Kuhn Reed - Fightnomics

Author : Kuhn Reed
Title : Fightnomics The hidden numbers and science in mixed martial arts… and why there’s no such thing as a fair fight
Year : 2013

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Foreword. There really is no such thing as a fair fight. The first time this realization punched me in the gut was when Pete Williams knocked out Mark “The Hammer” Coleman at UFC 17. Williams was a 22- year old unknown in his UFC debut while Coleman was an Olympic silver medalist wrestler and former UFC heavyweight champion who had ground and pounded through more impressive opponents, with his only loss being a decision in a championship fight. He was virtually unstoppable, and in my mind Williams was taking a quick trip to the hospital with a healthy dose of trauma counseling afterward. It was like watching Friday the 13th when idiot teenagers get drunk in Jason’s house. You watch, but only to see them get what’s coming for making such a horrible decision. Within seconds Coleman had taken Williams to the mat and was implementing his very violent will and I was heading to the fridge for another beer. I thought this fight was already in the record books, but after twelve minutes there was no winner and we were going into a three-minute overtime. Suddenly Williams knocked Coleman out with a brutal head kick that he’d set up with several low strikes. He rejoiced while the MMA world’s smartest guys slumped along with Coleman’s body. Using the basic fundamentals of mixed martial arts Williams negated Coleman’s strength and exploited his weaknesses. I was dumbfounded, awestruck, and kerfuffled. Williams displayed the three main tenets of battle that every soldier learns – know yourself, know your enemy, and know the ground on which you fight. Utilizing these principles is what separates good fighters from the ones who get Gatorade commercials, but what about the rest of the chaotic chaos? A variety of external and internal factors can affect a fight – heart, chance, jitters, ring rust, and newborn babies – so the big question is “how do we account for all those things?” With data. Watching fight tapes to know your enemy and the ground you fight on is great, but it’s limited and only provides a fighter with a piece of the pugilistic puzzle. He still has to know himself and what he can and cannot do. Hard data is far more definitive and allows a fight camp to develop a sound strategy long before fight day. Gathering and analyzing that information sounds like a simple concept, but in fact it’s laborious and monotonous to mine numbers from fight videos. It’s even harder to then find patterns and develop actionable intelligence that arms a fighter with all the knowledge he needs to win. It also takes a 200- pound brain wired for science. I never would have believed someone could develop analysis that could be used to more accurately predict future performance in MMA based just on numbers. This is the first time anyone has had the hard drive and moxie to attempt it. I’ve always been skeptical of numbers because they can be skewed to reach whatever conclusion the writer desires. Numbers are the whores of bias that will lead you to whatever conclusion they want with just a little manipulation from the John. That’s why I like Reed’s approach. He doesn’t let the data become cheap or easy. He treats it with respect like a beloved daughter and presents it in a fair, unbiased way until it’s a bride at a white wedding and he’s the proud papa giving it away. No one else has had the gumption to attempt anything like what Reed has accomplished, so he’s a true trailblazer in MMA statistics and it was a no-brainer to get involved with this project. If he’s Meriwether Lewis on a journey of discovery, then I’ll happily be his William Clark. ...

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