Hermansson has the better overall striking, ground striking, wrestling and submission numbers, but Cannonier holds the edge in one key category that could determine the outcome of the fight: knockdowns. The former heavyweight has always been able to land with power, and since moving down to middleweight his power has been devastating to opponents.
Here’s a deeper dive into the stats for each fight in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event.
Despite not being the most traditional stand-up fighter, Hermansson currently holds the highest striking differential among ranked middleweight competitors. During his UFC career, he has landed 5.24 significant strikes per minute, while absorbing 2.37 per minute, for a striking differential of +2.87. Not only is that differential the highest among ranked middleweights, but it is also nearly a full point higher than the fighter in second place — future middleweight title challenger Israel Adesanya (+1.95). Perhaps due to his unorthodox striking style, Hermansson has been able to consistently land while absorbing the third-lowest rate among ranked middleweights.
While Cannonier is coming into this fight after a win over Anderson Silva, his striking numbers do not really compare with those of Hermansson. Cannonier lands fewer significant strikes (3.62) and absorbs slightly more on a per-minute basis. His striking differential after nine UFC fights currently stands at +0.86. While some fighters are able to excel while being outlanded, this has not been the case for Cannonier. He has been outlanded four times in the UFC, and he has lost all four of those fights.
From a numerical standpoint, Hermansson has a sizable advantage when it comes to striking. Cannonier has shown himself to be defensively sound, but Hermansson’s volume and pace may cause problems.
Hermansson’s success in terms of striking differential is due in large part to his ground striking. During his UFC career, 30% of his landed significant strikes have come on the floor, as he has outlanded his opponents 118 to 13 in that position. While it can be more difficult to land meaningful strikes on the ground, a fighter working from the top position can easily avoid offense from an opponent. Hermansson has been able to land significant strikes while nearly avoiding punishment altogether on the mat.
Cannonier’s style does not really incorporate ground striking. Only 34, or 12%, of his landed significant strikes in the UFC have come on the floor. The good news for Cannonier in this matchup is that he’s never shown vulnerability in that position, either. In his nine-fight UFC career, he has absorbed only 27 significant strikes on the ground.
When it comes to striking at range, it might be safe to say that Cannonier is the more polished fighter. In his UFC career, 69% of his landed significant strikes have been at range. Only 55% of Hermansson’s significant strikes come at distance, and he lands only 38% of his significant strike attempts in that position. Cannonier has been much more accurate, landing 44% of his significant strike attempts at range.
Despite this perceived edge for Cannonier in stand-up striking acumen, Hermansson bridges the gap with striking volume. At distance he attempts 7.66 significant strikes per minute compared to only 5.66 for Cannonier. This allows him to land 2.91 significant distance strikes per minute compared to only 2.51 for Cannonier. On top of that, Hermansson manages this volume without sacrificing defense. He has absorbed only 1.75 significant distance strikes per minute, which is surprisingly lower than Cannonier’s distance-strike absorption rate (2.17).
Cannonier would probably be happy if this fight turned out to be a striking battle at range.
Cannonier has a clear advantage in terms of striking power on the feet. In his UFC career, Cannonier has landed 0.59 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time, while Hermansson has never registered a knockdown in nine fights; Hermansson has also been sent to the canvas twice in the same span.
Cannonier has the power advantage overall, but it is important to remember that he began his UFC career as a heavyweight before eventually making his way down to middleweight. He’s had only two fights at 185 pounds in the UFC, but he has scored knockdowns in both of those fights and averages 2.88 knockdowns per 15 minutes. If this trend continues against Hermansson, “The Killa Gorilla” could end up pulling off the upset.
The ground game
Hermansson’s ability to strike on the ground would be less impactful if he didn’t have the grappling to back it up. He has averaged 2.19 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time, which is above average for a ranked middleweight (1.92), and he averages 0.8 submission attempts per 15 minutes, which is the fourth-best rate among that same group.
Those numbers do not portend a good night for Cannonier, who has really struggled with the wrestling part of MMA since making his UFC debut in 2015. Through nine fights he has landed only a single takedown, but his defense is where the concerns really stand out. Cannonier stops only 44% of the takedown attempts against him and gives up 3.15 takedowns per 15 minutes.
The bottom line here is that Hermansson will almost certainly be able to score takedowns if that’s part of his game plan. Cannonier will need to avoid the ground striking and submission game of Hermansson, all while making an impact on his feet to score the victory.