For the final APEX event of 2023, the matchmakers have sent us an early holiday gift in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Song vs Gutierrez. It’s not hyperbole to predict we’ll see some of the most combined high-level striking the bantamweight division has to offer right now. Let’s peek at a few key numbers.
No. 7 bantamweight Song Yadong and No. 14 Chris Gutierrez are a statistical dead heat in a number of categories that suggest a contest that will be much closer than their current rankings might suggest. Their average fight lengths both hover around the 12-minute mark. Their strikes-landed-per-minute metrics are both close to five. Both boast superb takedown defense numbers above 70% and they have a near-equal number of fights under their belts already (28 vs 27, respectively).
But where they differ in numbers is likely what will determine the outcome. Let’s take a peek at what they each bring to the Octagon.
It would be a wild oversimplification to say this will be a battle of power versus precision, but if someone were to attempt to make that case, Song Yadong would represent the “power” half of the argument. In short, few currently hit harder at 135 pounds. He’s knocked down his opponents seven times to date, while never being knocked down in return. Six of those knockdowns were at 135 pounds (one was in a featherweight win over Marlon Vera), which counts for tenth most in bantamweight history. Most recently, he scored one in his fifth-round TKO over Ricky Simon last April, good for a Performance of the Night bonus.
As such, you won’t catch Song doing a ton of grappling when he’s in there, and he sees to it that his opponents don’t either. He has successfully defended 35 of his opponent’s 47 attempts to date.
On paper, Song has the edge over his opponent in a few notable categories: knockdown average (.74 vs .56), takedown accuracy (55.6% vs 37.5%), and perhaps crucially, strikes absorbed per minute (3.77 vs 2.73). That last one could play an outsized role against a prolific puncher like Gutierrez.
The Chris Gutierrez performance that made many fans finally sit up and take notice was his dramatic knee-strike knockout of the great Frankie Edgar in the first round of Edgar’s final fight at UFC 281. As he walked out to the Octagon, Gutierrez told himself, “tonight’s the night I change my life for the better.” His headlining slot against the No. 7 bantamweight is continued proof of that affirmation.
But Gutierrez doesn’t find himself in the main event this Saturday by virtue of one epic moment. On the contrary, it’s his impressive body of work over just five years in the promotion that refuses to be overlooked.
Over the course of just 10 UFC fights, “El Guapo” is already cemented as one of the most efficient strikers in bantamweight history. In fact, his 57.7% significant strikes landed sits behind only Jack Shore and champion Sean O’Malley in that category. The strikes add up pretty fast with that kind of accuracy, and No. 14 Gutierrez quickly puts distance between himself and his opponents on the scorecards. In his most recent victory vs Alatengheili, for example, he scored a massive +72 strike differential. His average differential of +2.26 per minute is the fourth largest in the history of the 135-pound ranks. Equally as important to his rise is his stellar defense. To date, he has managed to avoid 67.2% of his opponent’s strike attempts, fifth highest in bantamweight history.
As Edgar can attest, legs are an equally important weapon in the Gutierrez arsenal. His leg kick game is amongst the best in the entire UFC. The 56 he landed vs Alatengheili are the second most in a bantamweight fight, and he scored one of only 15 leg kick finishes in company history when he fought Vince Morales. The 244 combined he has landed over his 10 fights are good for the second most in bantamweight history, and he’s still 32 years young.
Gutierrez knew his bout with Edgar had the potential to be life-changing, and it was. If he can win his first UFC main event and catapult himself into the top ten, even more transformative changes will be afoot for the ascending Factory X talent.
UFC Fight Night: Song vs Gutierrez took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on December 9, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!