After one week off, the UFC schedule rolls on with a handful of fights that carry heavy ramifications in their respective divisions. In a pair of bouts, a champion and title challenger welcome a pair of rising prospects looking for a signature win, and heavyweights duke it out in a bout that could launch the winner into a top 8 battle.
While the numbers next to the names might lend one to thinking these matchups might be lopsided, a look into the stats allows for one to frame potential upsets or a reminder of the gap between the good and the elite.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of May 27, 2020 and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Tyron Woodley vs Gilbert Burns
Key Stats: 93.7% takedown defense (3rd all-time), 10 knockdowns landed (tied 3rd all-time among WW), four title fight wins (1st)
What It Means: “The Chosen One” is one of the most explosive fighters in the division, and when locked in he is an elite, well-rounded fighter. His title defense against Demian Maia showcased his grappling defense, and when Woodley unleashes his hands, he does so in devastating fashion.
Key Stats: Undefeated at welterweight in the UFC (4-0), 3.13 strikes landed per minute (unranked), five-fight winning streak
What It Means: Since moving up to 170 pounds full-time, Gilbert Burns looks powerful. He’s a busy fighter, strong in all aspects of the fight and willing to push the pace.
What to Look for in the Fight: Woodley has shown the ability to shuck off high-level grapplers and counter pressure fighters, and this is Burns’ first true shot at the top of a division. It’s a good test to see if Burns’ power and jiu-jitsu are at a level to really compete for gold, but it could prove to remind the welterweight division he remains a dominant, discouraging matchup for anyone.
Co-Main Event: Blagoy Ivanov vs Augusto Sakai
Key Stats: 62% takedown accuracy, 75% takedown defense, 3.09 significant strikes landed per minute
What It Means: Blagoy Ivanov is a World Sambo Champion who has one of the best chins in the division. When it comes to grappling, Ivanov uses his leverage – often as the shorter man – and wears down his opponents over time. Each of his UFC bouts went to the judges, as well.
Key Stats: 88% takedown defense, 5.51 significant strikes landed per minute, 57% significant strike defense
What It Means: On his current five-fight winning streak, Augusto Sakai racked up four knockouts and has been successful keeping the bout upright and in his favor. It’s true with any heavyweight, but it seems like if Sakai connects, it leads to a fight-ending sequence.
What to Look for in the Fight: Sakai’s finishing acumen gets a real test in Ivanov. The Bulgarian will look to neutralize Sakai’s standup by taking the fight to the ground, but if Sakai can stuff Ivanov’s shots, he’ll still have the tall task of becoming the first man to knock out Ivanov.
Other Fights to Watch (Katlyn Chookagian vs Antonina Shevchenko)
Key Stats: 4.26 significant strikes landed per minute (3rd all-time among FLW), 62.2% significant strike defense (4th all-time among FLW), 1:26:03 total fight time (2nd all-time among FLW)
What It Means: Chookagian’s bread-and-butter is her footwork and distance management, using her smooth and technical striking to keep opponents on the back foot and at a safe distance. She picks her opponents apart from range an d often frustrates them by getting out of harm’s way.
Key Stats: 4.9 significant strikes landed per minute, 57% striking accuracy, 1.92 significant strikes absorbed per minute
What It Means: Antonina Shevchenko, similarly to Chookagian, likes to use her long-range striking to keep opponents at a distance advantageous to her arsenal. She keeps fights to her pace and likes to dictate when and how striking exchanges begin and end.
What to Look for in the Fight: This is a good test between two rangy strikers who look for similar opportunities in their own distinct ways. Chookagian, however, is the more experienced mixed martial artist of the two and has been successful with her kickboxing against higher-level competition. She also holds a brown belt in jiu-jitsu under Renzo Gracie, so she could use the matchup to showcase her skills on the ground.
*Does not have enough UFC appearances in their division to qualify in the Record Book