UFC 259 Breakdown: Jan Blachowicz vs Israel Adesanya
Hello all! Before I get into the breakdown, I wanted to quickly announce that MMA-DS.com has released our custom fighter pages for every fighter in UFC history. It has been a wild ride but they are ready to go! If you are not already familiar with my previous posts, here are the links breaking down the tools I will be using in this article: Strategic classes, Tactical classes and STeloR.
Starting with Jan Blachowicz, he may be the underdog in this matchup but he is as legit as they come at light heavyweight. Jan is a tower of a man, completely filling out his frame, and has serious strength for the division. His counter right and his pressure striking are key to most of his victories. Jan uses his power extremely effectively leading to his KO streak and title. I am very excited to see how he matches up against Israel who is a master of distance management. Jan has the technical striking skills to win a decision fight but I believe that a knockout needs to be his main focus.
Israel Adesanya is one of the greatest distance management strikers the UFC has ever seen. His mixture of speed, guile, length and accuracy make him a sight to behold in the cage. He profiles as an all time great UFC fighter which explains why he wants to move up and challenge for a second belt. While the fight was underwhelming, his matchup with Yoel Romero put on display just how effective he is at managing range. While this may be boring to some, his ability to evade punishment lengthens his career while also winning him fights. This fight has all the making of a striking showcase between two of the best in the UFC.
Again starting with Jan with data taken from every fight since his loss to Thiago Santos, he has fought every round striking heavy and hasn’t lost a single one of them. His opponents have tried every other strategic class against him to no avail. From a tactical perspective, Jan fights predominantly as a headhunter while the remaining third of his rounds come in as a tree chopper. Largely, his opponents choose to either clinch with him or fight him as a head hunting striker. Based on my model, he hasn’t lost a round on his championship run whilst knocking out 3 of his 4 opponents.
Israel profiles extremely similarly. All of his rounds come in as striking heavy and my model had him winning 66% of them. Fighters predominantly stay upright with him but middleweight contender Marvin Vettori was able to take him down twice and keep him there. Tactically, Adesanya fights nearly half head hunter, half tree chopper. My models rate him as roughly equal from an efficiency standpoint in these two classes. Tactically, his opponents almost universally approached him as a head hunter, likely realizing their only path to victory is knocking him out in a flurry.
Incorporating STeloR into my analysis, I split Jan’s career in half to see how he rated at light heavyweight to start his career and how he has looked since. Jan came in at 16th through the first 20 rounds of his career in oSTeloR, not a great start but not the worst by any means.
Jan shows a massive improvement in rounds 20 to 39, coming in as the #1 fighter in oSTeloR. I wasn’t able to pinpoint what change he made to really bring on this resurgence but his all around skill set improves every fight so it was only a matter of time for him to break through the way he has.
Now looking at Israel at middleweight when comparing his rounds with his peers.
Israel ranks third all time behind Anderson Silva and Thiago Santos through this point of his career. His mixed skill set and strategy/tactics make him an incredibly potent striking middleweight which should allow him to convert pretty easily to light heavyweight. Israel’s finishing ability early in his career left something to be desired but over time he's been able to put together more and more fight ending combos.
I put together a program that utilizes STeloR, the tactical and strategic classes, as well as the judging model to simulate 10 000 fights between the two of them while summarizing the outcomes. Here were the results.
My model has Jan as the favorite in this matchup with the most likely outcome, based on the simulations, being a Jan KO.
Personally, I agree with the model’s results. I see Jan as the favorite because he is a striker that is not reliant on his power to win fights. Can he touch Israel though? I think that Jan will be able to bridge the distance and land with enough power to wear Israel down and eventually finish him with strikes. Israel’s length makes him a natural fit in the division but he doesn’t possess the level of power that other light heavyweights have, making him a largely point fighter at this weight class. This is a dangerous place to be with a striker of Jan’s caliber which portends a KO in my opinion. Let me know what you think!