Implications of Title & Non Title Fight Length

bj_pennIn most modern MMA promotions, a title bout means a chance to not only watch the highest caliber of opponents step into the cage, but to see their talents on display for a full 5 rounds instead of 3.  Tapology’s analysis of bouts from 2008 and 2009 shows that the so-called “championship” rounds 4 and 5 dynamically alter MMA bout results.  A large majority of non-title fights are finished either in the first round, or via decision. Yet title fights, which force fighters to gameplan for bouts that could be a full 66% longer, end up with a far broader distribution of outcomes, including more round 2 and 3 stoppages alongside stoppages in rounds 4 and 5, and fewer fights finished in the opening stanza. This suggests the current mixed martial arts landscape could look very different if non-title fights were extended to 5 rounds.

Excluding title fights, 40% of MMA bouts end in the first round.  Only 17% are concluded in the second round, and a rare 6% finish in the third. The remaining 36% go to decision.

With title fights that go to 5 rounds there is a notable increase in matches ending in the middle frames, and a decrease in first round finishes. Round 2 or 3 endings happen in 42% of title fights, versus only 23% for non-title fights. This suggests the prospect of additional title rounds has fighters approaching championship fights differently, conserving energy and adapting their strategies and aggression as a result of having more time to work with.

Without advocating for or against a change, proponents of extending non-title fights to 5 rounds should take note. Not only would 3-round decisions get extended, but there might also be a significant impact on fights that otherwise would have ended in round 1. With fighters having the option of employing strategies intended to unfold over five rounds, all fights might become longer, not just the 36% that currently go to decision.

Bout Type Fight Count Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Decision
Title Fights 50 28% 26% 16% 8% 2% 20%
Non-Title Fights 752 40% 17% 6% 36%
Tapology’s fight stats include results from the following promotions: Affliction, Dream, EliteXC, Sengoku, Strikeforce, UFC, and WEC. Over time we may add additional organizations and update our figures.

Gregory Saks

Author Bio: Just another MMA fan.

  • C. M. Holden

    Interesting analysis. Also, great site by the way.

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