By: R Eric Ellison
It looks like we have a title eliminator on our hands this go-round of the latest edition of Statistically Speaking. UFC Fight Night 55 Saturday night is capped off by a very stylistically and numerically interesting match between #5 ranked former Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold and divisional staple #9 Michael “The Count” Bisping . With Jacare Souza slated next, and Vitor facing Weidman already, this fight has all the makings of carving out who will fight for the middleweight crown after Jacare.
Each “Statistically Speaking” article is broken down into three sections; The Wrap Sheet, Cross Examination, and The Winning Path. In The Wrap Sheet, we will take a closer look at each fighters statistics individually. The Cross Examination is where the fighters are compared to each other. Finally, The Winning Path takes the previous results and draws a bit of a numerical map how each fighter may win.
Ready? It’s time For Rockhold Vs Bisping!
THE WRAP SHEET
First up on the table is Luke Rockhold. At 12-2, Rockhold has gone quite the ways in 14 pro fights. Having spent almost his entire career inside Strikeforce, rising to be it’s middleweight champion, Rockhold brings his own wealth of experience into this match. With six submission wins, four via strikes, and two on the cards, his record also shows Rockhold’s well rounded approach to MMA.
Although he rocks one of the lowest takedown accuracy ratings in the Octagon, his take down defense floats at about 72%. Quick and evasive on his feet, and a serious counter game on the feet and canvas help balance out what has become one of the UFCs most successful cross over fighters.
Michael “The Count” Bisping has been on the scene for quite some time. One of the early winners of TUF, and arguably it’s most successful prodigy to still be in action, Bisping has done and seen it all in the cage. His record of 25-6 speaks to that time, and we have watched Bisping on his rollercoaster ride to that dream of being crowned champion.
He is a machine gun on the feet, and his wrestling has evolved a long way since he first leapt from TUF to the Big Show. Bisping has a very high output through his crisp boxing and sudden flurries, and his takedown defense has grown immensely because of how good his hands are. Win or lose, Bisping always surprises and always entertains.
The most immediate thing I see here is a sign that this fight will either play out completely on the feet, or someone’s gameplan will be to keep it on the canvas. The reason I say this is because both Bisping and Rockhold have very low takedown success, 20% to 44% respectively. So unless Bisping is planning to shock Rockhold, and fans, by bringing in a wrestling based strategy, this one is going to be all stand up. To further back this claim, both fighters have takedown defense ratios of over 60%, and Luke’s is near 75%.
So let us take a look at the numbers behind the stand up game first. We all know Luke and Michael can be very dynamic, and each man is able to pile up strikes as the clock ticks by the rounds. Bisping has a whopping 15 knockouts, and lands about that many significant strikes per fight. Many of those being fight changers, or even enders. Although he has a moderately low accuracy with his punches, the consistency and angles balance this out alongside his near 70% striking defense.
Rockhold, interestingly enough, has numbers very close to these as well. Most of Luke’s are slightly lower, except the striking defense, but each guy floats near one another on the striking statistics. The big difference between them is how often they win from the hands. Bisping is usually that or the cards, while Rockhold has a nice mix of types of victory.
In fact, I think Bisping would be in extreme danger on the canvas from submissions if this fight did go to the floor. Another reason to suspect that this one will take place standing. “The Count” has a solid game as well, but Rockhold comes off as the bigger threat when we get to talking submissions. As a final note, Rockhold fights Southpaw, which could play into this fight a lot if the kicks become a staple.
THE WINNING PATH
For Bisping, this fight is all about that fluid boxing and counter wrestling. If he can pump that jab, stay off the mat, and work those combos I believe he has a great shot at taking this fight. Any wrestling Rockhold chooses to engage in will be met with smart resistance, good clinchwork, and that “Bisping” drive that Mike brings into all of his fights.
I do not suspect that “The Count” will shock us all with a wrestling approach, but if he does go that road, he will have to be very aware of how long to be there. I believe he can put this fight where he wants it, be it standing or on the canvas, and that combined with his vaulted UFC experience will be his road to victory at UFC Fight Night 55.
Luke Rockhold has quite the task ahead of him, but I also believe it is one he is capable of handling. Luke is no slouch on the feet, has great movement, and his kicking game might be the storyteller on Saturday night. As stated earlier, Luke brings what feels like the more aggressive submission game, and also a solid ability of his own to block takedowns. If he can get the combinations working, keep Bisping guessing between hands, kicks, and takedowns, he could very well lead “The Count” right into another title shot derailment.
Luke would be smart to use his southpaw stance to work kicks, and Bispings tendency to forget how to circle opponents properly. The former Strikeforce champs loss to Belfort seems to have really reinvigorated his fight approach, and that drive feels like the sort of energy that can push a fighter to the very top.
So, who do you think takes this stellar match-up and why? Leave your comments below!
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