(Photo Courtesy of Getty)
By: R Eric Ellison
Glad to see you sliced your way through the internet to dissect another great UFC fight headed our way. This time, Zuffa bestows upon us UFC 178: Johnson Vs Cariaso, a card dotted with a handful of very interesting and exciting bouts. Two of which are comebacks of title contenders; Dominick Cruz and Cat Zingano.
Each “Under the Knife” 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 one another. Finally, The Winning Path takes the previous results and draws a bit of a numerical map as to how each fighter may win.
Ready? Here we go.
THE WRAP SHEET
First up, the return of former champ Dominick Cruz. Once one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, many eyes will be on this fight to see how Cruz fares after such a long layoff. So let’s go back to his stats two years ago, and see what that may tell us about UFC 178. At 19-1-0, Cruz automatically kicks things off strong. With six KO’s and twice as many decision wins prove that Cruz has both power and endurance, and let’s not even get started on how well this mixes in with his unique and stunning footwork. Many fans, myself included, feel TJ Dillashaw had such success against Barao (and as a fighter in general) from spending so much time mimicking Cruz for Faber. A big drawback here for Dominick is his 31% striking accuracy, but he balances this out interestingly enough with one of the highest defense/evade percentages in MMA.
At 20-7-2, Mizugaki leaps into this match with an arsenal of experience and a portfolio of impressive wins over serious opponents. A WEC vet, Mizugaki has burst onto the UFC in full force, racking up one hell of a five fight win streak that spans the last two years and includes victories over studs like Bryan Caraway, Erik Perez, Francisco Rivera, and fan favourite Nam Phan. A crisp boxer who also can hang it out to the end, Mizugaki may find his best weapon in this fight is his chin and high level cardio. With takedown defense and accuracy ratings near 70%, Takeya clearly has the ability to keep most fights exactly where he wants them. This actually is one of Mizugaki’s best balancing attributes, as his Strikes Absorbed per Minute (SApM) is quite high, giving him the choice to get things to the mat should they get shaky.
Okay, this is where things get interesting. What pops out immediately is both fighters have a rather low striking accuracy, 30% for Cruz and Mizugaki at 39%. Mixing this with both fighters very high strike output, and all I can see is a lot of missed shots and sweet evasive maneuvers. I mean, beyond that, Cruz strike defense is 79% and Takeya is almost at 60%. Place all of this on top of the fact that Cruz absorbs about half as many significant strikes as Mizugaki. So now we have a situation where both guys are doing a lot of moving, throwing a lot of shots out there, and Cruz the likelier of the two to land the significant blows. Dominick has never been knocked out, and neither man is a KO artist, so this fight may very well become an exciting striking match that goes all the way to the judges hands.
THE WINNING PATH
Despite not fighting for years, and Mizugaki coming in hot with a five fight streak, Dominick Cruz is the favourite at UFC 178. A lot of questions will be answered Saturday, and the UFC has wasted no time in putting Cruz right back in the top of the mix. Takeya is by no means an easy comeback gimme fight, and believe me that Mizugaki has all the skills to take advantage of a rusty, slowed Cruz. If Takeya wants to win this fight, he needs to slow Cruz down and cut him off to even out the defensive aspect when the hands begin. If he can corner Cruz, a lot of the numbers fly right down the middle, 50/50. That’s not so bad when you’re up against one of the best to ever fight in the Octagon. Mizugaki cannot afford to let Cruz somersault his way to winning on the cards, and a ground game plan may not be such a horrible back up scheme either. By the numbers, Mizugaki will have a time making this a reality, but if he can get it there he once again deplete’s most of Dominicks statistical advantages.
Dominick Cruz has to come out and still be Dominic Cruz. Although slight, Cruz holds the numbers advantage just about everywhere in this fight. With a 90% takedown defense, Dominick should has no problem throwing off any takedown attempts, but the difference is not so great that he should get sloppy or swept up. He also has the edge in getting this to the canvas, although my guess is we won’t see this unless Mizugaki starts landing a lot of good shots. Of course that footwork, providing it’s still as game as it was before all the surgeries, will be the key to jetting in and out and capitalizing on Mizugaki’s missed strikes. His all around advantage as you move from category to category reveal more than anything that if he can go out there and be the fighter he once was, this one should be Dominick Cruz on the cards come fight night