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Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 59: Walker vs. Hill

Getting prepared for UFC action this Saturday? Here’s everything you need to know in our Guide to UFC on ESPN+ 59: Walker vs. Hill.

UFC on ESPN+ 59
Date: February 19, 2022
Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card
Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET, 4:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+

Light Heavyweights- #10 Johnny Walker vs. #12 Jamahal Hill

Overall Records: Walker 18-6, Hill 9-1 1 NC
UFC Records: Walker 4-3, Hill 3-1 1 NC
Last Fight: Santos def. Walker–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 51 (10/2/21), Hill def. Crute–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 31 (12/4/21)
Last Five Fights: Walker 2-3, Hill 3-1 1 NC
Betting Odds: Walker +240, Hill -300
Background: It wasn’t the original main event, or even the main event until just a week ago, but Walker and Hill get the headline spot in what shapes up to be a potentially exciting light heavyweight affair. They were originally going to be in the co-main event slot, but visa issues forced the postponement of the fight between Rafael Dos Anjos and Rafael Fiziev, and Walker and Hill agreed on late notice to go five rounds for a true main event bout. Walker is looking to end a rather unfortunate run of fights he’s been on, as he’s lost three of his last four. He’s coming into this fight off a decision loss to Thiago Santos in one of the most boring fights of 2021 in October. Walker put the division on notice with three first-round knockouts to start his UFC career, but now he’s trying to show he still belongs inside the top ten. Hill comes into this fight, his first UFC main event, looking for his second straight win. He makes a quick turnaround after fighting in December, where he scored a 48-second knockout of Jimmy Crute. It was the fifth knockout win of his career as he rebounded from his only career loss.

How they match up: These are two tall and lengthy light heavyweights, as Walker stands six-foot-six with an 82-inch reach, and Hill is six-foot-four with a 79-inch reach. Both have vicious power in their hands and have shown quickness in their hands in the past. Walker has been disappointing in recent outings, mainly since the moment he separated his shoulder following a win, and his move to SBG in Ireland has yielded mixed results. He had the impressive comeback finish of Ryan Spann, but the fight against Santos was a huge disappointment as he barely engaged. Hill is going to be a lot different than Santos, who is a patient fighter, as Hill really isn’t one of those, relying more on aggression. Hill does tend to rely on his size and range, and this is a fight where he’s actually the smaller fighter, a rarity for him. Hill does land a lot of strikes per minute, but not always with the best accuracy. Walker has some great coaching behind him, but he’s going to have to be the aggressive fighter in this one. The Walker that we saw in his first three UFC bouts would knock Hill out in the first in this one. The Walker who fought Santos is going to have a lot of trouble. He has to be active on the feet and pressure Hill. I do think this is going to be explosive either way. A quick fight favors Walker, a longer fight favors Hill. I’m going to say Walker turns back the clock and shows why he was talked about as a future champion in this one.

What’s at stake: This really is a must-win fight for Walker. Even though he just signed a new six-fight contract prior to this bout, he’s still 1-3 over his last four fights. A loss doesn’t mean he would be cut from the roster as that would be hard to see happening, but a loss would likely knock him out completely of the conversation of ever fight for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship. Hill is still young enough in his career, despite being a little older than Walker, that a loss wouldn’t hurt him, and he has just one defeat in his career. This is a big fight for Walker, and still a big one for Hill.

