Anthony Hernandez

Leading off the main card of UFC 298 will be a matchup between two prospects right on the cusp of becoming contenders at 185 lbs, Roman Kopylov and Anthony Hernandez.

Kopylov steps in on short notice to face the dangerous ‘Fluffy’ Hernandez in a bout that is sure to be entertaining for as long as it lasts.

Betting Odds

Fluffy is a hefty favorite in this one against the striking specialist Kopylov

  • Anthony Hernandez: -250 (BetUS)
  • Roman Kopylov: +200 (BetUS)

Fight Breakdown

Anthony Hernandez has been hot lately, with four straight wins (three inside the distance). The 30-year-old Hernandez is 11-2 overall and an elite submission grappler. He loves to threaten the back of his opponent and while they focus on preventing Hernandez from taking their back, he sinks in an arm-in guillotine. He’s very fluid with his submission attempts, moving from one to another effortlessly while keeping himself in position to dump his opponent back to the mat if they begin to escape.

Fluffy does a lot of work with his lead left hand on the feet. He uses jabs early and dips his head/upper body to the open side of his conventional stance. This sets up his takedown entries where he feints the lead hand before ducking under the return shot and grabbing his opponent’s lead left leg. He wrestles well from the single but can struggle at times when that option is taken away. However, it rarely matters due to his ability to push the pace for all three rounds. He keeps pressure on his opponent and if they back up to the cage for a second, he’s going to use that opportunity to shoot at the hips.

The defense of Hernandez is where I still have questions. On the feet, he tends to back straight up and leaves his chin open for the right hand. We’ve seen him get caught with this strike in each of his last three fights as well as others. He’s tough and can take some big shots on the feet if it means finding a chance to grab a takedown, but against powerful strikers, he’s at risk of getting dropped.

Against a southpaw like Kopylov, Hernandez will likely need to find another way to enter for takedowns at range. He usually relies on dipping outside of his opponent’s lead left leg with his jab/feints to get to the hips, however that won’t be available against a southpaw. He’s going to need to get Kopylov to the fence where he can get him more square and find spots to time his takedowns here. Hernandez has yet to fight a southpaw in his UFC career so it’ll be interesting to see how his game differs in this matchup.

His opponent is the red-hot Roman Kopylov. At 32 years old, he’s 12-2 and riding a four-fight knockout streak. Kopylov is a southpaw and has good footwork to manage distances, keeping his opponent just out of their striking range. He has a good right jab that he uses in conjunction with lead hand feints to draw out defensive reactions and back his opponent down. When his opponent throws out of range, he has a lightning-quick left kick that he uses to punish the body as well as the head.

Not only does Kopylov have explosive power in his hands and kicks, he’s extremely smart with his shot selection as well. He uses his feints to gather reads and open up holes to attack and he has a large arsenal of strikes to hit them with. He’s willing to invest in the body with his punches and right kick from the southpaw stance. If the body shots don’t break his opponent down, he’ll use the threat of more punishment to the midsection to set up his high kicks.

While his first art wasn’t wrestling, he’s trained in Dagestan for the past few years with some of the highest-level wrestlers from the region, and it shows in his takedown defense. He understands how to defend at all stages of the takedown and looks to control his opponent’s wrists to keep them from keeping two hands on him.

The big issue for Kopylov is his motor. Even in fights where he doesn’t throw much in the first round, he starts to get severely winded by the midpoint of round two. He’s been capable of pushing through the exhaustion on the feet but if he’s forced to defend takedowns, he can be a bit late to react. He also begins to leave his feet flat and stops utilizing that distance control which leaves him in range of his opponent’s offense once he begins to breathe heavily.

Whoever can control where the fight takes place will likely win the fight. Kopylov’s striking seems a few levels above Hernandez; Fluffy has good straight shots and they compliment his grappling well, but he gets tagged a lot when the fight stays on the feet. Similar can be said about Kopylov’s grappling. While he’s shown that he’s capable of defending takedowns, I don’t know that he’ll be able to stop takedowns over and over for three rounds while still getting off enough offense to win. If Kopylov can use his footwork to circle to Hernadez’s left and force him onto the back foot, he should find some success in avoiding the takedown attempts. Hernandez will need to make some adjustments to the way he enters for these takedowns, mainly utilizing feints with both his lead hand and his right to open Kopylov up a bit more.


The big key for Hernandez will be finding success with his takedown entries early in the fight. He doesn’t need to secure the takedown, but pushing Kopylov up against the fence and making him defend does two things: it drains the gas tank quicker and it prevents him from working his own offense at range. If Hernandez can make this happen early, it should become easier and easier as the fight goes on for him to continue doing it and eventually get Kopylov to the ground and start working to secure his submissions.

My biggest keys to victory for Kopylov are movement and pacing. Staying off the fence and circling to a better position is going to be a big component of stopping the takedown onslaught from Hernandez. While doing so, he’ll need to stay composed and not overswing. Kopylov is powerful and looks like a top 15 fighter when he’s able to move forward with his feints and combos but if he gasses himself out by round two, he’s not going to be able to keep that same intensity. Hernandez will sense that and start pouring on the pressure even more.

I believe the takedown defense of Kopylov will hold up early on, so if he can create space and force striking exchanges, I really like his chances to pull off the short-notice upset. Kopylov has really good knees and is smart with his strikes so I expect him to target those upward attacks to deter Hernandez from shooting too often. I see this fight much closer to even than the odds have it so I’m more than happy to take Kopylov on the moneyline as such a large underdog.

Best Bet: Roman Kopylov ML +200 (BetUS)

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