Jonathan “Dragon” Martinez is a 28-year-old bantamweight with a 15-4 professional record. He’s been fighting in the UFC since 2018 and has amassed a 6-3 record with four decisions and two knockout wins. Vince “Vandetta” Morales is three years older but has three fewer professional fights. Morales is 11-5 as a pro and 3-3 under the UFC banner. They’ll fight this weekend at UFC Fight Night 206.
Martinez opened as a respectable favorite and has only grown from there.
As a striker, Martinez is an exciting and technically sound fighter. He has an extremely kick heavy attack, springy reflexes, and quick boxing combinations. Martinez is at his best when he walks forward, leads with his cracking calf kick, and pushes an aggressive kickboxing approach. While moving forward, Martinez is adept at mixing up his punches and kicks with fluidity and timing. When “Dragon” is the one leading the dance, his striking is effective and dangerous. But, when an opponent forces Martinez to strike off his back foot, he struggles. This is because so much of his striking game is kick-dependent and it is difficult to land kicks while moving backward. Furthermore, when he fights moving backward, Martinez will often throw an ill-advised and poorly setup counter shot that can leave his chin exposed. A chin that he carries high while on defense. If a wrestling match ensues, Martinez has solid takedown defense. He uses his length and quick-twitch muscles well to post or spring up back to his feet. Once down, though, Martinez has been controlled in fights. When Martinez is the one moving forward, he looks impressive and often wins. But, when he faces someone with the pressure capable of pushing Martinez backward or to the mat, “Dragon” has struggled to respond.
Morales has a well-rounded and complete game. His boxing is fundamental and his right hand carries some power. His kicking game is minimal but he is able to land calf kicks to keep range. When wrestling, Morales is more likely to engage a clinch against the cage, hold position, and look to grind the fight down rather than shoot for a takedown. Once on the mat, Morales can hold position again, but rarely finds the finish. Offensively, “Vandetta” is typically a counter puncher who looks to neutralize his opponent’s primary attack and respond with the alternative option. The issue with this game plan, and subsequent reason for his .500 UFC record, is that creative and varied strikers can take advantage of the passive approach from Morales. With an arsenal of striking attacks, Morales’ strategy of neutralizing his opponent can fail.
While a blueprint exits to beat Martinez, I don’t see Morales being able to successfully implement it. Morales does not have the striking chops to push Martinez back and does not have the wrestling base to take the more athletic Martinez down. Morales does have a chin and solid cardio so I like him to last 3 rounds but lose each one. Look for Martinez to capitalize on Morales’ struggles with checking calf kicks on his way to a clear decision win.
Prediction: Martinez to win by decision
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.