Pick: Walker

195 lbs. Catchweights- Kyle Daukaus vs. Jamie Pickett

Overall Records: Daukaus 10-2 1 NC, Pickett 13-6
UFC Records: Daukaus 1-2 1 NC, Pickett 2-2
Last Fight: Daukaus NC Holland–UFC On ESPN+ 51 (10/2/21), Pickett def. Holmes–UDec–UFC On ESPN 32 (1/15/22)
Last Five Fights: Daukaus 2-2 1 NC, Pickett 3-2
Betting Odds: Daukaus -290, Pickett +230
Background: One of several fights on the card that came together over the past week or so is in the co-main event slot as Daukaus takes on short-notice replacement Pickett. Pickett replaces Julian Marquez, who pulled out due to undisclosed reasons, taking this fight on just over a week’s notice. Both men generally fight as middleweights, but with the late notice for Pickett, it was changed to a 195 lb. catchweight bout. Daukaus is trying to get some momentum going in his UFC tenure. He entered the promotion with a perfect 9-0 record, but has just one win in his four appearances inside the Octagon. He is coming off a no contest with Kevin Holland in October in a fight that he thought he’d won by submission, but was changed to a no contest due to an accidental clash of heads. Daukaus has scored eight of his ten wins by submission. Speaking of momentum, Pickett is looking to build on his as he comes into this fight on a two-fight win streak. He fought just a month ago, scoring a decision over Joseph Holmes. Daukaus is arguably his toughest UFC opponent to date, and he’s still looking for his first UFC finish.
How they match up: Daukaus likes to pressure and wrestle his opponents, as he’s often slow and flat-footed on his feet. He’ll push opponents against the fence and try for takedowns. He’s only scored on 27% of his takedown attempts, but if he gets his opponents down, he’s very active in hunting for submissions. Pickett is a high-level athlete, but he’s not all that aggressive of a fighter. He tends to be very patient and look for openings, which has boded well for him against low-level competition. He has to change his style in this one and be on the attack of Daukaus as he’ll have the speed advantage on the feet. This might be an ugly fight and the styles of the two could make for a boring fight, and that’s without even bringing up the fact that Pickett has had such a short time to prepare, so he’ll likely be conservative. I see Daukaus using his offensive wrestling to do enough to win rounds and win a decision.
What’s at stake: Neither one of these two are in title contention, and neither are in danger of being cut with a loss. They’re both in the middle of the division, so the winner will get a bigger name for an opponent next, while the loser will likely get a lesser name. It’s far from the most important fight on the card, but both men are looking for momentum and a win is important for both here.
Pick: Daukaus

Heavyweights- Parker Porter vs. Alan Baudot

Overall Records: Porter 12-6, Baudot 8-2 1 NC
UFC Records: Porter 2-1, Baudot 0-1 1 NC
Last Fight: Porter def. Sherman–UDec–UFC On ESPN 29 (8/21/21), Baudot NC Nascimento–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Porter 4-1, Baudot 2-2 1 NC
Betting Odds: Porter -250, Baudot +200
Background: This heavyweight bout might have some weird placement on the card, but they do like putting heavyweight fights on main cards on these types of shows. Porter comes into this one with a two-fight win streak in tact as he’s scored two decision wins over Josh Parisian and Chase Sherman. He’s yet to fight outside of the UFC APEX during his UFC tenure, but the comfortable environment may be to his advantage as he searches for his first UFC finish. Baudot is still in search of his first UFC win as he makes his third appearance inside the Octagon. He was finished by Tom Aspinall in the first round in his debut in October 2020, then was finished in the second round by Rodrigo Nascimento in July. However, the loss to Nascimento was over-turned to a no contest after a failed drug test. Before his UFC tenure started, Baudot won eight of his nine bouts, with seven wins coming by knockout.

How they match up: Both are high-volume strikers who also get hit a lot. Porter has landed a total of 275 significant strikes in his last two fights, but has also absorbed a total of 231 significant strikes in those fights. Baudot is going to have a four-inch reach advantage and has been more accurate with his strikes, but his defense hasn’t been the best. He throws a lot of wild and crazy strikes, and he’s not afraid to throw some spinning attacks. However, he tends to get tired quickly and Porter has shown he has the pace to last the full 15 minutes while continuing to throw and land a lot. Baudot is going to have to finish this fast if he’s going to win, as if this fight goes past the first round, Porter has more ways to win. I see Porter dragging this fight out and winning either via a late stoppage or on the scorecards.

