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Perceived and actual fighting ability: determinants of success via decision, knockout or submission in human combat sports

Citation

Lane, Sarah; Briffa, Mark (2020), Perceived and actual fighting ability: determinants of success via decision, knockout or submission in human combat sports, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8sf7m0ckf

Abstract

Animal contest theory assumes individuals to possess accurate information about their own fighting ability or resource holding potential (RHP) and, under some models, that of their opponent. However, due to the difficulty of disentangling perceived and actual RHP in animals, how accurately individuals are able to assess RHP remains relatively unknown. Furthermore, it is not just individuals within a fight that evaluate RHP. Third party observers evaluate the fight performance of conspecifics in order to make behavioural decisions. In human combat sports, when fights remain unresolved at the end of the allotted time, bystanders take a more active role, with judges assigning victory based on their assessment of each fighter's performance. Here, we use fight data from mixed martial arts in order to investigate whether perceived fighting performance (judges’ decisions) and actual fighting success (fights ending in knock out or submission) are based on the same performance traits, specifically striking skill and vigour. Our results indicate that both performance traits are important for victory, but that vigour is more important for fights that resolve naturally. These results suggest that while similar traits are important for fighting success across the board, vigour is undervalued in judges’ perceptions of RHP.

Methods

Data was collated from UFC.com.