Francis Marshall throws a right hand in his Dana White's Contender Series bout (Zuffa LLC)

UFC Vegas 79 will take place at the APEX this weekend and nestled into the prelims is an exciting matchup between two 145 lbs prospects in Francis ‘Fire’ Marshall and ‘The Midwest Choppa’ Isaac Dulgarian.

Marshall made his highly anticipated debut in April where he lost a split decision to William Gomis. Dulgarian is making his UFC debut after an injury scrapped his first bout with the promotion in January of this year.

Both men carry a lot of power and impressive wrestling, and with so little pro experience for either fighter, they have a lot of room to grow and fill out their game. With both facing the most adversity of their respective careers, I expect these two featherweights to put on a show and leave the decision out of the judges’ hands.

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Bettings Odds

The line for this one favors the more experienced MMA athlete in Francis Marshall. With so little tape on Dulgarian, it’s hard to gather where his weaknesses lie:

  • Francis Marshall: -160 (BetUS)
  • Isaac Dulgarian: +130 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

It’s weird to refer to Marshall as the veteran in a matchup, but he’s already accumulated two UFC fights as well as a win on DWCS. At only 24, he’s spent more than twice as much time in the UFC octagon as Dulgarian has spent in the cage his entire pro career. On top of this high-level experience, Marshall has been training MMA and preparing for this career since he was a young teen. He’s mainly a wrestler with solid boxing and good power in his hands that set up the takedowns.

On the feet, Marshall uses his jab and an occasional long lead hook to get into range to land the powerful right hand. He likes to back his opponent down to the cage where he can feel more comfortable opening up with explosive combinations. He’s gotten a few knockdowns in his young UFC career already, including a nasty knockout win over Marcelo Rojo.

His footwork and lack of movement speed is something that plagued him in his last fight against William Gomis, where he was unable to track down the French kickboxer. Landing only 15 of his 132 significant strikes (11%), he was swinging at air almost 90% of the time. This was largely due to the misuse of feints and cage control but also in part to the way he likes to move around the octagon. His feet come in line with each other more than they should, which makes it hard for him to change direction as well as sink into powerful shots when his opponent is continuously moving.

Though he’s shown flashes in the striking department, his best attribute is his wrestling and ground ability. Marshall was a high school wrestler and transitioned into MMA from there which has given him a great base for the sport. Shooting for the takedown is second nature for him; even when he has rocked his opponents, he shows the tendency to take the fight to the mat and attempt to submit them. His wrestling’s at its best when he’s able to successfully land his boxing combos and flow into takedowns from there. Against Gomis, we saw him struggle to get the takedown throughout as he wasn’t able to threaten his opponent in the striking department and struggled to finish along the fence once Gomis dug the underhooks. When he’s able to work his opponent down, he has good top pressure and takes the back very well where he’s extremely proficient at finishing the fight via rear naked choke.

His adversary in this one is UFC newcomer Isaac Dulgarian. It’s been a long-awaited debut for Dulgarian as he was scheduled to fight in January but had to withdraw due to a torn LCL. His last fight was his fifth pro MMA bout in February of 2022 where he finished his opponent in just over a minute. That’s been the theme for Dulgarian as he’s racked up a total of just 8:40 of pro MMA experience in five fights (all first-round finishes). Dulgarian is a former D-II collegiate wrestler and that is evident in his dominant ground game.

I watched the entire pro career of Dulgarian a few times over and there’s so little to use to judge his weaknesses. It’s evident where his strengths lie as every one of his fights has gone to the ground on the first takedown attempt from Dulgarian, usually within the first 20 seconds or so. He’s been extremely efficient at gaining the mount and raining down heavy ground n pound. He’ll finish fights from here with these punishing shots but he’s very aware of submission opportunities when they present themselves. He mainly likes to attack subs he can grab while keeping mount or back control (arm triangles and rear naked chokes mostly) but he likely has more in his arsenal that he hasn’t been forced to show yet.

There’s virtually nothing in the way of striking tape for Dulgarian as a pro. He has a wide, low stance and quick movement to stay outside of his opponent’s range until he’s ready to shoot. He uses striking and level-changing feints as well as strikes to flow into takedowns. He has mainly relied on using his power and high kicks to bring the guard of his opponent up high where he can then feint more strikes and shoot for the takedown.

Though Dulgarian looks the part and is unquestionably talented, it’s hard to ignore his lack of experience. We already touched on his lack of time in the octagon, but he’s only faced one fighter with more than 2 wins on his record and the combined record of all five of his pro opponents (at the time of fighting them) is just 12-8. He’s powerful, explosive and has a great wrestling base for MMA but outside of training, he’s never shared the octagon with anyone with UFC-level talent.

Francis Marshall showed a lot of talent in his DWCS fight as well as his debut against Marcelo Rojo but his abysmal striking performance in his most recent bout certainly had to have highlighted some areas of improvement for him and his team. He needs to continue to expand his striking game so he can utilize his skill on the ground at a higher efficiency.


For Dulgarin, we don’t know how well he fights in the second or third round. Given his wrestling background and training at Factory X in Colorado, I’d expect him to be in good shape and be capable of fighting well into the later rounds, but we have no evidence of that yet. We’ve never seen him truly tested in any part of MMA especially in the striking department and that’s where Marshall will need to be aggressive. Francis already has an aggressive style – coming forward with his powerful shots and threats of the takedown – but he needs to put Isaac on the backfoot and not let him dictate the pace and range. Marshall has had trouble against speed in the past and Dulgarian is an athletic fighter who should be capable of using his footwork and quickness to stay out of danger if Marshall doesn’t show improvement in his timing and setting traps.

It’s hard to judge who’s the stronger wrestler between the two but based on the dominance, instinctual transitions and the power he generates from the top position, I think Dulagrian has the edge here. For him to utilize that grappling however, he’ll need to show more on the feet than he has in the past. It’s highly unlikely that a wrestler/fighter of Marshall’s caliber will fall for the first feint thrown and give up his hips for the easy double leg. He’s flashed some good kicks on the feet and those will be a good weapon to force Francis to defend. He’ll need to continue to use his mixture of feints and explosive entries into striking exchanges to set up the takedown as the fight goes on.

With the unknown that is Isaac Dulgarian’s potential, it’s hard to pick a winner here. I like the odds on Dulgarian given his success to this point and Marshall’s willingness to engage in wrestling. However, getting Marshall at such a low number could be a steal if Dulgarian isn’t capable of fighting at a three-round pace or he’s unable to grab takedowns and is forced to fight on the feet. I’m going with the experience and well rounded game of Marshall as my prediction though it really is impossible to give an accurate prediction. Regardless of if it’s Dulgarian finishing another fight in the first or Marshall wearing Isaac down and outworking him in rounds two and three, I like this fight to end inside of 2.5 rounds.

Best Bet: Under 2.5 rounds (-160 at BetUS)

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