Challenger Junior Dos Santos (right) earned 20.5 points-per-minute at $15 per share with his quick knockout of champion Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox. Velasquez disappointed fantasy players with 3.5 ppm at $20 per share. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
The dawn of mixed martial arts as a spectator sport came at the original Ultimate Fighting Championship event in 1993, more than thirty years after the birth of fantasy football. As a result, fantasy MMA is far from an entrenched commonplace activity among sports fans, and is still a foreign concept even to many experienced fantasy players. Just as the sport has evolved from a spectacle to a sport, however, so too have the rules of fantasy MMA evolved and been refined into increasingly deep and immersive systems. Nowhere has the game been elevated more closely to the depth of other fantasy sports than in MMA Salary Cap, a game created by MMA’s premier stat-trackers Fight Metric, which is completing its beta testing round with Saturday’s UFC 139 event.
Basics of Salary Cap MMA
While early fantasy MMA games place a heavy emphasis on accurately identify the winners of each bout, salary cap MMA takes after fantasy sports of the big-four leagues by focusing on the stats racked up, regardless of the win-loss result of competitors. Using Fight Metric’s detailed stats, a fighter is rewarded for the strikes he lands and the offensive grappling he accomplishes. Before a fight card a price is placed on each main card fighter. Players are given the task of purchasing shares of the fighters they believe will perform best with a predetermined budget, and after the card’s completion you score points for each share of a fighter you own. Competitions can be for single fight cards or season formats where players’ total scores over multiple events are added up. Players are also given the option to compete exclusively in the site-wide competition or to form smaller pools to compete among friends as well. A thorough look at the stats scored and the strategy of selecting fighters is after the jump.
Salary cap MMA features five scored statistics, two of which are striking-themed, three of which involve the ground. Strikers are more likely to reward you with points in the form of knockdowns per minute and significant strikes landed per minute, worth 25 points and 2 points, respectively. For a fighter specializing in the grappling arts, points can be earned for submission attempts per minute, worth 20 points, and 10 points for each takedown per minute and positional advancement per minute.
The "per minute" designation is an essential component of salary cap MMA. While in the NFL you can get your doors blown off and you still have to endure it for 60 minutes (just ask the Colts) in MMA an outmatched fighter is likely to be in for a short night. To avoid punishing a dominant finish, all fight times are rounded up to the next full minute, and all stats are divided by the total rounded-up time. For this reason a quick fight can still be a fantasy boon. For example, at UFC 124 Jim Miller submitted Charles Oliveira in only 1:59 seconds, scoring just one takedown and one significant strike. While the volume of stats accumulated is low for Miller, when scored per minute Miller has .5 strikes, .5 takedowns and 1 submission per minute, yielding a strong score of 26 points.
When it comes time to make your selections, the salary cap game provides you with some useful information to guide you, however it is important to put in some extra thought to find the true values on a card. There are three keys to remember when making your selections.
1) The highest points-per-fight average does not make a fighter the best buy. While the goal is to get the most possible points, it’s important to remember you aren’t picking a set number of fighters, you are spending a set budget. Fighters prone to providing lots of points will also cost more, so your goal must always be to determine which fighters will provide the most points per dollar of cost, not just who will accumulate the most points.
2) Examine the points-per-fight allowed by a fighter’s opponent. Just as playing a weak defense can turn a mid-level fantasy quarterback into a must-start player for a week, so too can some fighters pump up the value of their opponents. A fighter such as Leonard Garcia, who is known for engaging in Fight-of-the-Night winning bouts, nearly always takes part in stand-up fights with high strike volumes and multiple knockdowns. Even a fighter who is not prone to high scoring bouts is likely to see an increase in his production in such a fight, and may provide value for the card.
3) Opponents can both be worthy buys. In traditional fantasy MMA, when watching a fight you have your guy and the enemy. With salary cap MMA this is no longer the case. As the stats used for scoring are strictly offense-based, with no penalty for a porous defense, a bout that is all offense simply means two fighters with high value. You wouldn’t shy away from starting Larry Fitzgerald because he’s playing the Lions and you’ve also got Calvin Johnson, and you shouldn’t shy away from buying both fighters if you think their fight is sure to bring the fireworks.
Salary cap MMA is the deepest fantasy game for fans of the sport to date. With this primer you can understand the basics of the game, but the best way to truly appreciate the depth of the game is to play it for yourself.