Flirting With Danger

We hear it over and over again: MMA is the fastest growing sport right now. It's merely in diapers compared to most other major sports. There are a number of steps that our sport has taken in the past 20 years that have lead us to the place we are in right now. However, it's been an uphill battle. We are still swimming upstream in New York. First we must thank professional boxing for helping us get to the point at which we are being broadcast on mainstream television.

Dear Boxing, thank you for being the perfect example of what not to do. There were periods of time when MMA could've been stomped down and kicked to the curb. Perhaps MMA promoters didn't know what to do at those times. But they knew what not to do, and sometimes that's enough to get to the next step.

The NFL, NBA, and MLB are sports worth paying attention to. They've succeeded as entertainment based sports as well as businesses. Much can be learned if we pay attention.

Many maniacs here view baseball as a boring game. Perhaps that's true, but it depends on how you look at it. Baseball is a thinking man's game, a game of numbers. The law of averages is applied in sometimes every pitch of every game. There are stats on top of stats and you can bet that those numbers are used to increase the odds of winning where ever possible.

In MMA we use stats as well. We factor a fighter's rate of finishing his opponents. We pay close attention to their records. We even factor in how a fighter performs amongst top 5 or top 10 competition.

There's a formula in MLB that has become more popular as a way to rate a batter's level of danger in the batter's box: slugging percentage. A players batting average tells us how often he will get on base (walks not included). If a guy carries an average of .333 then we know 1 of every 3 plate appearances will result in said batter reaching base. However a grand slam carries the same 1 hit value as a ground ball hit up the middle and into center field. Slugging percentage assigns different values for different types of hits. To calculate a batter's slugging percentage we must do the following:

Total # of singles + 2 (total number of doubles) + 3 (total number of triples) + 4 (total number of homeruns) / (divided by) total number of at bats = slugging percentage. So as you can see a double is worth 2x what a single is, a triple 3x, and the long ball gets the x4. This statistic is the sole reason why Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth have been walked many more times than your average hitter: because they are dangerous. Slugging percentage changes a pitcher's game plan on how they are going to minimize damage taken by the kings of the long ball.

So what the hell, let's pull that formula over here to MMA and see what it tells us. Let's call this the danger rating.

Total # of split decisions + 2 (total number of unanimous decisions) + 3 (total # of 5th round wins via KO/TKO/Submission/Dr stoppage) + 4 (# of 4th round stoppages) + 5 (# of 3rd round stoppages) + 6 (# of 2nd round stoppages) + 7 (# of 1st round stoppages) / (divided by) total number of wins. Losses and draws are not factored in. The maximum danger rating that can be assigned to any fighter is 7. If a guy is 5-0 with 5 first round KOsthen his formula would be 7 x 5 / 5. 35 / 5 is 7. If the guy was 5-0 with 4 first round KOs and 1 second round KO then his formula would be 1x6 (6 being the rating assigned to a 2nd round finish) + (7 x 4). (6 + 28) / 5 = 6.8. His danger rating is a 6.8 out of 7. Let's run some numbers:

Rashad Evans comes into his fight against Jones carrying a danger rating of 3.7. No surprise there, right? We could all safely agree that most wrestlers will have lower danger ratings. Now, run Jon Jones through the formula and he comes in with a danger rating of 6.47. That's a dangerous man. The numbers say Rashad's best shot at winning is to stay out of striking range. Or do they?

How about Fitch vs Hendricks? Fitch rolled in with a rating of 3.74, Hendricks a danger rating of 4.83. The numbers didn't lie in that one.

Now, the money shot. GSP comes into his fight against Carlos Condit with a danger rating of 4.55. That's not too bad considering the recent rash of decision wins. Fitch is sporting a 3.74 in nearly the same number of wins. Condit, on the other hand, comes in carrying a staggering rating of 6.21. I've been asked numerous times why I've stood behind Condit the whole time: because he's dangerous. He beats guys at their own game, consistently. And his list of first round stoppages is long. Outside of his danger rating he showed his ability to go the other way to beat Nick. A fighter carrying a high danger rating that shows the ability to control their level of danger leads to even further danger, IMO.

So, what does all this mean?

Not much, really, and that's the reason I love this sport. Anything can happen. It's also the reason I love baseball. We can run numbers on top of numbers and something different than anticipated can occur at any moment. The old saying says that numbers don't lie. Perhaps they don't, perhaps they do. But numbers can't be used to predict everything because there are some things that don't carry a numeric value. That's life. The law of averages is ready to be smashed around any give turn. If you put your left foot in a pot of boiling water and your right foot in a pot of ice water then your average temperature should be around normal body temperature, right?

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