Does Round 4 Matter?
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Let me start by saying I was wrong. Earlier this week I hinted that UFC Fight Night: Waterson vs. Hill seemed particularly underwhelming and the card turned out to be well above expectations. The main event in fact, while certainly not a fight of the year candidate, was probably in the top 10 - top 20 fights in 2020. To briefly recap:
Round 1: Angela Hill starts off fast, closes the distance on Waterson and dominates.
Round 2: Angela Hill outpoints Waterson to get a slight edge.
Round 3: Waterson takes Hill down and dominates the round
Round 4: The fight stays standing but Hill's output is reduced and she gets out-struck
Round 5: The fight stays standing again. The last minute was very intense with each fighter trading blows. This could have gone either way but I had it going to Waterson.
Hill appeared to be gassed in round 4 after the grappling in round 3 leading to a continuation of momentum for Waterson. This had me wondering - what if Hill took round 4 off completely? What if Hill consistently stayed out of range and threw some faints to appear active? Does round 4 matter as much as round 5?
To do this, I pulled data from every 5 round decision fight since 2010. Now obviously each fight is circumstantial and round 5 is never guaranteed so I don't want to dive too far into this but a few insights can be drawn here.
Typically fight winners hold a higher proportion of significant strikes landed in round 4 compared to round 5
Winners over time have landed 2% more in the fourth round when compared to the fifth.
2. Striking in rounds 1-3 seem to have more of a correlation with winning than rounds 4 or 5. This may hint that some judges have their minds made up by round 3, but for the most part a strike is a strike.
3. There is a large lift in the chances of winning when a takedown is secured in round 5.
Given the coefficients here, it would make a lot of sense for fighters to look for a takedown before the final bell.
So overall - striking is striking, but a late takedown can have a lot of influence on how a close fight is decided.
Data provided by www.ufcstats.com