UFC 208: Knockout Potential

All bouts have to start with two fighters standing at a distance, and when they do there’s always a chance that someone is going to get dropped. Once a fighter scores a knockdown in a fight, their chances of winning rise dramatically, and it often sets up an early finish. That means that identifying knockout potential on a card can mean big points for your fantasy team.

So where does that potential lie among this weekend’s competitors? Here is how they stack up in their historical performance of scoring and receiving knockdowns in the cage.

KO Potential UFC208

Knockdown Rate here is defined as Distance Knockdowns per Distance Landed Power Head Strike. It’s not a perfect metric, but it’s a great proxy to understand how those highlight reel finishes happen. The UFC average for Knockdown Rate is 2.3%, meaning there are typically 43 power head strikes landed before a knockdown occurs, each with a 2.3% chance of being the strike that does the job. But there’s a lot of variation between weight classes and the individual athletes within them.

For fantasy players, this boils down to knowing who has a good chance to drop their opponent on fight night, and who is most at risk for getting knocked out. In both cases, it’s better to be at the top of the graph, and worse to be near the bottom.

Heaviest Hitters

The co-main event of the card features the two top scorers on our chart, but one man stands apart from the pack. It’s worth noting that Anderson Silva not only leads the card as the most able knockout artist, he owns the UFC all-time record with 18 total knockdowns scored. His precision striking from long range has felled the best in the business, and that skill is not something that degrades with age. His record will likely stand for a few more years, at least until Anthony “Rumble” Johnson chalks up a handful more fights to catch him.

Silva is paired with another powerful hitter in Derek Brunson, despite his striking style being very different from Silva’s. Silva has an extremely sharp jab, while Brunson relies on jabs much less, and lands few when he uses them. But Brunson clearly has power, scoring three total knockdowns in his fewer fights to date.

So both strikers are dangerous offensively, but they are also vulnerable defensively. While Brunson has the worse overall Knockdown Defense score, Silva is older, and has taken most of his damage only recently. However, Brunson’s style of striking is to come forward, showing poor defense, making him especially vulnerable to Silva’s style of counter-striking. So both men are capable of getting a knockout here, hence the close fight. If you choose right, you’ll book solid fantasy points at a fairly even price.

Despite being a massive underdog, Tim Boetsch always has a puncher’s chance. He’s scored seven knockdowns to date with a solid 6.3% Knockdown Rate. His matchup against Ronaldo Souza, however, is unlikely to be a standing duel. Souza being one of the best submission artists in the game has every reason not to want to stand with Boetsch, as a ground battle would avoid the Barbarian’s best strength, and attack his biggest weakness. Souza is also now 37 years old (older than Boetsch), and should be even more selective where he engages. One way or the other, this fight should not go the distance.

Honorable mention goes to Dustin Poirier. He’s the lightest of the top scoring sluggers, and comes in second place behind Silva with the most knockdowns scored to date (10) on this card. His Knockdown Rate is three times the average for the Lightweight division, and even more dangerous given that his opponent Jim Miller has taken a lot of damage over his long career. While Miller hasn’t shown a bad Defensive Knockdown Rate, we should expect a decline should he get in any more shootouts. A finish for Piorier is a strong possibility, and that’s the prime reason his price will be high.


Don’t Expect a KO

UFC 208 is less stacked with knockout artists than is typical for a pay-per-view card. Nearly half the fighters competing have not scored a distance knockdown, and that includes some veterans with plenty of cage time like Nik Lentz and Ian McCall.

But among the veterans with reliably low power, several are primarily grapplers who are unlikely to depart from their excellent grappling base in hunt of a knockout. That includes Wilson Reis, Phillipe Nover, and Roan Carnerio. Not only have they not scored any distance knockdowns, they are unlikely to engage in that style of fight. That doesn’t mean they can’t finish on the ground, just expect things to take more time to develop.

The main event is very likely to be a striking duel between Holm and de Randamie, as neither woman attempts many takedowns and prefers to stand and trade. But it will be a fairly even matchup of expert kickboxers, two technicians not big on power, nor susceptible to it. Twenty five minutes is a long time to sling leather, so a finish could happen, but probably not until later in the fight after one or the other has had a chance to accumulate some offense.


At Risk for a KO

Sample size alert: Islam Makhachev has only been hit three times with a distance power head strike in his limited action to date, but one of those did result in a knockdown. We’ll see with time whether that was a fluke, or a sign of a vulnerability.

With larger samples sizes, the fighters with the most knockdowns received to date include Nik Lentz, Belal Muhammad, and Wilson Reis, all with four. No fighters on this card have more than that, and it’s unusual to see fighters who are knockdown-prone persist in the UFC for much longer after reaching that threshold. Look for these fighters to want to avoid a striking duel, or else risk a violent finish.

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is fightnomics) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on.  Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.