In the last UFC show of 2017, women's featherweight champion Cris Cyborg will put her title on the line for the first time against former bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Cyborg had been the uncrowned champion of the featherweight division for some time, and she finally captured the UFC belt with a one-sided victory over Tonya Evinger last July. Holm has competed mostly at bantamweight, but she still represents one of Cyborg's most dangerous opponents.
Will Holm knock off another seemingly invincible champion, or will Cyborg cement herself as the dominant force in the budding division? The following is a look at the statistical categories that highlight the stylistic differences of the fighters and could turn out to be the determining factors on fight night.
Significant strikes landed per minute
Cyborg is a gifted offensive striker. During her combined UFC/Strikeforce/Elite XC career, she has landed 7.83 significant strikes per minute. During her three-fight UFC stint, she has increased her rate even higher and landed 8.86 significant strikes per minute. While Holm has been effective with her striking in the UFC, she does not land nearly as many significant strikes as Cyborg. In the UFC, she has landed 3.00 significant strikes per minute. Since defeating Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, Holm's rate has fallen even lower to 2.54. In some way, Cyborg has also slowed down recently.
With the exception of Marloes Coenen, who forced Cyborg to land only 3.80 significant strikes per minute in 2010, no fighter has been able to consistently slow down Cyborg's offensive onslaught. It is clearly not an easy task, but Holm will need to try. If this fight turns into a strictly offensive affair, she will likely struggle to keep up with Cyborg.
One of the unique elements of Cyborg's success is her striking power. Not only does that power stand out in her fights, but it also jumps off the stat sheet. In her UFC/Strikeforce/Elite XC career, she has landed 2.5 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time. The rate is hard to put into context since it is so anomalous. For example, Anderson Silva holds the UFC record for most knockdowns in a career with 18. During his UFC career, he landed only 0.66 knockdowns per 15 minutes.
Holm has landed only two knockdowns in her UFC career, one against Bethe Correia and one against Rousey. Cyborg throws more strikes, lands more strikes and lands with more power. To have a chance in this fight, Holm will need to avoid power strikes at all costs.
Holm is not a very accurate striker. Coming from a boxing background, it is likely that she employs more jabs and setup strikes than the average MMA fighter, but the end result is that she lands only 35 percent of her significant strike attempts. During her UFC fights, she has landed over 50 percent of her significant attempts only once, when she landed 71 percent against Rousey. Cyborg, on the other hand, is exceedingly accurate. During her career, as tracked by FightMetric, she has landed 51 percent of her significant strike attempts. In her three UFC fights, she has been above 50 percent in all three. This is yet another category that favors Cyborg. Even though she is a volume striker, she is not simply throwing wildly. This kind of accuracy will make Holm's defensive task that much more difficult.
Striking defense vs. strikes absorbed
In theory, Holm's habit of throwing more jabs and feints should help her defensively. Normally when opponents are forced to dodge or avoid strikes, they struggle to get off meaningful offense. Unfortunately for Holm, that has not really been the case in her UFC career. Despite a seemingly more defensive style, she trails behind Cyborg in terms of striking defense and significant strikes absorbed per minute (SApM). Holm avoids 61 percent of her opponent's significant strike attempts and absorbs 2.53 significant strikes per minute. On the other hand, Cyborg avoids 63 percent of her opponent's strikes and absorbs only 1.82 per minute. It is possible that Cyborg's power simply discourages opponents from entering range, but the result is impressive defensive striking stats despite the fact that she employs a hyper offensive striking strategy.