (by extrapolating from other divisions), so if anything the line may even be a little low.

Modelling Finish Round

Attempting to model fight lengths has been a frustrating experience. The output of our model is almost always under 2 rounds. It does seem however, there is a correlation between very low round estimates and actual fight finishes. For example, Herman vs Gonzaga was predicted to last less than a single round, which is exactly what happened. Unfortunately, even the aforementioned Aldo vs Jung fight is expected to last half a round as well. At this point, it is a struggle to find fights that are expected to last more than one full round. Modelling round outcomes will continue to be a work in progress as we move forward and collect more data.

Modelling TKO/KO Outcomes

Predicting fights that end in TKO/KO seems to be a bit more reliable. For example, Gonzaga vs Herman at UFC 162 was predicted to end in TKO/KO 62% of the time. Pierce vs Mitchell at the same event was predicted to have someone lying on the canvas 46% of the time. Kennedy vs Gracie was expected to end in TKO/KO just 20% of the time. The preliminary results of attempting to predict fights that end via KO or TKO seems promising. When Rory MacDonald takes on Jake Ellenberger, we project the fight to end in TKO/KO just 22% of the time. Machida vs Davis at UFC 163, on the other hand is expected to end in TKO/KO over 40% of the time.

Conclusion

There seems to be little evidence that we can accurately predict the round that fights end in so far. It will probably take a lot more work and a lot more data to accurately be able to come up with the rounds in which fights end. TKO/KO finishes on the other hand seem a bit easier to predict. The difficult part will be finding patterns in the data that are not easily seen with a brief look at the fighters stats. For example, predicting an Anderson Silva TKO is not nearly as impressive as would be predicting a Frankie Edgar TKO/KO. From now on, we will include our method of victory along with our fight outcome predictions in our blog posts. Stay tuned, UFC on Fox 8 and UFC 163 are both happening in the next couple weeks, leading into an incredibly busy month of August for The Fight Predictor.

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