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Dana White doesn’t buy UFC’s smaller cage resulting in better fights: ‘It’s all an illusion’

Don’t count UFC president Dana White among those who believe a smaller octagon results in better fights.

On Saturday night, UFC on ESPN 10 was the latest event held inside the Las Vegas’ APEX facility, where a 25-foot cage is used. Most events held outside the APEX instead use a 30-foot cage.

Over the past few weeks, fans have been treated to more than a few rousing performances, including a trio of sub one-minute finishes Saturday on the preliminary card. As much as it might seem like the smaller cage has ultimately produced the more exhilarating finishes, White just isn’t buying it.

“Were the fights in Jacksonville bad?” White said when asked about the results from the smaller cage. “They were great. It’s all an illusion. It’s bullsh*t. It’s not true.”

Based solely on the past six events, White isn’t completely wrong. Prior to returning to Las Vegas, the promotion held three events behind closed doors in Jacksonville, Fla. Those cards produced 15 finishes across 31 fights in three events. The shows with the 25-foot cage produced 18 finishes in a total of 33 fights.

While the three shows featuring the 25-foot cage have resulted in a slightly higher finishing rate (55%) compared to the 30-foot cage (48%), the numbers are still relatively close together. A number of other factors could also play into those results that goes beyond the size of the cage.

It’s also important to note the small sample size in play over the past two months of octagon fights. In 2014, “Fightnomics” author Reed Kuhn found that fights in the small cage produce more finishes, attributing the higher rate to a 20 percent bump in strikes thrown by fighters. And in 2015, sports economist Paul Gift found finish rates to be higher for the small cage versus the larger one in all but one weight division, light heavyweight.

As of now, the UFC will hold two more shows in the APEX in June, which will feature the smaller 25-foot cage. At that point, the promotion will the move to “Fight Island” in July with four cards currently scheduled, although the UFC hasn’t announced if the smaller or larger octagon will be used.

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