UFC Fight Night Bonuses: Patterns in the Data

Frequently up for debate in the MMA community is who should have won the Fight of the Night, Submission of the Night and Knockout of the Night bonus from the previous nights fights. We decided to take a look at the underlying data to see whether certain patterns exist. For instance, it seems that it is rare that a non-main card fighter gets a fight of the night bonus, and even rarer that a Facebook fighter gets any bonus at all. Does this pattern actually exist or is it a bias that our mind has fabricated?

We begin with a graph that shows the relative proportion of fights by card position along with the proportion of bonuses.

Data collected over the last 636 UFC fights.

Data collected over the last 636 UFC fights.

The graph clearly demonstrates that bonuses are disproportianately awarded to fighters on the main card (as a supplement, Reed Kuhn of Fightnomics analyzed fight night bonuses by fight card position and found a similar results) Interestingly, submission of the night is actually the least awarded bonus (on multiple occassions in our data it was not awarded because there were no submissions), and actually appears to be the least biased fight night bonus. For fighters fighting on the early prelims (Facebook card), their probability of getting a submission of the night award almost perfectly lines up with the proportion of fights that take place on the early undercard. For main card fighters, the probability of getting submission of the night is slightly too high, but that could be due to the small sample size rather than there actually being an underlying bias and the same goes for the prelims fighters. Similarly to fight of the night, knockout of the night is disproportionately awarded to main card fighters.

In addition to card position, we can look at weight classes that tend to win fight night bonuses.

UFC Fight Night Bonus Graphed By Weight Class

What immediately stands out to us is the disproportionate number of fight of the night bonuses awarded to lightweight fighters. At 16, it more than doubles the number of fight of the night bonuses earned by any other weight class. It is quite possible that 155 pound fighters are the perfect combination of speed, power and endurance to produce extremely exciting fights. In terms of fight of the night bonuses, there don’t seem to be any further anomalies by weight class in the data. For submission of the night, again lightweights stand out with a sizable advantage in terms of bonuses given. At 14, there are almost double as many awards given to lightweights as any other weight class. Besides middleweights seeming slightly low, the rest of the data lines up just about how we’d expect. We should also note that at this point flyweight fights still make up a small percentage of total fights so the data for the flyweight division is expected to be lower than any other division. As most people would expect, heavyweights lead for knockout of the night awards, what isn’t expected however is that welterweights are tied for first. As expected, from welterweight down, the number of knockout of the night awards drops with the power possessed by fighters in the division. What is very strange about the knockout of the night bonus awards is how few go to light heavyweight and middleweight fighters. Many would expect, given the power in both those divisions that there would be a huge number of KOTN awards. The likely caveat, is that fighters realize the power of their opponent and thus set up their game plans to avoid absorbing a knockout blow.

Use This Data To Your Advantage

If you are a non-main card fighter, you should aim to submit your opponents if you want to win bonuses. Since submissions happen less frequently than knockouts, you have a better chance of winning a fight night bonus by locking up a nasty submission than by knocking someone unconscious.

If you are betting on the fights and would like to bet on the bonuses, look for great main card match-ups in the lightweight division to place your money on for fight of the night. For submission of the night as well, look for submission specialists in the lightweight division, but also consider welterweights, featherweights and bantamweights. Position on the card for submission of the night has been shown to not be as important. For knockout of the night, look for heavy-handed heavyweights and welterweights. Jake Ellenberger, Johnny Hendricks, Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt jump immediately to mind. If you can correctly predict who will land these bonuses on a given night, there is some serious cash coming your way.

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