Chidi Njokuani vs. Albert Duraev prediction | UFC on ESPN 43 1

Chidi “Chidi Bang Bang” Njokuani, 34, joined the UFC late in his career after an extensive Bellator run. Since winning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series via third-round knockout, Njokuani continued his finish streak with back-to-back first-round knockouts in 2022. His run came to a screeching halt in September of 2022 when “Chidi Bang Bang” was knocked out himself. Overall, 14 of the kickboxer’s 22 wins have come by knockout and 7 of his 8 losses have come inside the distance.

Albert “Machete” Duraev, 34, is also a Dana White’s Contender Series alum where he secured a contract through a first-round submission back in 2021. Since then, Duraev has only fought twice, splitting them between a decision win and a knockout loss. Overall, Duraev has finished 12 of his 15 wins inside the distance and all 4 of his losses have come by knockout.

Betting Odds

Njokuani is the favorite to win, with odds of -165, while Duraev is the underdog, with odds of +135. This means that if you bet $165 on Njokuani and he wins, you would win $100, while if you bet $100 on Duraev and he wins, you would win $135.

Fight Breakdown

Njokuani is a highly technical, smooth, and powerful kickboxer who, in a standup fight, often has the advantage. He tends to be a fast starter; but, interestingly, doesn’t rush. Instead, he’ll use his long legs to prod his opponent, like a jab, and push them back over and over.

Because of his length advantage, opponents are forced to crash distance, often while frustrated. When this happens, Njokuani’s power counter striking comes to light. He fluidly combines knees, upkicks, and fast punching combinations that land with real emphasis. Especially against a linear moving striker who is recklessly crashing distance, Njokuani has the striking acumen to end the fight quickly.

While his striking is impressive, Chidi’s grappling is a major concern. Outside of using his length and size to post against the cage, Njokuani has minimal takedown defense and is a fish out water from his back.

Thus far, Njokuani has faced primary strikers, yet, Njokuani has been taken down in 3 of 4 fights. He’s been able to survive on the mat in those fights; but, he also hasn’t faced a dedicated wrestler or submission fighter yet. If he continues to try and hold guard from his back against a strong ground fighter, Njokuani will likely find out that just looking to survive the round often ends in him not entering the next.

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Duraev is a strong wrestler with persistent and well-timed takedowns who uses good top pressure once on the mat to hold position while he hunts submissions. As with many MMA fighters from Russia, Duraev’s wrestling is less about timing a double leg, and more about getting the fight against the cage, engaging the clinch, and looking for trip takedowns.

This method has proved successful in the UFC for many fighters because it offers a safer route to the canvas. When wrestlers shoot takedowns from distance, they run the risk of knees and uppercuts sending them back or knocking them out cold. But, a more methodical – pressure to clinch to trip to takedown – approach helps limit the danger from counter strikes.

Duraev needs to take extra care to avoid the striking of his opponents because his offensive striking is basic, his striking defense is porous, and his chin is fragile. In a standup fight, granted against high-level power, last time out, Duraev was outclassed on the feet and quickly found himself getting pieced up.

Prediction and Betting Guide

This is an old-school UFC matchup between a fighter that is strictly a striker against a fighter who is strictly a grappler. Njokuani has the technique, speed, and power to hand Duraev his fifth knockout loss. Meanwhile, Duraev has the wrestling and submission skills to exploit the ground gap in his opponent’s game.

Since both guys have such opposing skill sets, both guys have a clear path to victory. But, the odds aren’t as even. For that reason, I see value on the underdog in this one.

Njokuani was taken down twice two fights ago against an inferior wrestler, compared to Duraev, and controlled for three minutes while Chidi looked for hail-mary submissions. When he got up, he did so while exposing his neck and back. Njokuani survived on the ground not because of his skills but because of the ineptitude of his opponent. If he gets in the same position against Duraev, the result should be different.

Duraev will have to sure up his defense and watch those up-the-middle knees and kicks when he looks for a takedown, but I like the wrestler to get the fight down and find the finish on the mat, likely by submission. I also like u1.5 round (-115) as an additional play and partial hedge in case Njokuani catches Duraev clean.

Best Bets: Albert Duraev to win (+135) & by submission (+350)

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