Two more welterweights will touch the UFC octagon Saturday night when AJ Fletcher and Ange Loosa look for their first UFC victory.
Both men fought on Dana White’s Contender series and have just lost competitive fights in their debuts, so they will be chomping at the bit to show UFC fans what they are truly capable of. Both men are also coming from fantastic camps, Fletcher a protege of former interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier and Loosa cornered by welterweight contender and former title challenger Gilbert Burns.
With so much hype around the new prospects, promise in their training, and a combined 14 finishes in 17 wins, the two men will be looking to put on a show at UFC 278.
AJ Fletcher will be entering the bout as a -158 favorite which means it will cost a wager of $158 to win $100 on him in victory.
Fletcher vs. Loosa is a super exciting matchup. Both men are well-rounded, powerful punchers and come from high esteemed camps. Fletcher is likely the more well-rounded of the two; he is very dynamic, with a conventional striking style and good light footwork. What we will typically see from him is solid basics all round, which garner enough respect that when he does mix things up and throw a spinning or jumping attack, it’s not predictable. Grappling is where his greatest edge in the fight will be likely; he has a good double leg and commits himself to maintaining position before he worries about ground and pound. This makes him a very difficult fighter to sweep or submit, and those who have had success wrestling up from bottom have had to be wary of his quick guillotine. On the bottom himself, he tends to have more success wrestling up rather than sweeping or looking for submissions from the bottom.
Ange Loosa prefers a style more reminiscent of Dutch kickboxing. This is no surprise, it’s very similar to what we have seen coming out of Sanford MMA, and he particularly bears a resemblance to his teammate Gilbert Burns in his stance, lead leg lightness, and nasty left hook. Loosa in particular, also has a very good straight punch game, both his jab and cross are lightning-fast and powerful. Both Fletcher and he possess power in their punches which could put the lights out on one another, but one of the factors to consider is the volume with which they punch. While Fletcher throws combinations and moves, Loosa is far more likely to throw one or two shots at a time with full power behind them. His defense is moreso a use of the high guard and shelling up until he can reset and return fire.
In terms of his grappling, his takedown game can be a bit rushed. It is explosive, but to the point that sometimes he over-commits and is unable to establish a dominant position, allowing for opportunities for his opponents to scramble out. That being said, defensively, he is very sound, he has a good base, and is difficult to ground, especially with his back to the fence. If he is able to get into a strong position on top, he has a crushing top game and an explosive style of guard passing in which he will burst over the broken guard rather than cut cleanly through.
Easily both men could come out on top on their feet. Fletcher may be a bit slicker and throws better in combination, but Loosa is quicker and throws with more power behind every shot he attempts. While this area is very competitive, I expect Fletcher to be the one trying to mix things up and level change at some point.
While Loosa has great takedown defense, if Fletcher can set things up properly with his hands, he has shown an ability to get to the black clinch and force takedowns from there. From this position, he can avoid the sprawl and base of Loosa, and another possibility is Fletcher taking advantage of Loosa’s takedowns and finding a sweep or reversal. Ultimately I think it comes down to having more options for Fletcher in this fight.
Prediction: AJ Fletcher to win (-158 odds at MyBookie)
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.