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Behind the Numbers: Do Heavyweights Finish Fights More Often?

It is no secret that the lower weights have struggled to gain the main stream notoriety that MMA’s upper weights have known for years. One common assumption for this is that the lower weights do not simply have the finishing power that the upper weights have. MMAFrenzy takes a look at whether it is true that the big guys finish fights at a higher rate in the UFC.

The idea for this came from one of our moderators on the site, Newfie, approached me with the idea of tracking the finishing rates of each division. In his own words:

“During a press conference I remember hearing a heavyweight, I believe it was Mir, say something along the lines of ‘people like to watch heavyweights because we knock people out.’ So I spent a few weeks researching the outcome of every UFC fight since UFC 21, I seperated them by division then broke it down by how the fights ended…decision, KO, or submission. I started at UFC 21 because that was the introduction of the 5 minute round and seemed like a good place to start. Once I had compiled the list and broke the numbers down there were a lot of interesting stats, and in answer to my original question, yes heavyweight does indeed have the most KO’s.”

The big guys knocked out a staggering 56.6% of their opponents, 14.1% above the second-highest KO weight-class (light heavyweight), with the numbers steadily decreasing as the weight class moved lower. Upon further research though, a pattern emerged with the heavyweights. If the bout went beyond the first round, the likelihood of a finish decreased exponentially each round the fight went. With numbers like that, it should be no surprise that the first all-heavyweight UFC PPV, UFC 146, was the fastest UFC PPV to date.

So why the big gap? It is hard to definitively say without a study to back it up, but one possible theory is just simple anatomy. While the amount of muscle and strength is relatively higher in heavyweights, the body’s nervous system and bone strength are fairly equal across all weight classes. So with power increasing, and bone strength and neural capacity relatively equal, it seems pretty obvious that a knockout would happen easier at the upper weights. The additional strength also seems to explain why heavyweights have the second fewest amount of submission finishes (about 18.6%) in the promotion, despite possessing some of the most accomplished submission grapplers on the planet. That number that is significantly lowered if you remove Frank Mir, making his accomplishment even more impressive.

So with that information, the question is whether or not that is what fans truly want to see. The aforementioned UFC 146 was the third-highest purchased event of 2012, trailing only UFC 145 and UFC 148 to this point. So there is some indication that people are drawn to heavyweight fights. So now the question turns to the fans, do you pay more attention to big men for the knockouts?

Other Interesting Numbers from the Research:

  • Decisions increased as the weight classes dropped going from 23% at heavyweight to 52.3% at bantamweight
  • Submissions were mostly likely occur at middleweight (30%) or lightweight (29%)
  • Featherweight had the fewest number of finishes (41.9%), with the lowest knockouts (18.6%) and the third fewest submissions (22.1%)
  • Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir accounts for nearly 18% of all UFC heavyweight submissions since UFC 21.
  • Lightweights and welterweights have had the most bouts since UFC 21.

Do you watch MMA mainly for knockouts?

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