In 2014, Junior dos Santos defeated Stipe Miocic via five-round decision. At the time, Miocic was just a young upstart in the UFC heavyweight division, and dos Santos was a former champion looking to get back into the title picture. At UFC 211, Miocic is the heavyweight champion and dos Santos, having fought his way back, has his chance to become a two-time champ.
So who comes out on top in the rematch? The following statistical categories should be critical in determining who will walk out of the Saturday's pay-per-view event as champion.
Significant strikes landed per minute
Despite coming from different skill backgrounds, Miocic and dos Santos land at similar rates. In the UFC, Miocic has had the slight edge. He lands 5.03 significant strikes per minute, while dos Santos has landed 4.89 in the Octagon. Even though the career numbers are close, the striking stats from their first fight hint at a stylistic edge for dos Santos. In that fight, dos Santos landed similarly to his career rate at 4.92.
Miocic, on the other hand, only managed to land 3.56 significant strikes per minute -- the third-lowest rate of his career -- but accuracy was not the problem. In that fight, Miocic landed 46 percent of his significant strike attempts. The current champion simply threw fewer strikes than he normally does. In the UFC, he has attempted 9.2 significant strikes per minute, but against dos Santos, he attempted only 7.72.
If this more cautious approach is due to a dos Santos tactic or stylistic quirk, Miocic might end up one step behind in the striking game once again.
Like most quality heavyweights, both Miocic and dos Santos pack quite a punch. In terms of knockdowns landed per 15 minutes of fight time, dos Santos has the edge at 0.99 to 0.58. However, Miocic seems to have grown into a more powerful striker as he has progressed through his career. In his first nine UFC fights, he managed to score only two knockdowns, but he has landed a knockdown in each of his last three fights.
Dos Santos, on the other hand, has not been able to implement his regular power striking in his recent fights. He landed 11 knockdowns in his first 12 UFC fights but only one -- against Miocic -- in his last three fights. Miocic seems to have come into his own as a power striker, but both fighters are capable of finishing the fight at any time.
From an offensive perspective, Miocic has a sizable advantage in takedowns. The former Cleveland State wrestler finishes 2.14 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time, compared to dos Santos, whose career number stands at 0.41. However, dos Santos has always been a strong defensive wrestler; he stops 80 percent of his opponents' attempts. This was on display in their first fight. The Brazilian forced Miocic to miss on 17 of 18 takedown attempts in that fight.
Miocic has become less reliant on his wrestling as his career has progressed, but it is still a big part of his game. He has attempted nine takedowns in his four fights since losing to dos Santos. If Miocic can find a way to drag his opponent to the ground, it should swing the balance of the fight in his favor. Dos Santos has never won a UFC fight when an opponent has landed more than one takedown.
In addition to takedowns, ground strikes are an essential element of Miocic's offensive attack. During his UFC career, 21 percent of his significant strikes landed have come while on the ground. In his first fight against dos Santos, he managed to land only one significant ground strike.
In part due to his stellar takedown defense, dos Santos allows very few strikes on the ground. Of the 585 significant strikes allowed by the Brazilian, only 55, or 9 percent, came on the ground. Of those 55 significant ground strikes, 50 came in his last two fights against Cain Velasquez, and Velasquez needed to land 13 takedowns in those fights to achieve that feat. Taking down dos Santos is easier said than done, but Miocic should not abandon the strategy.