What’s at stake: Porter feels like an unlikely member of the roster as he’s almost 37 and has been fighting since 2007, and it was nearly 13 years after he debuted before he made it to the big show. A win here would move him to 3-1, certainly an overachievement for him, and would secure himself a few more fights. A loss wouldn’t mean the end, but a 2-2 mark at his age would put him near the chopping block. Baudot is in a must-win fight. A loss would essentially make him 0-3, and, especially if he gets finished, would likely end his time inside the Octagon. He has to win this fight.

Pick: Porter

Lightweights- Jim Miller vs. Nikolas Motta

Overall Records: Miller 33-16 1 NC, Motta 12-3
UFC Records: Miller 22-15 1 NC, Motta 0-0
Last Fight: Miller def. Gonzalez–R2 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 53 (10/16/21), Motta def. Lowry–UDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 35 (11/10/20)
Last Five Fights: Miller 2-3, Motta 4-1
Betting Odds: Miller +135, Motta -165
Background: The man with the most fights in UFC history adds to that against yet another newcomer in this one as Miller extends his record and competes in his 39th UFC bout against the debuting Motta. This will be the 51st fight overall for Miller, who debuted with the promotion in October 2008, and he looks for his second straight win after scoring a second-round knockout of Erick Gonzalez in October. After being a contender for years, he has settled into that tough veteran role, going 5-4 in his last nine fights as he begins to be the test for lots of prospects. Motta earned his contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in November 2020, and comes in with a three-fight win streak and wins in five of his last six. He had three different fights scheduled in 2021, including one against Miller, that fell apart, and he’s been eager to make his UFC debut. He has scored eight of his 13 wins by knockout.

How they match up: Miller has shown that he still has power in his hands, and he still has a good takedown game with a strong submission game. He has had trouble against fellow veterans lately, but has shined against the young prospects, for the most part. He’s a gigantic test for Motta, who has talent but will also have to be shaking off some ring rust. He has some power in his hands and is likely the better athlete at this stage, but the experience factor for Miller will play a big role. Motta isn’t likely to do anything that Miller hasn’t seen before and Miller is difficult to knock out. Motta would be best served keeping this fight on the feet, but he can’t leave his chin open as Miller still throws bombs. A grappling battle will be way in Miller’s favor as he’s one of the best ground fighters in UFC history, with ten submission wins in his UFC career. I see Miller being too much of a test for Motta in his debut.

What’s at stake: A win for Miller would tie him with Donald Cerrone for most UFC wins of all-time at 23. He has a stated goal of wanting to fight on the UFC 300 card, which would be taking place in July 2024. He’ll be given every opportunity to fulfill that goal as I don’t ever see him being cut from the roster- he’s going to be fighting until he decides to hang up the gloves. That being said, he still has the desire to win and wants to show these prospects they have lots to learn. A win for Motta would be a huge win for his debut beating someone the caliber of Miller. He’s going to be a staple of the roster for a bit, but getting off on the right foot in his debut would do wonders.

Pick: Miller

Middleweights- Joaquin Buckley vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan

Overall Records: Buckley 13-4, Alhassan 11-4
UFC Records: Buckley 3-2, Alhassan 5-4
Last Fight: Buckley def. Arroyo–R3 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 50 (9/18/21), Alhassan def. Di Chirico–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN 30 (8/28/21)
Last Five Fights: Buckley 3-2, Alhassan 2-3
Betting Odds: Buckley -150, Alhassan +125
Background: A battle of knockout artists in the middleweight opens the main card, and this one has excitement written all over it once Buckley and Alhassan enter the Octagon. They were originally scheduled to fight a month ago, but undisclosed reasons pushed the fight back. Buckley, best known for his viral knockout of Impa Kasanganay in 2020, got back into the win column in September when he scored a third-round knockout of Antonio Arroyo. Buckley has won three of his last four, and ten of his 13 overall wins have come by knockout. Alhassan also comes into this bout looking to score his second straight win. He is coming off a 17-second head kick knockout of Alessio Di Chirico in August. That win ended a three-fight losing skid that Alhassan was on and likely saved his UFC career. He’s looking to add to his impressive career, which has seen all eleven of his wins come by knockout, with all coming in the first round. Seven of those wins have come in less than a minute.

