Charles “Inner G” Johnson (13-5; 2-3 in the UFC) will look to end his two-fight losing streak against talented DWCS alumn, Rafael “Macapa” Estevam (11-0), who is looking to maintain his undefeated record and propel himself into contention for a ranked fight.
Both Johnson and Estevam have their eyes set on the top 15 of the division and each has the well-rounded arsenal accompanied by elite size to reach ranked status in their UFC tenure.
However, a loss here may result in Johnson’s release from the UFC, and a loss for Estevam will halt all forward momentum he has established within his professional fight career, so each fighter has a lot at stake which makes for a greatly entertaining fight.
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Rafael Estevam is priced as a slight -135 favorite over the UFC veteran, Charles Johnson, coming back as a +120 underdog.
As stated in the introduction, Charles Johnson has elite physical attributes for the flyweight division, both in stature and in strength. The combination of height with strength is quite unique for this division, thus giving him the tools to present a significant problem for his opponents. This puzzle each opponent must overcome extends beyond size alone, as he is truly a well-rounded fighter.
Being well-rounded with the physical tools needed as a flyweight may seem like something is amiss given Johnson is just 2-3 in the UFC. This eery feeling is warranted, and the reason for this less-than-stellar record is due to Johnson not fighting to his potential. Specifically, Johnson struggles to chain together his strengths in the octagon, notably his heavy hands with underutilized offensive wrestling. The latter point may seem odd given he has been wrestled to defeat against Mokaev and Durden, but Johnson’s ability to get up off the mat and do well in scrambling situations rationalizes the statement that the grappling he has at his disposal is underutilized from an offensive perspective.
In this fight, Johnson is given another chance to leverage powerful striking against a predominate wrestling opponent. If Johnson can get his offense going at a quicker rate than he has traditionally shown, then he can establish himself as the aggressor in the octagon, which will then, allow him to dictate pace, distance, and most importantly, best equip himself to stuff takedowns. If he can establish himself as the aggressor early, then he has the fight tools at his disposal to secure the victory here.
As stated, Estevam is a predominate wrestler who will likely look to implement a proven path to victory laid out by Mokaev and Durden alike – repeatable takedowns. We saw him implement this gameplan in his DWCS fight, where he not only showcased good wrestling from an entry standpoint but also, good top control against a highly dangerous submission opponent. While Johnson will likely be a fighter who looks to get up off the mat once taken there contrary to fighting for a submission off the back, thus making him harder to control, the fight data shown by Estevam reasons that even if Johnson works himself up off the mat, Estevam has the skills to get it back down and work damage in top position.
The ability to finish fights, both by TKO and submissions, is a strong suit of Estevam. While this has not been done in the UFC, he too has elite size and strength parlayed with a tenacious, fight-ending attitude that reasons he will be dangerous from the moment the bout ensues. This will be critical here in this fight because if he allows Johnson to get his offense going with powerful strikes, then he will not be in a favorable position to secure a takedown against a good scrambler. But, if Estevam can establish his own striking, then he can be in the driver’s seat similar to what Mokaev showed against Johnson.
When it comes to DWCS fighters fighting their first bout in the UFC, I often elect to fade them. I do this given the respect I have for UFC tenured status accompanied by these fighters often being priced without value given many come-off fight-finishing bouts. In this bout, however, I see no reason to doubt Estevam’s ability to secure the victory as he has shown well in the grappling department whereas Johnson has lost due to the inability to win wrestling exchanges.
Moreover, Johnson often relies on himself being the larger, more powerful fighter, and while he is indeed both, Estevam can match the physical size and he too has power of his own. Because of similar regard for each’s striking ability accompanied by the expectation of Estevam winning the grappling exchanges, I am choosing to go with him here.
Bet: Estevam to win (-135 at BetUS)