Diego Lopes inside the UFC Octagon (Zuffa LLC)

Diego Lopes, 28, gained UFC notoriety and popularity with his narrow decision loss in his debut. Coming in on short notice, Lopes fought and nearly beat undefeated contender Movsar Evloev. That loss brought his professional record to 21-6.

Gavin “Guv’Nor” Tucker, now 37, is 13-2 as a pro and 4-2 in the UFC. Most recently, Tucker was knocked out in 22 seconds by Dan Ige.

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Betting Odds

Lopes opened as a slight favorite but has grown steadily throughout the week.

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Fight Breakdown

Lopes is an interesting and difficult-to-nail down fighter. His pre-UFC record was solid, but nothing he showed LUX, Fury, or even Dana White Contender Series suggested he could hang with, let alone nearly beat, Evloev as a last-minute replacement. Yet, it happened and he fought valiantly for 15 minutes.

That fight, even though it is a loss, is likely the reason for steam- money that increases a fighter’s line- coming in on him for this fight. I don’t think the Lopes we saw against Evloev is the Lopes we can expect to see each time out, nor do I think the Lopes we saw lose a technical decision on DWCS is the same fighter we’ll get Saturday. Instead, as with many things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

At his core, Lopes is an athletic striker with good pop in his attacks. He has an energetic and pressure style with reliable cardio. Additionally, Lopes is best on the mat where he scrambles with explosion and can secure creative submissions from both top and bottom position. The negative aspects of his game tend to come after the first round where Lopes’ striking devolves from athletic and explosive to lower volume and burst.

Because his striking tends to be focused on big movements and power shots, even though he has strong cardio, Lopes tends to attack with low volume and rely on sudden burst combinations rather than consistent output. This allows a dedicated and technical striker to rack up volume throughout a fight.

Secondly, as with many young fighters who are strong and skilled grapplers, Lopes is content surrendering takedowns and allowing his opponent to rack up control time as he fights from his back and looks for submissions.

Essentially, Lopes is large, athletic, and offensively dangerous fighter who can struggle with consistency and allows opponents to win rounds while he looks for the big moments and finish. That being said, Lopes is more than capable of having several big moments in fights and has finished 19 of his 21 wins. It takes a truly technical and methodical fighter to patiently dismantle Lopes safely.

Tucker’s career, unfortunately, has been negatively impacted by inactivity and injury. On paper, he has the well-rounded and naturally explosive skillsets to be a mainstay in the rankings. However, injury has hindered his explosive ability, and inactivity has resulted in irregular performances and Tucker aging while riding the pine.

Tucker is now 37, and, despite being in the UFC since 2017, has only fought 5 times in the UFC, only one of which against a ranked fighter. His inactivity, injuries, and age have caused him to recently look a step slow in one of the most competitive divisions in MMA.

When he’s on, or possibly just when he was younger and more consistently active, Tucker was a fighter capable of winning the fight wherever it goes. On the feet, Tucker was fast enough to get into the pocket where his strong boxing and power allowed him to slug it out toe to toe with his opponents.

He has fast hands, good power with short shots, and a reliable chin. Additionally, Tucker is an adept wrestler capable of shooting single and double-leg takedowns from range and dragging opponents down from the clinch. Once on the mat, his pressure-heavy style continued, with Tucker landing consistent ground and pound as he hunted submissions.

Tucker was the kind of fighter to make the match a true “fight,” where his opponent’s ability to deal with pressure, have reliable cardio, and chin would all be tested for 15 minutes. However, now that he’s older, Tucker’s once impressive pressure, speed, and grit seem to be slowing down. His last fight only lasted 22 seconds so it’s hard to be sure; but, if he’s lost a step, Tucker does not have the technical and patient style to make up for an inability to win a dog fight.

Prediction and Pick

This line is starting to get a little out of hand. I agree that Lopes should be favored; he’s the younger fighter, more dangerous, and showed impressively his last time out. But he only has 1 UFC fight and has struggled against pressure-heavy wrestlers who weaponize cardio.

I thought a -130/-140 price on Lopes was fair, but now, he’s starting to get north of -170 in some books. That’s a lot of projection in a fight with questions on both sides.

For me, this fight really comes down to if Tucker is over the hill or not. If Tucker can be the Tucker of old and put a pace on Lopes early, force the young prospect to fight in a gritty fight, and wrestle often, Tucker could find consistent success. However, if Tucker is a step slow, unable to pressure consistently, and if his wrestling is not at its peak, Lopes will have the athleticism, speed, and danger factor to regularly hurt and possibly stop Tucker.

Unless the odds clear -175 for Lopes, I like him in this fight. I think he’ll be able to crack Tucker on the feet, scramble well on the mat, and even reverse position if it hits the canvas. If his current -160 tag is too steep for you, I also like Lopes to win inside the distance. I’m expecting him to win with the bigger moments and more damage so an ITD play connects well with him winning.

Best Bet: Lopes to Win (-160 at BetUS)

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