How they match up: This should be an explosive battle that has the possibility of not lasting long. When Alhassan is at his best, his fights don’t last long. He had his struggles, but a move to Colorado paid off for him with a 17-second knockout win. He likes to throw huge offense and early. His aggression and power has allowed him to end things early and Buckley might be overmatched for an early onslaught. Buckley has power and mixes everything well, but he’s not a quick starter or quick finisher like Alhassan. If he can survive the early onslaught from Alhassan, Buckley has the chance to get him tired and set him up for a finish in the latter half of the fight. He can’t afford to be as cautious in this one as he did in his last fight. For that reason, I see Alhassan being able to use his aggression and power and make quick work of Buckley with yet another first-round finish.

What’s at stake: These two are likely going to be bonus hunting and looking for that “Performance Of The Night” bonus. Buckley gained a lot of popularity and notoriety with his viral knockout, and he probably got pushed faster than he was ready for. This is a real test for him as to whether his skills can live up to his previous hype. Alhassan looked every bit of a potential title challenger before some legal trouble kept him out of action for nearly two years, and the three straight losses when he returned had him on the brink of being cut from the roster. The win in his last fight likely bought him multiple more fights, and this is his shot to show he’s comfortable now that he’s in his third fight since moving back to middleweight. This is both men’s’ chance to move up the tough middleweight ladder.

Pick: Alhassan

Preliminary Card
Start Time: 4:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. PT
Where to watch: ESPN+

Featherweights- Jonathan Pearce vs. Christian Rodriguez

Overall Records: Pearce 11-4, Rodriguez 7-0
UFC Records: Pearce 2-1, Rodriguez 0-0
Last Fight: Pearce def. Morales–R2 SUB–UFC 266 (9/25/21), Rodriguez def. McIntosh–R1 SUB–NAFC Super Brawl (1/15/22)
Last Five Fights: Pearce 4-1, Rodriguez 5-0
Betting Odds: Pearce -380, Rodriguez +290
Background: A fight that came together on Sunday of fight week sees Pearce welcoming Rodriguez to the Octagon for the first time in this featherweight tilt. Rodriguez replaces Austin Lingo, who was forced out due to injury. Pearce is on a two-fight win streak, scoring back-to-back second-round finishes of Kai Kamaka and Omar Morales. He started his career just 4-3, but has since gone 7-1 in his last eight fights, with the lone loss coming to UFC veteran Joe Lauzon in his UFC debut. Pearce has scored ten of his eleven wins by stoppage. Rodriguez debuts with a perfect 7-0 record. He fought on Dana White’s Contender Series last year, but came up short in trying to earn a contract. He then scored a win on the regional scene a month ago which led to the short-notice call. He trains out of the Roufusport camp in Milwaukee, and six of his seven wins have come via a finish.

How they match up: Pearce is a guy who likes to throw a lot of strikes, and whether they connect or miss can be anyone’s guess. It’s not the most effective striking style, but what it does is set up his takedown game, which is very strong. He’s scored eleven takedowns over his last two fights, and his submission game is very savvy on the mat. He’s going to win the scrambles in this one, which means Rodriguez is going to have to be heavy on offense on the feet. He does have some power in his hands and effective striking. He had been fighting as a bantamweight of late, though his last fight was at a 150 lb. catchweight. Pearce will likely put on the pressure and get the takedowns, which will be the winning factor in this one.

What’s at stake: Pearce has been impressive and a third straight win here would get him a bigger name opponent for his next fight. He’s got the potential to move closer to the rankings, but the featherweight division is tough. Rodriguez is expected to lose on short-notice and moving up a weight class, but an upset over a quality fighter would make some noise. Neither man is going anywhere off a losing effort, so this isn’t as pivotal as some other fights on the card.

