MMA Analytics

Breaking down 23 years of UFC fights and finishes

An analysis of 23 years of MMA outcomes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

There was a total of 3,569 fights between 1,561 fighters. The fights ranged from November 12th, 1993 up to February 21st, 2016.

The complete R code for this project can be found on my Github Site. The data was scraped by a 3rd party from the Sherdog website. It can be found here.

Striking versus Grappling: How do fighters win in MMA?

Most fights are won through striking, followed by chokes and jointlocks. Regardless of the method of finish, a significant majority of fights are won within the first round.

If a fight doesn’t end within the designated number of rounds (3 round for normal fights, 5 for championship or main event fights), the decision goes to the judges score card. Decision wins were excluded from this graph, but an analysis of decision wins can be found in the supplementary section. No Contest wins were also excluded. The resulting list of finishes included 2,044 fights.

Method of Win

Category 1 2 3 4 5
Strike 696 299 136 10 6
Choke 299 177 91 7 1
JointLock 130 44 16 1 4
Stoppage 18 26 8 2 1
MISC 27 8 3 1 0
Injury 15 12 4 0 0
DQ 1 0 1 0 0

Fight Like a Girl: Do gender differences exist in how MMA fights are won?

In both men and women’s MMA fights, an overwhelming majority of fights end in a decision. Faithful to the original analysis of finishes, strikes remain the dominant way of ending a fight, followed by chokes, then joint locks.

More men win fights with strikes (M: 33%, F: 25%) and choking (M: 16%, F: 14%), while women are more likely to end a fight with joint locks (F: 8%, M: 5%). Overall, women are more likely to continue fighting through all the rounds and end with a decision (F: 52%, M: 42%), rather than knocking out or submitting their opponents (M: 54%, F: 47%).

There were 3,445 men’s MMA fight and 102 women’s MMA fights in the dataset. Due to the large disparty between the two, the analysis of finishes required percentages rather than raw numbers.

Differences in Finishes by Gender

Gender Decision Strike Choke JointLock Stoppage MISC Injury DQ
Female 51.96 25.49 13.73 7.84 0.98 0.00 0.0 0.00
Male 42.09 32.54 16.28 5.43 1.57 1.13 0.9 0.06

Differences in decision wins by gender

Overall, men’s fights end in unanimous decisions more often in unianimous decisions, whereby all three judges score the fight in favor of one fighter. On the other hand, women’s fights end slightly more often in split or majority decisions, whereby two judges score the fight for the winning fighter while the third judge scores it for the losing fighter (split decision) or as a draw (majority decision).

Differences in Decision Wins by Gender

Gender Unanimous Split Majority
Female 75.0 23.08 1.92
Male 77.3 20.67 2.03

Is Ring Rust Real?:

Partially exaggerate, partially misunderstood, or partially true?

The graph below shows the average time fighters took between fights, and whether the fighter won his/her fight. Fighters who took longer between fights were statistically more likely to lose their next fight (p-value < 0.05).

Despite the statistical significance, there is only a miniscule difference in average time between wins and losses (~3 weeks) and a relatively low variability (standard error) in both groups. Therefore, I would not conclude an additional three weeks of rest between fights will make or break a fight!

Fighters that fought multiple times in a single event were excluded. Statistical significance was determined using a two-sample Student’s t-test.

Ring Rust

Loss: Mean Days Win: Mean Days P-value
222.4218 202.2848 3.38e-03

Is There a Hometown Advantage in MMA?

Whether it’s psychological or physical, fights that take place in a fighter’s home state are more likely to go in their favor. (Hometown: 57%, Away: 50%)

Hometowns were determined by the city that the fighter currently fights and trains out of, rather than their birthplace.

Hometown Advantage

Win Loss
Home 56.8 43.2
Away 49.9 50.1

The Land of Savages: Where do most UFC fighters come from?

A quick overview of fighters locality in the UFC. Due to the large disparity in numbers between fighters on the UFC roster from the US compared to other countries, the two groups were examined individually.

Within the US, the vast majority of fighters come from California (Eureka!). Outside of the US, the second largest market for UFC fighters is Brazil, followed by Canada, the UK, and Japan.

US Fighters

Top 10 States with most UFC Fighters
State Number of Fighters
California 185
Texas 48
Florida 43
New York 43
Arizona 41
Illinois 39
Ohio 34
Iowa 33
Indiana 31
Massachusetts 25

Non-US Fighters

Top 10 Countries with most UFC Fighters (Excluding USA)
Country Number of Fighters
Brazil 199
Canada 72
United Kingdom 61
Japan 55
Russia 25
Australia 23
Mexico 17
Poland 17
Sweden 15
Netherlands 14

Supplementary Data

Wins by Strikes

Wins by Strikes

Strikes Count
Punches 699
Punch 126
Elbows 33
Head Kick 26
Punches and Elbows 26
Head Kick and Punches 24
Knee and Punches 19
Knee 18
Elbows and Punches 15
Knees and Punches 12
Strikes 11
Knees 10
Knee to the Body and Punches 7
Flying Knee 6
Flying Knee and Punches 6
Kick to the Body 6
Kick to the Body and Punches 6
Punch to the Body 6
Elbow 5
Leg Kicks 5
Punches and Knees 5
Spinning Back Fist 4

Wins by Choke

Wins by Choke

Choke Count
Rear-Naked Choke 252
Guillotine Choke 134
Triangle Choke 49
Arm-Triangle Choke 34
Submission (Guillotine Choke 20
Submission (Rear-Naked Choke 16
Brabo Choke 10
Anaconda Choke 8
Submission (Triangle Choke 7
Choke 5
Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke 5
Submission (Brabo Choke 5
Rear Naked Choke 4

Wins by Joint Lock

Wins by Joint Lock

Joint Lock Count
Armbar 85
Kimura 26
Heel Hook 13
Triangle Armbar 11
Kneebar 10
Neck Crank 10
Armlock 8
Achilles Lock 6
Straight Armbar 6
Keylock 5
Submission (Armbar 5

Wins by Stoppage

Wins by Stoppage

Stoppage Count
Doctor Stoppage 41
Corner Stoppage 14

Wins by Miscellaneous Methods

Wins by Miscellaneous Methods

Misc Finish Count
Cut 12
Slam 7
Retirement 6
Accidental Eye Poke 5
Position 2
Body Lock 1
Body Triangle 1
Calf Slicer 1
Cuts 1
Exhaustion 1
Fatigue 1
Twister 1

Wins by Injury

Wins by Injury

Injury Count
Leg Injury 6
Knee Injury 5
Ankle Injury 2
Arm Injury 2
Injury 2
Jaw Injury 2
Neck Injury 2
Rib Injury 2
Shoulder Injury 2
Dislocated Shoulder 1
Esophagus Injury 1
Eye Injury 1
Finger Injury 1
Hand Injury 1
Thumb Injury 1