On each of the previous 32 occasions the UFC has visited South America thus far, it has been for an event hosted in Brazil. That changes on Saturday as the UFC visits Santiago, Chile for the first time in promotional history.
In the main event, Demian Maia (25-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) takes on Kamaru Usman (12-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC), with Maia stepping in on just three weeks’ notice after Usman’s original opponent, Santiago Ponzinibbio, suffered a hand injury.
A win for the 40-year-old Maia would see him tie the all-time record of 20 UFC victories currently held by Donald Cerrone, Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping.
Let’s take a look at the recent results of the two men in Saturday night’s main event:
Maia’s split-decision victory over Jorge Masvidal last May- a seventh consecutive win for the Brazilian- saw him granted a shot at the UFC welterweight championship. Just two months later, Maia suffered a unanimous decision defeat in his title fight against Tyron Woodley, before losing via the same method against Colby Covington in October.
Usman sandwiched an emphatic first-round KO of Sérgio Moraes between unanimous decision victories over Sean Strickland and Emil Meek. Yet to taste defeat under the UFC banner, The Ultimate Fighter 22 winner finds himself headlining an event for the first time in his UFC career.
Stylistically, there’s no doubt this contest presents problems for Maia, whose last two defeats have came against strong wrestlers who can keep the fight standing and neutralize Maia’s world-class grappling game. On paper, Usman has all the attributes to employ that same strategy.
Here’s a look at how these two fighters fared when competing against common opponents shared throughout their careers. On the left of the graphic, you’ll see how Maia fared against any shared opponents and on the right, you’ll see Usman’s results against the same men.
The two men share just one common opponent; Alexander Yakovlev. Both men scored similarly dominant unanimous decision victories over the Russian fighter, with Maia’s coming in May 2014 and Usman’s in July 2016.
The Dwyer Score
Each event, I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It essentially gives a numeric value to the momentum of fighters competing at any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak; a fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score, whilst a fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. Only UFC results are considered and a fighter coming off a no-contest, a draw, or a bout with another promotion has a streak of 0. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card, you get a total for the event- the ‘Dwyer Score.’ This score does not claim to predict or measure the quality or excitement of any one card, but it does give you an idea of the general momentum of fighters heading into a specific event. The graphic to the above-right displays some of the highest-scoring South American events of all time, to help give some context to this score.
UFC Fight Night 129: Demian Maia vs. Kamaru Usman checks in with a strong score of +20. As the table above shows, only three South American events in UFC history have scored higher.
This score ranks joint-7th out of 41 events in the last year and joint-1st out of 23 Fight Night events in that same period.
Here’s a look at how this score compares to other events’ scores over the past year:
As you can see, this score far exceeds the +1.7 average for Fight Night events in the last twelve months, as well as the +9.4 average for all events in that same time frame.
The highest individual contributor to the score is Kamaru Usman (+7), followed closely by Michel Prazeres (+6), then Chad Laprise and Enrique Barzola (both +3).
The lowest individual scorer is Henry Briones (-3), just ahead of Demian Maia (-2). One fighter, Andrea Lee, is making their UFC debut at this event.
On the undercard, Brandon Davis will become the first fighter to compete three times in the UFC this year. To put that into perspective, no fighter managed more than four UFC bouts in the whole of 2017 (and only seven fighters managed that). After Saturday, Davis will have competed in the UFC, on average, once every 47 days in 2018.
Enjoy the fights!