Pick: Pearce

Bantamweights- Mario Bautista vs. Jay Perrin

Overall Records: Bautista 8-2, Perrin 10-4
UFC Records: Bautista 2-2, Perrin 0-0
Last Fight: Jones def. Bautista–R2 TKO–UFC 259 (3/6/21), Perrin def. Smith–R2 SUB–CES 64 (9/17/21)
Last Five Fights: Bautista 3-2, Perrin 4-1
Betting Odds: Bautista -320, Perrin +250
Background: A fight that came together on Monday sees Bautista taking on late replacement Perrin, making his UFC debut, in this bantamweight bout. Perrin replaces Khalid Taha in this one, as Kaha was forced out due to COVID-19 protocols. Bautista is fighting for the first time in nearly a year as he looks to get back into the win column. He was finished by Trevin Jones in the second round at UFC 259 in March, which ended a two-fight win streak. The only other career loss on his record came to Cory Sandhagen. He has six wins by finish. Perrin debuts on the heels of two straight wins and wins in seven of his last eight fights. He is a champion in the CES promotion and has two wins by knockout and four wins by submission in his career.

How they match up: This looks to be a bit of a striker against grappler kind of fight. Perrin isn’t the best on the feet, but he is decently well-rounded with his strong suit being working on the ground. Bautista is a high-volume striker landing nearly six significant strikes per minute, with good accuracy in his striking and solid defense. He also has good takedown defense. He does tend to be aggressive while also knowing how to keep a solid pace on. Perrin likely doesn’t have the power to knock Bautista out, and likely doesn’t have the submission game to submit him. Bautista will be fully prepared, and his Octagon experience will lead him to a win.

What’s at stake: Bautista is in more of a need of a win that Perrin is. Perrin will get another UFC bout, but he doesn’t want to get his UFC run started with a loss despite being the underdog. Bautista is 2-2 in his UFC run, and a loss would put him close to the chopping block despite the talent he’s shown. This is almost a must-win for him.

Pick: Bautista

Featherweights- Gabriel Benitez vs. David Onama

Overall Records: Benitez 22-9, Onama 8-1
UFC Records: Benitez 6-5, Onama 0-1
Last Fight: Quarantillo def. Benitez–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN 26 (7/17/21), Jones def. Onama–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Benitez 2-3, Onama 4-1
Betting Odds: Benitez +130, Onama -150
Background: A featherweight bout that has potential to be one of the best fights on the card sees Benitez and Onama looking to get back into the win column. Benitez comes into this fight looking to bounce back from a loss to Billy Quarantillo in July. A cast member of season one of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, Benitez went 5-2 during his first seven UFC bouts, but has since lost three of his last four. He’s also struggled to make it to fights, as he’s had several recent bookings cancelled and has had weight cutting issues, but he’s stuck it out to remain in the featherweight division. Onama enters the Octagon for a second time looking to bounce back from his first career loss. He dropped a decision to Mason Jones in October in a very entertaining back-and-forth fight where he impressed a lot of those watching. It was a fight he took on short notice, and now he has a full training camp as he goes for his ninth career win and his ninth stoppage.

How they match up: One of Benitez’ strong suits in the past has been his toughness, but his last loss to Quarantillo now brings that into question. He’s going to be fighting an opponent in Onama who not only has power in his hands and is skilled on the feet, but is also someone who throws with a good amount of volume. Onama had trouble with the stalking style of Jones, but Benitez fights way differently and will be on the outside more often. Benitez isn’t a strong wrestler, so this one will likely be played out on the feet. Onama’s talent and power will lead him to a win, and I see him finishing Benitez.

What’s at stake: Benitez needs a win in this one or he could find himself cut from the roster. He’s probably the one fighter on the card that needs a win most, and he might have the toughest road to victory. He has to win this. Onama will be around win-or-lose due to his talent, but he doesn’t want to start his UFC run 0-2, so this is pretty much a must-win for him. There are high stakes in this one.

