What Can a UFC Stats Expert Tell Us About McGregor vs Poirier 2?
After a 2020 in MMA that was stop-start, courted controversy and was mostly a little strange, there will be a welcome familiar sight back in the Octagon in 2021 – Conor McGregor. Sure the Irishman might be a little stop-start himself, coming out of his second retirement in two years to fight Dustin Poirier in UFC 257 on 23rd January (a year and six days after his last fight). But by now fans know to greet McGregor’s social media pronouncements with a shrug. His schtick might have worn a little thin with some fans, but the majority of us love to see him in action.
McGregor is the favourite for the bout with bookmakers, but many pundits believe that Poirier has a decent chance of upsetting the odds. But in an intriguing piece for MansionBet UFC Blog, offering tips on how to pick a live underdog, UFC expert Jeff Fox gave some interesting stats-based analysis of the reading a card. And, they might just point to a Poirier victory. Fox crunched the numbers of 360 UFC fights in 2020, and below we wanted to look at those factors that could apply to McGregor and Poirier’s rematch.
Fox prompts anyone trying to predict a fight to go to UFCStats.com and go straight to the striking stats match-ups between the two fighters (it’s actually a highly useful resource). According to the data, fighters with the superior all-time striking stats win 72% of all fights. This is where it gets interesting for Poirier and McGregor because the former has a better rate of SLpM (strikes landed per minute, 5.57 vs 5.43), better striking accuracy (50% vs 49%), and a lower rate of SApM (strikes absorbed per minute, (4.18 vs 4.40). The margins are tight, but remember that Poirier is the underdog here, and he leads in all three categories.
According to Fox’s analysis, younger fighters win 61% of their bouts. And, in this case, the stat points in Poirier’s favour once more, with the American being about six months younger than his Irish opponent. Indeed, the fight takes place four days after Poirier’s 32nd birthday; McGregor turned 32 last July. Again though, this is incredibly close – and it’ not as if we are talking about an age gap of any meaningful difference.
The odds themselves aren’t a metric that decide the fight, but we know that bookmakers get it right, i.e., the favourite wins against the underdog, about two-thirds of the time (67% for the favourite, 33% for the underdog). MgGregor’s current odds sit around 2/5, which is an implied probability of 71.43%. Poirier’s odds are in the region of 15/8, which has an implied probability of 34.8%, not far off what the analysis says.
Fox points out that missing the weight should act as a big warning sign for any UFC pick, even if it is commonly held that a bigger weight is an advantage. In fact, Fox’s study concluded that only one on three UFC fights were won by the fighter that missed the target weight. Of course, this may be a moot point as neither McGregor nor Poirier has a reputation for coming in overweight, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Conclusion – There Are Always Unqauntifiables
As we have pointed out, the fight should probably be a lot closer in the bookmakers’ eyes given how Poirier edges McGregor in most categories cited by Fox. However, there are always unquantifiables fights that blow the number-crunching out of the water – determination, fear, luck, human error and many other factor could make a mockery out of a stats-based analysis. But that’s what makes these big fights so compelling.