In what’s sure to be a violent clash between light heavyweights, Dustin ‘The Hanyak’ Jacoby is set to battle Kennedy ‘African Savage’ Nzechukwu on the main card of UFC Nashville. These are two gifted 205ers with vastly different skill sets and ways of winning.
Dustin Jacoby is currently the #15 ranked Light Heavyweight in the world, a drop from his career-high #13 after back-to-back decision losses to Azamat Murzakanov and Khalil Rountree. He’s looking to keep the number next to his name against Nzechukwu, who’s riding a three-fight win streak coming into this one.
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The odds for this one are favoring power over speed as the African Savage is the slight favorite over the former Glory kickboxer:
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Dustin ‘The Hanyak’ Jacoby will make his 12th walk to the octagon this Saturday with a pro record of 18-7-1. The former Glory kickboxer is a veteran of both MMA and kickboxing but has found a home in the UFC since his return in 2020. As you’d expect, Jacoby is mainly a striker with high output and crisp technique. He doesn’t come forward with a lot of wrestling attempts, but he’s not afraid to sprinkle in a few when needed.
Jacoby has a rare output for a Light Heavyweight; his 6.47 significant strikes per minute is third in the division behind only Carlos Ulberg and Jamahal Hill. He uses a lot of feints and quick, snappy jabs to land a majority of these shots early. He fights mainly from orthodox but will switch stances pretty frequently to gather different reads. He throws accurate, technical strikes and has powerful kicks that are especially effective to the leg. He’s fluid with his movement in and out, but when he tries to switch stances coming forward, he’ll lift his rear leg high like he’s chambering a front kick and will get caught with stiff straight shots as he tries to enter.
One area I love when watching Dustin is his ability to draw out counters off his jab/cross, duck out of range and re-enter with a crisp two-three shot combo of his own. As such, he’s often at his best when he’s going first and able to read the counters of his opponent. When he waits and his opponent throws first, he gets tagged and he doesn’t offer enough power in return to counter effectively in these situations. His opponents find the mark very often with jabs of their own and straight shots when he enters switching stances.
His opponent is the ‘African Savage’, Kennedy Nzechukwu. At 6’5 with an 83” reach, Kennedy is massive even for 205 lbs standards. He has a similar amount of UFC experience as his opponent, coming into this one 6-3 in the promotion and 12-3 overall. Kennedy brings an interesting style to the octagon that consists of striking at range, in the clinch and even occasionally takedown attempts.
Kennedy carries a ton of power and doesn’t overexert himself to land if he doesn’t have to. He likes to take his time to make reads and draw out explosive entries past his lengthy reach from his opponent. He has solid defense from distance, pawing at the front hand of his opponent to isolate their offense to one side as well as an educated high guard that deflect a lot of incoming damage.
He keeps a constant pressure on his opponent that forces them to throw strikes at his tight defense and even when the shots get through, he’s proven to be extremely resilient. He’s capable and willing to take some shots to wear on his opponent and he can grind out a three-round pace if needed. His resilience can be astounding at times as he walks through dozens of shots, stands there and lets them tee off on his guard. Though admirable, his lack of counters in these situations can (and have) get him into trouble early when his opponent is fresh and can throw everything at 100%.
Kennedy has shown game plans predicated around striking as well as wrestling. He’s shown to have good trips from the body lock along the cage and smother his opponents with top pressure once on the ground. His ability to work offense effectively from in close is surprising for a guy his size, but he tends to lack output on the outside to get him there. He seems to rely solely on his forward pressure and occasional strikes to back his opponent down and make them throw off the back foot where he knows it’s less likely they’ll generate enough power to stop him.
Nzechukwu stays very heavy on the front leg and with it turned inward, he’s open for leg kicks. This hasn’t been an area that his opponents test consistently but I suspect a kickboxer of Jacoby’s level to find success with it early and will continue to go back to it as the fight wears on. He also tends to throw his offense at an unusually slow rate which is only saved by his long reach so if Jacoby can work the front leg and stay explosive in his movement in and out of range, Nzechukwu will have a really hard time tracking him down.
Nzechukwu has the power and durability to walk down fighters who are looking to knock him out and overpower them. His forward pressure draws out a lot of offense from opponents however Jacoby’s footwork is a lot better than most of Kennedy’s recent opponents (other than maybe a modern-day Carlos Ulberg) and I think that footwork will keep him off the cage enough to keep him out of Kennedy’s clinch. At range, Nzechukwu’s striking can be slow and telegraphed which Jacoby thrives on evading and countering with his own combos. If he can keep this fight off the fence, I like his chances to pull off the upset.
If Kennedy can force Jacoby to back up, even if he eats some shots on the way in, Dustin hasn’t shown to generate enough power to deter someone like Nzechukwu from working their way into the pocket. Jacoby has displayed good takedown defense thus far in his career but Nzechukwu is powerful and his size makes it incredibly hard to prevent him from snagging a trip and dragging you down, so I see this as a potential way for Nzechukwu to slow Jacoby down and wear on him if he can force the fight in tight.
Prediction and Pick
Both scenarios above are extremely possible; I lean toward Nzechukwu getting it done due to the way judging has favored lower output, more powerful fighters over the higher volume, less powerful one and he’ll likely be the better wrestler/grappler. That said, I like Jacoby’s chances almost equally and I think both guys are going to have to grind to pull this one out. The Over has been a great bet this year and I’m taking this one over 2.5 rounds.
Best Bet: Over 2.5 rounds (-140 at BetUS)