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UFC Fight Night 63: Breaking down the 'controversial' third round of Iaquinta vs. Masvidal

This author thought that the final round in UFC Fight Night 63's co-main event was a definitive round for "Raging" Al Iaquinta. Numerous other media thought otherwise. Here's an attempt to define this round on both a quantitative and qualitative measure.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of people felt that Jorge Masvidal beat Al Iaquinta at UFC Fight Night 63 on April 4, 2015 from Fairfax, Virginia. Some people are even (wrongly) throwing the term out there of "robbery." Everyone and their brother scored the first round for Masvidal. Some people scored the second for either man, After re-watching it, I think I want to score that one a draw - neither man did too much in the first part, Al had good work in the middle portion of the round while Jorge did well in the latter portion.

Watch some of the highlights here.

The third round confuses me. Live, I felt that was easily Iaquinta's round. He was pushing the pace, kicking the hell out of the left leg of Masvidal and landed a few good punches to boot. Surprisingly, quite a few people, including another Mania writer, Andrew Richardson, felt otherwise. As you all know, Andy's a smart dude. I respect his MMA opinion more than... well nearly everyone on this site. So he inspired me to look back on that round again.

I ended up looking at that round close to 10 times, looking at the overall and attempting to do a counting stat in case I had some bias in my scoring. Now, Fightmetric exists. They've had issues. Quite a lot. The fact that there isn't anyone out there fact-checking their counting stats is pretty worrisome. In more popular sports like baseball, the stats are well-defined and widespread. You can find the stats on any baseball player on nearly every single sports website in the world, plus they have their own record keeping, the Elias Sports Bureau, etc.

Now, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a much more confusing, nuanced sport to attempt to quantify. FOX is tossing some stats out there that try and add dimensions to a fight like Forward Motion, Positional Control and others that could be considered beyond the simple "how many strikes landed." However, even that is apparently debatable. Back when Compustrike existed (in it's current form, it appears to be a shill for the Bellator app and a link-bot for Bloody Elbow), they and FM had often conflicting information. That has since vanished into the ether and the WayBack machine

A brief google search of "fightmetric compustrike comparison" will give you a couple forum posts from individuals who have noted that what should be simple arithmetic doesn't seem to add up.

For example, there's this old thread in regards to the first Frankie Edgar/Benson Henderson fight:

Ok just checked out compustrike and fightmetrics for the fight. Both of them have it differently

Fight metrics: Strikes for edgar are 81 compared to 100 for bendo
Significant strikes for edgar are 68 compared to 87 for bendo
Edgar went 5 for 12 in takedowns, bendo went 1 for 1
Bendo had the only submission attempt

Compustrike: Edgar outlanded bendo 124 to 114, more significant strikes for bendo
Edgar had 7 takedowns compared to 2 for bendo

Then there's this one of the infamous Martin Kampmann/Diego Sanchez tilt:

FightMetric: Sanchez vs. Kampmann Official UFC Statistics

[From the link, Kampmann: 79 total strikes, 77 significant
Sanchez: 51 total strikes, 51 significant]

Live Stats: Sanchez vs. Kampmann

Kampmann: 97/207(47%) total strikes, 50 Power strikes

Sanchez: 45/165(27%) total strikes, 39 Power (1 of 15 takedowns)

Strikes Landed (% total, power) by round:
Sanchez: 1 - (24, 7) ; 2 - (29, 15) ; 3 - (28, 17)
Kampmann: 1 (48, 17) ; 2 - (46, 19) ; 3 - (46, 14)

Suffice it to say, I doubt their counting stats. For starters, calling every one of the strikes that landed from both men in that round is cow dung. Secondly, I watched that round, looking for solid punches from one fighter, then jabs and softer punches, then power kicks, then light kicks. I would simply hold my finger over the * key and pay attention to what the one man was doing with one aspect in mind only. Yes, I watched that round eight times looking only for specific moves from one fighter at a time. Yes, it was tedious as hell. I didn't always have the greatest angle, and certainly not slo-mo, but if my numbers are significantly different than theirs, then that's just more fuel for the fire.

Getting back to the topic at hand, I've watched this round a lot, and it was closer than I thought, but I still think it's the right choice to call it for Iaquinta due to the overall factors. Here's why.

First, the counting data. Here's Fightmetric's report. They have 34 strikes for Masvidal (of 74 attempts) and 26 (of 69) for Iaquinta. By my count, I've got 42 for Masvidal and 38 for Iaquinta. FM doesn't break theirs down, but I did, and I have the following for Masvidal: nine solid punches, three solid kicks, 27 jabs/soft punches, three soft kicks. For Iaquinta it's six solid punches, seven solid kicks, 18 jabs/soft punches, and seven soft kicks.

What's a "solid" strike? It's debatable. Some of the jabs were pretty decent, but I only counted the ones that really mashed hard as "solid." Was there weight behind it, rather than a snapping force? Was it an arm punch, like quite a few of the lead hooks he threw? Maybe it snapped Al's head back or to the side. Maybe it wobbled him like one did with a bit under a minute left. That's solid. Same with the kicks. I'm not even counting that tiny leg teep that he threw after Al tried for that scissors takedown, because that was more of a love tap than even a jab.

But we can all agree that the overwhelming majority of the time, the jab is meant to be an accumulative weapon, not a one-strike game-changer, and that's why they're almost all being lumped in separately from punches that have more venom on them.

So counting wise, Al had a much more diverse game than the boxing-centric Masvidal. By the slightest of margins, he also landed more solid blows than Jorge. Right or wrong, it's really hard to impress judges by jabbing and backing up, which is what Masvidal did for a considerable amount of time in that five minute stretch.

There's more to it than just overall numbers. I also put a small divider in between the first half of the round and the second. Masvidal's offense was broken up pretty evenly throughout the round. Abbreviating the rest of the way, with caps being solid and lowercase soft, he had: SP 5/4, SK 1/2, sp 12/15, sk 2/1. Pretty even. 20 in the first 2:30 and 22 in the latter.

Iaquinta, however, did nearly all his better work in the last half of the round, which tends to stick out with people, of whom judges allegedly are.

Iaquinta: SP 2/4, SK 2/5, sp 4/14, sk 6/1

Al really pushed the action in the last half and landed the bulk of his strikes, and that's going to win you a lot of rounds. Between the aggression, cage control and pouring it on at the end, I definitely think that was Al's round by most scoring definitions. Here's the Unified Rules:

-Judges shall evaluate mixed martial arts techniques, such as effective striking, effective grappling, control of the ring/fighting area, effective aggressiveness and defense.

-Evaluations shall be made in the order in which the techniques appear in (c) above, giving the most weight in scoring to effective striking, effective grappling, control of the fighting area and effective aggressiveness and defense.

-Effective striking is judged by determining the total number of legal strikes landed by a contestant.

Now, judges aren't me, pouring over a fight closely, tallying up strikes meticulously, rewinding it to see if that was blocked or landed, etc. etc. They're looking at a fight live and seeing a close striking contest by the numbers. However the bias of recency falls to Iaquinta, because he was doing more as time wound down.

Grappling was negligible, with Al simply trying stuff and failing, while Masvidal tried nothing. Al definitely takes the control and aggression aspects, while the defense can probably go to Masvidal as he certainly made Al miss quite a bit (I didn't rewatch yet another time for blocks/parries/misses). So in descending order, you've got Al winning aspects 1/3/4 (you can make some argument for him winning the grappling, too because he at least tried stuff, although I don't really buy that) with Jorge winning 2/5.

10-9 Iaquinta.

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