This is the 1st instalment in a series of analyses looking at how the morphology of elite professional MMA fighters affect outcomes.
The fundamental premise of this series is that MMA is not an attribute based sport. Due to the permissive rule set it offers an infinite number of ways to win & as such real time problem solving skills are paramount (assuming a sufficient toolbox of strategy, tactic & technique). Attributes may confer advantages in particular ranges & situations e.g. reach in striking, however these can be overcome due to the flexible nature of the sport e.g. taking the rangier fighter down to eliminate the reach advantage. As always we are promoting MMA 3.0 (MMA as sport /art not a collection of...).
Our hypothesis is therefore: morphology will not play a significant role in success (at least not among the elite).
We will keep this table of contents up to date as we add instalments.
Quantifying the Southpaw Advantage
Fight lore & previous analyses have shown that southpaws have an advantage over orthodox fighters. The advantage is largely explained by the scarcity of southpaws & the unusual angles they present. In this post we will explore the scarcity premium as opposed to the mechanics.
The premise is that if southpaws have a real advantage it will show in their proportion in various populations. In this case we look at elite MMA athletes vs the general population where the known proportion of left-handed people is 10%. For this analysis we define elite MMA athlete as all who have fought in the UFC & it's major acquisition (Pride, Strikeforce & WEC).
fig 01: General vs UFC+.
It would appear that being a southpaw offers significant advantage in achieving ones goals in becoming an elite fighter. An interesting question that automatically arises is, does the advantage extend to the top? i.e. Are the (G)reatest (O)f (A)ll (T)ime more likely to be southpaw than your average elite fighter?
In order to answer this question we turned to Fight Matrix who keep an algorithmic ranking of MMA fighters. We used their All-Time Absolute as our G.O.A.T. list.
fig 02: General vs UFC+ vs GOATS.
Why might this be the case? presumably, by the time fighters get to the elite level they have experienced enough southpaws to be comfortable with them.
- Athletes used in these analyses must:
- have had a minimum of 5 professional fights,
- have fought in the UFC.
- Own calculations based on data from: