Lowered Guard: How Does Video Games See A Nunes vs. Pena Rematch?

“Lowered Guard” is a series at Knockdown News that takes things a little less seriously than usual. It gives us a chance to have a little fun and sometimes appreciate the wackier side of MMA.

I recently took a class to learn about data journalism. It was really informative and, quite frankly, was one of the best courses I have taken at university thus far.

The skills from that course can be used to find trends in markets and discover issues with society. But they can also be used for things that aren’t that important.

We know Julianna Pena’s win over Amanda Nunes was a massive upset. Of course, Pena won’t say that, but find me one underdog that actually thinks they’re the underdog.

It’s seemingly inevitable that they’re going to rematch. That could be a big fight for the UFC. But how would a rematch go? I don’t know, but maybe video games have the answer.

So I turn to UFC’s latest game, “EA Sports UFC 4,” for some guidance. It’s no fun to simulate the fight once, and that maybe isn’t fair to come to a conclusion (yes, I know, no fair conclusion can really be found when basing your opinion on a video game simulation but stick with me here).

Instead of simulating the fight once, I make a fair sample size of 100 bouts. I put the game on “Legendary” mode for both computer fighters, I set the clock timer to “Real-Time” and I did nothing to the game settings.

This wasn’t easy. It took patience. It took numerous days. And it took many batteries from my XBOX ONE controller. They were necessary sacrifices.

So after days of simulating fights and running through a few XBOX ONE controller batteries, the game has reached a verdict: it’s a toss-up, but an exciting one.

Nunes beat Pena 55 fights to 45 fights in the simulator

Out of my 100 simulations, the fight never went the distance. It only got into the fifth round twice, both ending via knockout when it did.

As a matter of fact, the video game doesn’t see a rematch between them likely escaping the first round.

The simulator saw a fight between Nunes and Pena ending quite early – and never going the distance

The outcomes were quite submission-heavy. The biggest outcome was a first-round submission, which was the outcome over 50 percent of the time, between both fighters.

Neither fighter produced a ton of knockouts, but Nunes achieved more. While Pena picked up 41 through 45 wins, Nunes earned 42 with her 45 wins.

Like any self-respecting study, I must publish my hypothesis heading in. Before beginning, I predicted that Nunes would win about two-thirds of the time. I made this assumption based on the fact that she is still considered by many to be a better fighter, and that the game still has her rated five stars, while Pena only has four stars.

I was honestly surprised by how the fights turned out. It was incredibly close for the first 50 battles, with Pena taking the lead in the tally numerous times. But something shifted halfway through, and Nunes started to take a somewhat comfortable lead that she carried to the end.

It was only on fight number 92 where Nunes secured a majority in the score, as she secured an arm triangle choke in the first round to force a tap from Pena.

This game had a clearly different meta to real fights. An overwhelming amount of bouts ended with a von flue choke, which can be used in the game as a counter to a guillotine choke. There were at least 20 or so fights that ended due to this submission. But I’m not here to criticize the game – my review of the title can be found here.

After coming to the end of this study, I asked myself this: was this worth it? My answer is I don’t know. I don’t think this actually helped my prediction for the rematch. But maybe I would be a fool if I thought a video game could give me real-life advice.

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