by Rami Genauer for MMAWeekly.com
match this Saturday between Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre makes for a great
main event, rife with drama, history, and serious implications for both men’s
analytical perspective, it’s a great match-up to preview. It is very difficult
to draw any serious conclusions based on historical evidence for the match
between, say, Lyoto Machida and Thierry Sokoudjou; both are somewhat unknown
quantities. But because of the wealth of information we fans have coming into
the Hughes versus St-Pierre fight, we can take a look at the primary,
secondary, and tertiary research to get a better idea of how these fighters
comparing fighters, the best evidence we have is primary research: How have
these fighters done against each other in the past? Luckily, a rubber match
means we have two instances to look at and compare.
fight between the two happened in 2004 at UFC 50. Matt Hughes won by armbar with
one-second left in the first round. Up until that point, the two were
remarkably even. Striking on the feet, Hughes landed three strikes out of 11
(or 27%) compared to five strikes out of 15 (or 33%) for St-Pierre.
landed much of anything with power. Hughes landed one power knee to the body in
the clinch, while St-Pierre also landed a clinch knee and added a spinning back
kick at distance.
were a slight advantage, the grappling edge would go to Hughes. Hughes landed
two takedowns out of seven attempts and managed to pass to half-guard twice and
side control once. St-Pierre landed the only takedown he attempted, but could
not pass Hughes’ guard.
attempted an unsuccessful submission attempt – a guillotine attempt by
Hughes and a Kimura attempt by St-Pierre. Though the armbar ended the fight,
it’s hard to conclude much from the performance of either fighter. Using style='font-size:10.0pt'> style='font-family:Arial'>FightMetric’s style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'> proprietary effectiveness algorithm
– a system that boils fighter effectiveness down to a single statistic,
based on a database of thousands of fight endings – the first round was a
close 50-41 for Hughes up until the armbar.
fight told a much different story. Using his reach advantage with kicks and a long
left jab, St-Pierre consistently beat Hughes to the punch. St-Pierre used the
jab and leg kicks to set up his overhand right and the head kick that
ultimately finished the fight. Standing toe-to-toe, St-Pierre landed 32 of 72
strikes, including 19 power shots, for a 44% accuracy rate. Hughes, meanwhile,
landed only eight of 36 strikes.
grappling advantage went to St-Pierre as well. Unlike the first fight,
St-Pierre fended off all three of Hughes’ takedown attempts and landed his lone
seem like a near-flawless victory for St-Pierre is marred by one question. Two
of St-Pierre’s leg kicks in the first round caught Hughes in the groin. It’s
hard to know how much those two groin shots affected Hughes for the remainder
of the fight. They did not appear to take too much of a toll, but who is to say
that Hughes’ takedowns attempts wouldn’t have had more behind them if not for
those shots. And given what happened on the ground in the first fight, things
might have turned out differently had Hughes been able to take St-Pierre to the
fights between the two fighters, the next best evidence we have is secondary
research: How have these fighters done against common opponents? The three
fighters that Hughes and St-Pierre have in common are Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg,
and B.J. Penn.
each fighter’s performance against the common opponent, the Sherk fights
plainly favor St-Pierre, who dominated Sherk, pounding out a second round
stoppage, while Hughes went all five rounds to a mostly uneventful decision.
fights are basically a wash. St-Pierre embarrassed Trigg while winning in their
fight, while Hughes won both of his matches, the second in an incredible
comeback following an illegal groin shot.
where things get interesting. Penn won the first Hughes fight in convincing
fashion by taking Hughes down, controlling him on his back and choking him out
in the first round. The second fight saw Penn control and out-strike Hughes for
the first two rounds before succumbing in the third after either gassing or
suffering a rib injury, depending on who you want to believe. Hughes landed
only one takedown in either fight.
had similar trouble with Penn in the first round of their fight. Bloodied and
bruised, St-Pierre had no answer for Penn and could not take him down. The next
two round were more favorable, with St-Pierre succeeding on all three of his
takedown attempts and getting the better of the exchanges on the feet. Though
he did little damage and landed few strikes of consequence, it was enough to
garner a split decision victory.
fights don’t present any clear conclusion. Does Hughes’ win and loss cancel
each other out or does Penn’s advantage in the first two rounds of the second
fight make him the overall winner? The St-Pierre-Penn fight was a split
decision – one that still kicks up controversy to this day. Is one
razor-thin decision better than a clear stoppage and a loss?
piece of evidence is the trickiest. Here we look at fights against different
opponents. MMA fights are incredibly dynamic and no two fights are the same. To
make intelligent comparisons between such disparate events, we need a smaller
lens to focus than just “who fought better?”
case, we will focus on takedowns, both offense and defense. Since Hughes is
best known as a wrestler and St-Pierre is best known as a striker, approaching
each’s takedown performance can give us a nice look at the disparity between
fights since his initial victory over St-Pierre, Hughes has taken down all of
his opponents with ease, except for St-Pierre and Penn. Against Trigg, Joe
Riggs, Royce Gracie, and Chris Lytle, Hughes landed all six of his takedown
attempts. Against St-Pierre and Penn, he landed only one of nine combined
attempts. As for his defense, Hughes has not really been tested. He is at 50%,
stuffing a takedown attempt by Riggs and falling prey to a St-Pierre double leg
in their second fight.
loss to Hughes, St-Pierre has fought against Dave Strasser, Jason Miller,
Trigg, Sherk, Penn, Hughes, Matt Serra, and Josh Koscheck. Against the four
strongest pure wrestlers – Trigg, Sherk, Hughes, and Koscheck –
St-Pierre landed all eight takedown attempts and stuffed nine of 10 attempts
against him (Koscheck landed the lone takedown). Against the other opponents
– Strasser, Miller, Penn, and Serra – St-Pierre landed nine out of
11 takedown attempts and avoided five of seven takedown attempts against him.
St-Pierre has landed 17 of 19 takedown attempts (89%) and defended 14 of 17
attempts (82%) since his loss to Hughes three years ago. Put another way,
St-Pierre has spent less than one minute on his back in the last three years.
reputation and wrestling pedigree, one could easily make the argument that
St-Pierre is actually the superior wrestler. Hughes has stated that he has gone
” back to his roots” in preparation for this fight, falling back on his
strength and wrestling background. As the data shows, if he wants a chance to
win this Saturday night, he should probably have a plan B.
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