New Website Proves 'MMA Math' Is Useless—and Hilarious

Fightland Blog

By Tom Taylor

Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

If Fighter A beats Fighter B, and Fighter B beats Fighter C, does that mean Fighter A will beat Fighter C? According to MMA Math—the argument that A beats C, because A beat B, and B beat C—the answer is yes. Take a second to re-read this paragraph and let it all sink in.

Got it? Ok.

MMA Math is an interesting notion—and sometimes it proves accurate. For example: Stipe Miocic (Fighter A) beat Andrei Arlovski (Fighter B) who once defeated Fabricio Werdum (Fighter C). When they fought in the main event of UFC 198, Miocic (Fighter A) did indeed beat Werdum (Fighter C).

Of course, it doesn’t take long for the gaping holes in the MMA Math argument to become visible. On many occasions, fighter A has defeated fighter B, but lost to fighter C.

For example, MMA Math would suggest that because Holly Holm (Fighter A) defeated Ronda Rousey (Fighter B), who in turn defeated Miesha Tate (Fighter C), that Holm would defeat Tate. UFC 196, however, proved otherwise. Similarly, MMA Math would suggest that because Cain Velasquez savaged Junior Dos Santos so severely on two separate occasions, and that Junior Dos Santos flattened Fabricio Werdum, that Velasquez would dominate Werdum. Werdum’s title-synching defeat of Velasquez at UFC 188 immediately voided this argument.

Yes, though MMA Math is sometimes sound, it is ultimately proven unreliable by the many twists and variables that dictate the outcome of a professional fight. But that doesn’t mean MMA Math isn’t interesting. 

The idea was interesting enough to inspire programmer Tanner Baldus to create MMA-Math.com, a new website that allows fight fans to explore the strange links MMA Math creates between unrelated fighters; the strings of victories and defeats that connect athletes divided by weight classes, promotions, and even eras of MMA competition.

We were lucky enough to speak with Baldus, whose work is already being applauded by throngs of MMA fans, media members and fighters alike.

Initially inspired by an MMA-Math video posted to Reddit by user u/JagHarReddit, Baldus said it wasn’t long before he began examining the idea through the lens of computer science.

“If you thought of it like a graph, MMA math is just a shortest path problem, which is a classic computer science problem,” Baldus explained. “I figured it was doable and something that the MMA community would really have fun with. Plus, I was curious about all the paths that were there. I've been pleasantly surprised by just how many there are.”

After several months of working away for a few hours a day, Baldus launched his finished product, which instantly took the MMA world by storm. Here are some quick examples of the paths Baldus is referring to, all of which achieve his site’s two goals: first, to “show how silly MMA Math is” and second, to “provide some laughs.”

According to MMA Math, former UFC featherweight Cody McKenzie is a superior fighter to recent UFC heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum. 


Oft-criticized former street fighter Kimbo Slice, similarly, tops reigning UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic.\

And Artem Lobov, a lightweight with an 11-12 overall record, topples heavyweight great Cain Velasquez. Hmm…

Yes, inaccurate as it often is, MMA Math’s ability to link seemingly unrelated fighters is pretty interesting. And again, it’s worth reiterating that while MMA Math is far from failsafe, there are plenty of instances in which it has proven accurate. Sometimes, if rarely, Fighter A beats Fighter B, Fighter B beats Fighter C, and Fighter A goes on to beat Fighter C. Who knows when such a thing might occur again?

While logic seems to scream otherwise, perhaps it’ll happen at UFC 199 this weekend, when a +575 underdog in Michael Bisping takes on middleweight champ Luke Rockhold. 

Or perhaps it'll happen on UFC 199's main card, when an aging underdog in Dan Henderson takes on the ever-dangerous Hector Lombard:

Then again, while MMA-Math suggests this is possible, Baldus isn’t so sure.

“I think Rockhold's kicking game and slick grappling will take it again,” he said. “Ask me again after Jack Slack's [post-fight] article so I can blatantly cop his analysis to sound way more knowledgeable than I am.”

Perhaps we’ll see MMA Math in action this Saturday, as Bisping scores an upset win for the ages. Perhaps instead, we’ll get another shining example of why MMA Math should not be trusted, as Rockhold blows through his opposition as the odds suggest. Really, there’s no way to know until Saturday night—but at least we have a fun new website to kill time with until then. 


Check out these related stories:

The Statistical Resurgence of the Kimura

Luke Rockhold and the Success of Strikeforce Alumni in the UFC

What Will Heat Maps and Motion Trackers Do to the Spirit of MMA?