AJ Fletcher

AJ Fletcher, with his back against the wall, has been tasked with welcoming Zimbabwe’s Themba Gorimbo to the UFC. The fighter from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was a perfect 9-0 coming into the UFC off his Contender Series win but has since fallen short twice. However, Gorimbo, who is making his promotional debut is on paper at least, a step down in competition.

Gorimbo hails from Bikita, Masvingo, Zimbabwe but fights out of South Africa. Prior to his recent UFC signing, he largely made his name in EFC Worldwide and EFC Africa before a since bout in Fury FC. He has accumulated a pro record of 10-3.

Betting Odds

Gorimbo will come into the fight as the underdog in his UFC debut.

  • Gorimbo: + 230
  • Fletcher: -275

Fight Breakdown

Themba Gorimbo is a dangerous, pressure-built fighter. On the feet, he stands in a very short stance which allows for good mobility in any direction. He likes a sharp front kick to the body and a reach right hand down the middle. He also utilizes a nice left roundhouse kick but doesn’t pivot with his hips so as the stay relatively square. The way in which he only semi-commits to his turn kick, allows him to throw the rear cross or level change off of it much quicker, and his best work is ultimately done after his takedowns.

On the mat, he is a strong wrestler, with very good ground and pounds from the top. He looks to take his opponents down into the cage so that he can stack them in the corner and rain down strikes, or pass to half-guard, sprawl with heavy hips, and look for elbows and hooks. However, the way in which he stacks his opponent’s guard does allow enough space for his opponents to sometimes reach for an attack leg lock position, and the way in which he sprawls, although stuffing his opponent from sitting up can allow for elevation if they are good with butterfly hooks. In general, Gorimbo offers opportunities for his opponents to counter and escape positionally, it has been his aggression and ground and pound that has mostly filled in that gap, but a step up in competition, especially into the UFC, and how that affects this remains to be seen.

AJ Fletcher will be at a large reach disadvantage as his reach is particularly short for his frame and weight. Gorimbo at 76 inches to Fletcher’s 67. However, Gorimbo does tend to swing very wide, and sometimes even drop his head if caught in the chaos of trading. Fletcher, on the other hand, has short sharp strikes and mixes things up well. He has a nice left hook-to-rear elbow combination and is good at stepping in with his elbows on both sides. He will invest in the body, although also take body shots fairly frequently as well. Although he will need to find a way past Gorimbo’s kicks early, if he can, I see Fletcher deflecting or slipping Gorimbo’s wide hooks and getting the better of the boxing inside.

In terms of grappling, Fletcher also has a good ground game, but it will definitely be Gorinbo looking to take it there. Fletcher does not have particularly special takedown ability, but unlike some of the BJJ artists that Gorimbo has been able to trap underneath him, Fletcher will not be so easily caught playing guard. A lot of the time he will attempt to snatch a guillotine immediately if taken down, which if not working will be used to create enough space to get his hips out from under and wrestler back to his feet instead. Gorimbo does have a tendency to attack the single leg with his head on the outside and depend on keeping that leg between his own to avoid the guillotine once it hits the mat, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Fletcher gets the neck early enough, gets his leg free and chooses to attack the choke first.

Prediction and Betting Guide

Initially, the kicking game of Gorinbo could be a problem to solve for Fletcher, but it’s not so far removed from what he has before. On the inside, Fletcher has sharper boxing and is far more composed. I think moving forward he has to be especially aware of the level change, but at least in the first few rounds before fatigue truly starts to take over, he should have the ability to wrestle back to his feet and force some exchanges with Gorimbo. While Gorimbo’s wrestling could pay dividends in the final round, I see Fletcher likely securing the first two en route to a decision win if not finding the KO beforehand.

Pick: Fletcher to win (-275)

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