Joshua Van - Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

The crowd at Madison Square Garden will have plenty to cheer for early at UFC 295 with an action-packed preliminary card, including a flyweight banger between Joshua Van and Kevin Borjas.

Originally slated to face off on Dana White’s Contender Series, Borjas and Van find themselves battling at the mecca of combat sports this Saturday. These are two young, high-action strikers who are ready to make a statement to a wide-open division at 125 lbs.

Van vs Borjas Betting Odds

Joshua Van has already won in the UFC so it’s no surprise to see him as the favorite in this one.

  • Joshua Van: -225 (BetUS)
  • Kevin Borjas: +185 (BetUS)

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Van vs Borjas Fight Breakdown

Kevin Borjas is a sniper at range with his boxing. He works behind a quick, snappy jab that finds the range for his straight right that eventually follows. He’s accurate with his strikes and controls distance really well to stay at the end of his range. He showed some good sting to his punches in his Contender Series bout against Victor Dias, doing some big damage though he couldn’t get the finish.

The footwork of Borjas is used well to bounce just out of range and fire off the counter right hand that lands accurately and with good power. This counter striking looks to be the strength of his game as he doesn’t fall for a lot of feints and reacts well when his opponent does come forward. He keeps his right hand tight to the chin to protect himself while being quick to explode into his counters, attacking the openings as they present themselves.

The thing that gets Borjas in trouble is what happens after he throws. While his strikes are often quick, he isn’t quick to retract his shot and often leaves his chin open for counts. His shots loop after making contact, he gets heavy in his stance and his hips get squared, leaving him open for counter takedown attempts as well as counter strikes. Dias wasn’t quick enough on the feet to take advantage of the striking opportunities, but he did exploit how easily Borjas can give up the hips.

The motor of Borjas seems to be okay as he was constantly able to press forward with his offense throughout all three rounds, landing his boxing with speed and power. The lack of defense on the feet does become emboldened as the fight goes on and he begins to gas.

The originally scheduled opponent for Kevin Borjas and now his next is the 22 year old Joshua Van. Van is another striker with a crisp jab that he uses to gauge his distance and set up the rest of his offensive arsenal on the feet. Van relies a bit more on evading shots before firing back; once he finds his range and is able to control distance, he’s very efficient with his movement to evade shots before firing back with a quick 1-2.

Van fights at an incredible pace. In his UFC debut against Zhalgas Zhumagulov, we saw him land 120 significant strikes – the second most significant strikes landed in a fight in UFC flyweight history. A lot of those strikes were his jab or a shot set up directly off the jab but he worked in a good mix of kicks as well. These kicks are used primarily to the body and leg early but as he makes reads throughout the fight, he finds openings for the head kick. As he gets more experience, these kicks should be used more and more frequently as they landed heavy and gave him even better variety on the feet.

Like Borjas, Van still struggles defensively on the feet at times. When he gets aggressive and comes forward, he can be open to some counters; he doesn’t bring his hands back to the chin after throwing and, with his reliance on backing out of the way of punches, he can get caught when throwing in tight spaces. His striking defense at range is solid and for someone so young both in experience and age, I expect him to get better here with age.

Though Van’s only been training his wrestling for about a year, he’s had some flashes that lead me to believe he’ll begin to mix this in more as well. He defends takedowns well on the cage and has the ability to escape from the bottom but his reactions and instincts from top control are what intrigue me most. He attacks ground n pound constantly, allowing his opponent to attempt to scramble and beating them to the next position to either continue striking or attack a submission if one presents itself. As he continues to gain experience and learns to chain his striking into takedown attempts, I think he’ll grow into a well-rounded mixed martial artist with a crazy motor and an ability to be successful wherever he needs to be.

Whoever is able to find their jab more effectively will have a significant edge in this one. Borjas will have a three inch reach advantage and he pops his jab out at range to catch Van when he enters. For Van, he needs to use his feints to draw out the big reactions from Borjas and time his shots in between his opponent’s. If Borjas can avoid biting on the feints and time the right hand, Van leaves himself open on his left at times and could get caught by the big power shot.

Van vs Borjas Prediction

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Van test the wrestling of Borjas either. Van’s continued improvements in the grappling department can make him a multi-dimensional threat and, at the very least, give Borjas one more thing to think about defensively. If he doesn’t, he’s still the more technical striker on the feet and is quicker with his strikes. Borjas looked great on the feet when he was able to come forward with little threat in return but the looseness of his striking will make it harder to find that same success against a higher level striker like Van. I can see Josh winning this a variety of ways but if he gets the finish, it’ll likely come later in the fight as he wears on Borjas with his pace and pressure.

  • Prediction: Josh Van to win (-225 at BetUS)
  • Best Bet: Josh Van to win and O1.5R (+103 at BetUS)

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