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How data and statistics have helped form UFC's top stars

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What's the first thing you think of when someone mentions UFC?

There's a good chance Conor McGregor is the first thing. Secondly? Probably spectacular knockouts (Yoel Romero's flying knee knockout of Chris Weidman at UFC 205 will stay ingrained in your memory once you've seen it), but the mechanics of the actual art are lost on many.

Like boxing, the casual fan gravitates to the knockout specialist. But doing so and winning a fight is much more than being tough or hitting hard, it's about finding the angles, pushing your opponents into uncomfortable spots and exposing them amongst many, many other things.

Data and statistics are helping fighters figure that out.

As MMA coach Greg Jackson explains in episode eight of The Winning Formula - a GIVEMESPORT original series, investigating the role and impact of data analytics in sport - fighters must process information, but then forget it. In reality, it has to be confined to the depths of your mind in your subconscious.

"Learn and forget. Learn and forget. 'Woah, bro, learn and forget? What does that mean?' It's an easy concept," Jackson assures. "Do you think about walking to the door? No. That's what I'm striving for. Doing it enough times where it becomes regular.

"Thinkers make bad fighters most of the time because it's the illusion of control. They think that by over-analysing logically everything they can control the fight - which is not true.

"You have to flip the switch and everything just becomes - I wouldn't call it instinctual and it's not autopilot - you're looking for patterns and hunting. Your body and your game plan has to reflect that."

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That's why Brock Lesnar was one of the finest defensive wrestlers in the industry during his stint with the UFC. It's why McGregor has never been beaten by a stand-up striker. It's why Holly Holm tore apart the most formidable women's mixed martial artist of all-time - Ronda Rousey.

They see deficiencies in their opponents the second they reveal them inside the octagon. They don't need highlighting.

Jackson continues: "All of a sudden that punch hit him and you knock him out and you're like 'holy cow, I didn't even plan on doing that!' That's a great moment.

UFC 214  Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones

"Everybody asks me 'well, do you tell your fighter all of these stats and data?' No, why? I don't want him thinking about that. 'You need to do this stuff and never quit' - that's your job.'"

As far as kinetics go, Jackson elaborated on the process a fighter must undergo, and it's partly something they have to embrace rather than learn.

"We've all seen the data guy be ineffective. Because they don't understand the optimism side. They don't understand it's a time and a place, a fighter is always an optimist.

Georges St-Pierre (L) from Montreal, Can

"I can't be thinking 'Ok, I need to move right here and go left here,' if you're thinking that, you're out of the fight. You're thinking about your movements and not the fight."

Absorbing in training is vital, but inside the octagon, thinking less is more.

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Jon Jones
UFC
Nate Diaz

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