Pick: Onama

Women’s Bantamweights- Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Stephanie Egger

Overall Records: Clark 11-6 1 NC, Egger 6-2
UFC Records: Clark 4-2, Egger 1-1
Last Fight: Clark def. Edwards–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 54 (10/23/21), Egger def. Young–R2 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 51 (10/2/21)
Last Five Fights: Clark 3-2, Egger 4-1
Betting Odds: Clark -225, Egger +175
Background: A women’s bantamweight bout between two women looking to break into the top-15 at 135 lbs. takes place here as Clark takes on Egger. Clark has looked rejuvenated in her last two fights as she’s won two straight over Sarah Alpar and Joselyne Edwards. The win over Edwards came after a year off due to a severe knee injury. She’s had an up-and-down UFC career, starting with two wins, then two losses, then these last two wins. Egger makes her third appearance inside the Octagon as she looks for her second straight win. She debuted inside the Octagon in October 2020, losing a decision to Tracy Cortez. After nearly a year off, she bounced back with a second-round finish of Shanna Young in October in just her second fight in the United States. Five of her six wins have come via a finish.

How they match up: Clark has shown very strong wrestling in her last two wins and she’ll likely use the same approach in this one. She will look to make it a grind, and Egger struggled against the wrestling of Cortez in their fight. Clark has also adjusted well in moving back up to bantamweight, adding the appropriate size to compete and win in the division. She has the better striking of the two and the better power. It is hard to see anywhere where Egger wins this fight outside of landing a lucky strike or finding a submission. She can try to neutralize the grinding attack of Clark and win on points, but I don’t see it happening here.

What’s at stake: This feels like a fight designed to get Clark another win and possibly move her into the rankings. A win would likely do that as it would be three straight, and win streaks in the women’s bantamweight division don’t come around all that often. Egger will get another fight win-or-lose, but a loss would put her in a must-win situation for her next fight.

Pick: Clark

Featherweights- Chas Skelly vs. Mark Striegl

Overall Records: Skelly 18-4, Striegl 18-3 1 NC
UFC Records: Skelly 7-4, Striegl 0-1
Last Fight: Skelly def. Griffin–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 16 (9/14/19), Nurmagomedov def. Striegl–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 38 (10/17/20)
Last Five Fights: Skelly 3-2, Striegl 3-1 1 NC
Betting Odds: Skelly -225, Striegl +185
Background: A featherweight bout featuring two men who haven’t fought in a while takes place here, and it will be the final fight in the career of Skelly as he takes on Striegl. Skelly hasn’t fought since September 2019, where he scored a decision win over Jordan Griffin. He’s had multiple fights cancelled since then, including a moment where he had a fight cancelled after he was already inside the Octagon when his opponent, Jamall Emmers, suffered back spasms right before he was going to walk out for the fight. Skelly has just three losses in his eleven UFC bouts, and he’s been an underrated fighter during his tenure. Striegl fights for the first time since October 2020 when he suffered a 51-second defeat at the hands of Said Nurmagomedov in his UFC debut. He has an impressive 18 wins in 22 career fights, with 14 of those wins coming by submission, including a submission win over flyweight contender Kai Kara-France in 2014 on the regional scene.

How they match up: Skelly’s gameplan is well-known and Striegl should know what’s coming, and that is the wrestling. Striegl has a style that Skelly will like as Striegl is a low-output striker who prefers to wrestle. This is going to come down to the takedowns and grappling game, and I tend to like Skelly in that area despite all of the submission wins on Striegl’s record. Skelly does have the better conditioning of the two and is more durable. I see Skelly dominating from the top and capping his career off with a solid finish.

What’s at stake: Skelly has said this is his retirement fight, and we know how that often goes in MMA, so a win or a loss doesn’t really matter when it comes to his future. However, everyone wants to end their careers on the winning end, and he is no exception. Striegl needs a win if he’s going to have a UFC future and his future prospects don’t look bright at the moment. He’d love to play the spoiler role here.

