We all know the Featherweight division will be ruled for at least the next 3-5 months by Alexander Volkanovski. The sportsbooks have him winning on April 9th at a probability of 84.62%, which is a price of -550 to beat the Zombie. Personally, this division is the least diverse in the entire UFC by mixed martial arts. The Featherweight division is completely top heavy with striking fighters. Ortega uses his jiu jitsu but struggles to wrestle people to the ground. Volkanovski has run through the entire division and will lap everyone again. His reign is similar to Usman but with less threats in the division. Yes, Cejudo is retired, but this fight might be of interest, and it would be a great hypothetical fight for a data scientist to review.
Cejudo has the resume to say he should be able to jump in front of any line and do what he pleases… especially because he would be the first fighter to ever hold three belts in a lifetime for the UFC. Cejudo has the wrestling pedigree to truly make this an exciting fight.
Wrestling is the one skill we have not seen against the Great One. Alexander Volkanovski is the #2 P4P fighter in the BCDC rankings and has shown his grappling skills against Holloway and Ortega. When he needs a takedown to win a round, he can execute it.
Below is a comparison graph. Again, this is a data driven analysis, so you will have to use a little math in order to understand it. This graph below shows 5 categories in a Spyder chart representation. The graph demonstrates how well rounded a fighter is. For example, Cejudo, in blue, is almost 100% accurate in takedown defense. If we look to the opposite side, Volkanovski, in red, is at about 50% accurate in takedowns. This graph shows how much better one fighter may be for a certain attribute. Volkanovski is 75% in takedown defense, so 3 out of every 4 attempts by an opposition will fail. This is a huge key to his fighting, and that is why we show these graphs.
Volkanovski is obviously one of the most well-rounded fighters in the game, but would Cejudo test him? Let’s take a look at whether this would end up being a striking or ground fight. Who would impose their will? Would the fight go the distance?
The models view this as a ground fight that will go the distance. This obviously benefits Cejudo more than Volk, because this is exactly how Cejudo can win fights. Cejudo has been able to take down every fighter in the UFC by knockdown or takedown. Cejudo will take this fight to the ground at least once. On the ground, he would be the dominant fighter in grappling.
Our Bayesian Simulation modeling technique uses key attributes of the fighters and simulates the fight 10,000 times. It projects Volkanovski to win as seen in the below graph. The below shows the distribution of win percentages, which is how likely they will win fights. Probability is the y-axis. The Great One is 86% the better fighter in this model, with the risk of being wrong at about 8%. This is a 78-86% chance of him being the winner.
We have a model stating the fight will go to the ground, which would favor Cejudo. However, when we run a model of the fighters against each other, it favors Volkanovski. Both have cardio and IQ, so nobody really has the advantage in the distance of the fight. It would likely come down to whether Cejudo can takedown Volk while being 20-50 pounds lighter than him on fight night.
There is only one way to settle this. Let’s go to our machine learning models. Our models have predicted fights at a 70% accuracy in the last 70 or so fights and are still 63% over 450 fights. Our models are the best in the game from an AI standpoint and clearly better than any human prediction scheme.
Our machine learning models predict Volkanovski as the winner in a Featherweight fight. This is probably because Cejudo would be the underdog, and he is a 50/50 fighter as an underdog (as you can see in the above visual).
The odds display a weakness for Cejudo. Cejudo jumping up another weight class and only having a few fights at a heavier division of Bantamweight makes jumping up to Featherweight pretty suspect. Volkanovski is 10-0 and will be 11-0 after April 9th. In this hypothetical best fight in the Featherweight division, Volkanovski would come out on top… even if Cejudo might be the most decorated fighter of all time. Let us know if you agree with the analysis or models. Do you think Cejudo would have won? Share your comments below.