CJ Vergara celebrates his UFC victory

From backyard brawls in the lone star state to fighting in the octagon, UFC flyweight CJ Vergara has shown himself to be a true dog in the world of fighting. The savvy boxer has gone 2-2 in his young UFC career, only losing to highly touted up-and-comers Tatsuro Taira and Ode Osbourne but beating Kleydson Rodrigues and Daniel Lacerda.

He will now serve as a test for Vinicius Salvador, a prolific finisher looking to finally transfer the success he saw on the Brazilian regional scene into the UFC. Both Vergara and Salvador earned their UFC ticket on the Contender Series, then losing their UFC debut. While Vergara won his subsequent fight, Salvador now finds himself attempting the same scenario with a potential win over Vergara.

How to watch: Order the UFC 291 PPV now to watch every fight live this Saturday night, including Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje.

How to bet: Sign up to BetUS and cash in our special sign-up offer of up to $2,500.

Betting Odds

CJ Vergara will come into the bout as the -160 favorite.

  • CJ Vergara: -160 (BetUS)
  • Vinicius Salvador: +130 (BetUS)

Special Offer: Sign up to BetUS today and get an exclusive sign-up offer worth up to $2,500

Fight Breakdown

CJ Vergara has built himself a reputation as a tough and durable brawler. This is not to say that he goes into fights looking to trade, but what makes him stick out is his ability to stay calm in bad situations. He can rally back from being badly hurt, make small adjustments deep into submissions to stay safe and recover, and knows when to take a shot in order to maintain a pace and pressure that could ultimately break his opponent. His composure is top-notch in the most chaotic scenario.

Technically, he is a very sound boxer, the skillset he depends on the most, he looks to march his opponent down and cut off the cage – working blind strong fundamentals, especially his jab to get inside and land sharp hooks. He is not known for having special punching power, but can always get the finish mores from volume and culminate damage, also applicable to his ground game where he is happy to maintain a position of control and chip away rather than blow his gas tank by getting to wild. He will sit in the guard and use head pressure to maintain top control and land short shots, as well as find pinning positions when entangled and land shots.

Vinicius Salvador could not be more different. He is a tall, rangy fighter that has size for the 125lb division. He is creative and wild in his striking approach, showboating and blending capoeira into his Muay Thai often. What this results in is sometimes big over-arcing shots that fly wide of the target but when they do land cause massive damage. His 93% KO/TKO percentage speaks for itself in the smallest weight category. Although he has shown a very active and competent guard, especially in terms of sweeps and stand-ups, he has not had huge submission success in his career.

For Vergara, it’s important that he keeps a pace, although Salvador isn’t known for running out of gas necessarily, his style is far more taxing than the efficient Vergara’s. Salvador leans on his athleticism, and reaction time a lot in order to avoid strikes and get out of grappling positions, which will wear on him if forced to do so at Vergara’s typical pace. Vergara has to stay composed in bad situations, he has a very good high guard and head movement but one shot from Salvador sways the tide often in his fights, and if Vergara finds himself hurt he needs to survive the storm.

One of the ways to do this is level changing, which is already a good idea as Salvador tends to find himself stuck when he can’t sweep out in the open mat. Vergara does not have a hugely defensive ground game from inside the guard, which could cause a stalemate in which he controls as Salvador ties up the neck and overtook to threaten and create space. I do not see either one submitting each other but this scenario would lead to control time for the American. Shooting level changes is also significant for setting up his striking combinations afterward, because Salvador reacts too fast he will drop his hands to the shot and leave his head exposed, so feinting the takedown opens him up.

He is also quick to lean away from strikes and counter, so Vergara needs to be ready to follow through with two or three punches after he commits. If he gets Salvador to the cage he also needs to invest in the body and legs on that lean back, Vergara has a slick southpaw combination where he throws the left low kick, right jab to overhand left. Finally, Vergara cannot afford to be complacent in the clinch, if he is hurt or finds himself rising from a failed takedown, Salvador is a master at using his overtook to hit explosive hip tosses and sweeps.

The keys to victory for Salvador is to make use of these throws if Vergara takes a breath in the clinch by seizing that opportunity. He has to be aware of his gas tank and only spend what he can afford. Vergara is a tough fighter who can go a hard three rounds to a decision and work back from danger, so if Salvador does see the finish he cannot sacrifice all of his energy looking for it. If he is taken down, he has to be active with the butterfly hooks, Vergara will try to pass if given the opportunity and sit if he is not, but getting to the fence and wall walking to his feet is priority number one. If he does mix in capoeira kicks, mixing up the targets is important, one of his favorite techniques is a sliding kick to the legs.

It’s well known he throws this in most fights so if he finds Vergara biting on it, the same drop down to a cartwheel kick would be a nice addition. In a similar way to Vergara needing to maintain composure, so does Salvador. If he finds himself being overtaken by volume, Salvador is very good at covering up and for a lack of a better term in MMA, “rope-a-doping”, meaning dodging punches with head movement on the cage. He is great at doing so withstand a flurry and finding a big counter in return, and being able to weather the volume of Vergara and make his shots count more is crucial. As Vergara does like to slip and roll forward through shots, and as the taller fighter, Salvador could make could use of well-timed knees at distance.


Although Salvador is a very dangerous problem, Vergara is the perfect test to temper his wild style. I do think that Vergara has to really lean on his experience and mix everything together, including the takedowns and boxing in order to get the job done.

Getting too caught up in any area provides Salvador a chance to get his feel and land something big but if Vergara can keep the pace moving and keep Salvador guessing, I do think he can overwhelm him (to a decision).

Pick: CJ Vergara to win by decision (+275)

Special Offer: Sign up to BetUS today and get an exclusive sign-up offer worth up to $2,500

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One Comment