Seemingly unaging, Brendan “All In” Allen is still only 26 years old but is entering the UFC octagon for the 10th time Saturday night. His UFC record is 7-2 with four finish wins and both losses coming by second-round knockout.
Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko, 33, has an extensive UFC career dating back to 2013. In his tenure, Jotko has only one finish victory and ten decision wins. He’s lost three times inside the distance and twice by decision. In total, Jotko’s UFC record is 11-5.
Allen vs. Jotko is one of the preliminary fights on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 211 card. Subscribe to ESPN+ to watch every UFC fight live.
Both men have had close fights throughout their career, but Vegas gives the slight edge to Jotko in this bout.
Allen is a skilled and well-rounded fighter with finishing ability; yet, he is unranked, and when he’s fought ranked or nearly ranked fighters, he’s struggled. This is because of Allen’s fight IQ. Throughout a fight, especially frustrating in fights where he is winning, Allen will put himself in bad positions or leave the path of least resistance and fight his opponent’s preferred fight. Even in his wins, where he doesn’t put his opponent away, Allen has left the door cracked and allowed his beaten opponent to rally. Normally, fighters who give a beaten opponent a chance to win late have cardio issues, but that’s not the case with Allen. While he does not weaponize cardio, he has a gas tank plenty deep for three-round affairs. Instead, Allen has abandoned a successful game plan mid-fight and switched to his opponent’s strength. This has resulted in several unanimous 29-28 decision wins, where Allen wins two rounds clearly but makes the 3rd round dicey.
Speaking specifically about his skills, Allen is an offensively gifted fighter. His striking, while rigid at times, is long, technical, and can deal real damage. He switches combinations often and strikes with variety. Allen’s offensive grappling, though, is where he really makes his hay. Allen prefers to clinch wrestle rather than shoot takedowns from range. He’ll often strike himself into the pocket, back his opponent up to the cage, then go to work. In the clinch, Allen keeps his head below his opponent’s chin, is able to land in-tight strikes, and drop or pivot his hips to a more advantageous position. If he can hold the clinch for a minute or two, Allen will either land heavy shots or make a play to take his opponent’s back. Allen’s grappling, like his striking, is more fundamental than fluid but is ultimately effective. When “All In” is mentally “all in,” Allen is a fighter who can exploit a weakness of his opponent or win a close fight against another well-rounded fighter.
Jotko, to put it bluntly, is not special in any way, but the man knows what he does well, rarely makes mistakes, and consistently wins fights. Jotko is a range kickboxer who uses his movement, cardio, and volume striking to stick’n move his way to decision victories. Typically, Jotko will dance around the cage, moving laterally along the black line of the octagon, and only stopping to throw a combination. His footwork is technical and constant, making him not only a moving target but a moving target that never seems to stop. In the rare times that an opponent has cut off the cage against Jotko, Jotko has shown an inability to move his head or defend successfully with a guard.
His defense, while reliable, is only one note- footwork. Jotko’s striking is primarily a volume counter approach where he baits an opponent to swing, circles out of the way, lands a combination of his own, and gets back on his bike. A key facet of Jotko’s movement counter striking game is his takedown defense. Because Jotko moves laterally with a wide base, he has impressive takedown defense. When an opponent shoots, even if they get low on his hips, Jotko can quickly extend his legs to create a wide base and dig in underhooks. Jotko even goes a step further, having shown an ability to reverse position and separate the clinch to get the fight back at range. He’ll need to be careful of those clinch exchanges against Allen because Allen has the edge in strength and can exploit even a small mistake. But, with Jotko’s experience and cardio, he has proven capable of staying composed through adversity and able to move and land with volume constantly for 15 minutes.
Allen’s career is full of fights that end up being much closer than they appear on paper; meanwhile, Jotko is a decision king who has won several splits. This fight has that kind of a setup, where Allen wins early, but Jotko’s cardio gives him the edge late. So, in a narrow fight with narrow odds, I side with who I believe is the better fighter, and that is Allen. He’ll have the edge in power and even if he can’t finish a takedown, have the strength and fundamental edge in the clinch. I’ll take the short dog in this fight.
Pick: Brendan Allen to win (+105 odds at BetUS)