Key stats that will define Daniel Cormier vs. Derrick Lewis

UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier faces a tough test against Derrick Lewis on Saturday in New York. AP Photo/John Locher

In the main event of UFC 230, two-division champion Daniel Cormier will put his heavyweight title on the line against Derrick Lewis. While Cormier is a sizable betting favorite, an element of chaos surrounds the matchup. The fight was scheduled on only a few weeks' notice, as Lewis last fought less than a month ago at UFC 229.

Taking all that into account, the following statistical categories highlight the key differences between the two fighters. These will likely determine who leaves Madison Square Garden on Saturday night as the UFC heavyweight champion.

Striking differential

Even though Lewis won his previous fight via third-round knockout and earned a title shot, he was outlanded by Alexander Volkov 121 to 39 in terms of significant strikes. In a lot of ways, that margin and result encapsulate Lewis as a fighter. He is not a very active striker, but he has the ability to finish fights when he does land. For his UFC career, he has landed 2.88 significant strikes per minute while absorbing 2.29 per minute. This leaves him with a +0.59 striking differential, which is ninth among ranked heavyweights and well behind Cormier. The champion's striking differential in his UFC and Strikeforce career currently sits at +1.35. Excluding his two fights against Jon Jones, his differential rises to +1.98.

While the +0.59 number is below average for a ranked fighter, Lewis' striking differential falls significantly in longer fights. In bouts lasting longer than 10 minutes, he has a +0.02 striking differential. This decline possibly points to a lack of conditioning or a drop-off in output if he is unable to score a quick finish. On the other hand, Cormier is able to mostly maintain his striking prowess in longer fights. In fights longer than 10 minutes, his striking differential declines to only +1.18.

As a title fight, this bout is scheduled for 25 minutes. If Cormier is able to survive the early portion of the fight, he should be able to take advantage of a big edge in striking. However, he should always be wary of Lewis' ability to finish fights.

Striking position

Although Cormier comes from a wrestling background, he will likely have the advantage in a standing contest. Not only does Lewis lag behind Cormier in terms of striking differential, but also a plurality of his landed significant strikes have come on the ground. During his UFC career, 46 percent of Lewis' significant strikes have been on the ground. In contrast, Cormier lands 53 percent of his strikes at distance and another 25 percent in the clinch.

In terms of defense, 62 percent of significant strikes absorbed by Lewis have been at distance. Conversely, Cormier has absorbed only 23 significant ground strikes in his entire UFC/Strikeforce career. If Lewis does not have early success in the striking, he would probably like to take the fight to the mat. However, that will likely be a tall order against Cormier, and even if he succeeds, he might struggle to land meaningful strikes in that position.

Wrestling and grappling

Cormier is a multiple-time Olympian in freestyle wrestling, and as one would expect, that has translated to MMA. Although he lands only 42 percent of his takedown attempts, he more than makes up for that with volume. In his UFC/Strikeforce career, he has landed 1.85 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time. Lewis has managed to stop 57 percent of his opponents' takedown attempts, but he has allowed 2.49 takedowns per 15 minutes in the UFC. Not only has Cormier been successful putting the fight on the floor and taking top position, but he has also been able to impose his will on the ground. He has averaged 1.45 passes per takedown and has been credited with seven submission attempts.

This is only Cormier's second heavyweight fight since 2013. In theory, facing off against larger opponents could make it harder to grapple, but that has not been the case in his career from a statistical perspective. In fact, Cormier's wrestling numbers are slightly better as a heavyweight. As a light heavyweight, he has landed 40 percent of his takedown attempts, at 1.73 landed per 15 minutes. Up a weight, he has landed 44 percent of his attempts, with 1.98 landed per 15 minutes.

The bottom line is Cormier is the better wrestler, and he should be able to take the fight to the ground as he pleases. This will likely swing the fight in his favor.