Pick: Skelly

Women’s Strawweights- Diana Belbita vs. Gloria de Paula

Overall Records: Belbita 14-6, de Paula 5-4
UFC Records: Belbita 1-2, de Paula 0-2
Last Fight: Belbita def. Goldy–UDec–UFC On ESPN 27 (7/24/21), Vlismas def. de Paula–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 28 (7/31/21)
Last Five Fights: Belbita 3-2, de Paula 2-3
Betting Odds: Belbita -125, de Paula +105
Background: A strawweight bout between two women trying to gain momentum inside the Octagon takes place her as Belbita battles de Paula. Belbita is looking for her second straight win after scoring a decision win over Hannah Goldy in July. It was her first fight in a year and it ended a two-fight losing skid that started her UFC career. She has 14 career wins, with ten coming by stoppage. de Paula makes her third UFC appearance and is looking to end a two-fight losing skid that has plagued the start of it. She earned her UFC deal on Dana White’s Contender Series in November 2020, but 2021 saw losses to Jinh Yu Frey and Cheyanne Vlismas. She has scored three of her five career wins by knockout.

How they match up: Even with less than half the experience and no UFC wins, de Paula looks to be the more talented of the two. She does have the better striking even though Belbita lands with a high output. Belbita also gets hit a lot, and de Paula is way more accurate on the feet and has better defense standing. de Paula is a good athlete that has been beaten by better athletes, but Belbita doesn’t compare to Frey or Vlismas. Belbita’s struggles with defense on the feet could be wiped out with her pressure and de Paula doesn’t do well with pressure. de Paula does have good counters and works better in the clinch. It will likely play out on the feet and de Paula should be able to land enough to score the decision.

What’s at stake: This could very well be a fight where the loser sees themselves cut from the roster, so it’s a must-win for both. Both have been disappointing during their UFC runs, and neither has shown that they have what it takes to be a contender at the moment. The strawweight division is tough, and if you aren’t a contender, you’re going to get lost in the shuffle.

Pick: de Paula

Bantamweights- Chad Anheliger vs. Jesse Strader

Overall Records: Anheliger 11-5, Strader 5-2
UFC Records: Anheliger 0-0, Strader 0-1
Last Fight: Anheliger def. Gafurov–SpDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 38 (9/7/21), Jackson def. Strader–R1 TKO–UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21)
Last Five Fights: Anheliger 5-0, Strader 3-2
Betting Odds: Anheliger -275, Strader +220
Background: A bantamweight bout kicks off the card as the debuting Anheliger takes on Strader, who will be making his second UFC appearance. Anheliger is a recipient of a contract from this past season of Dana White’s Contender Series, where he scored a decision win over Muin Gafurov in an exciting fight. Anheliger has had quite the career turnaround. He started off with a 2-5 record, and a UFC future didn’t look all that good. However, he has won nine straight coming into his debut, with seven of those wins by stoppage. He has nine stoppages overall. Strader fights for the first time in eleven months as he looks to bounce back from a first-round knockout loss to Montel Jackson in March. He’s a veteran of the Combate promotion, and four of his five career wins have come by knockout.

How they match up: Strader hasn’t shown himself to be ready to be a member of the UFC roster, as he was signed on short-notice just six fights into his career. He’s not that durable and has a lack of cardio, and it’s really a matter of either finishing his opponent in the first or he himself being finished in the first. He needs more seasoning on the regional scene. Anheliger has earned his spot on the roster the hard way as he’s a durable fighter who can fight through tough shots and keep pressing forward. He’s got a solid gas tank and really excels in his counter-striking. He can be caught with submissions, as all five of his losses have been by submission, but Strader doesn’t have the wrestling to scare him with takedowns and submission threats. Anheliger will likely pick Strader apart on the feet and finish him in the first half of the fight.

What’s at stake: Strader likely gets cut with a loss here, and, honestly, that wouldn’t be the worst thing for him. The bad thing is that he’s hit the age of 30, but he still needs more development as he’s not UFC-ready at all. He could get some fights and be back in a few years, but a win would change all of that. Anheliger wants to hit that double digit mark in his win streak and wants to have an impressive debut. He’s fought hard to get here, and he won’t go down easy.

Pick: Anheliger

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