UFC 278 will feature a great flyweight matchup between the Swedish-born Amir Albazi and Brazil’s own Francisco Figueiredo.
Albazi, nicknamed “The Prince,” has soared high in a very short time. With just two UFC wins and a single pro loss to Jose Torres prior to entering the promotion, Albazi is already ranked #11 in the 125-pound division.
His opponent, Figueiredo, is the younger brother of current divisional champion Deiveson Figueiredo and is currently looking to continue the momentum from his April victory over Daniel Lacerda. With high expectations on his name, Figueiredo will be attempting to add yet another win to his 2-1 UFC record.
Figueiredo will come into the fight as the +288 underdog, according to MyBookie.
This is a fantastic fight for the flyweight division. Figueiredo, who is known as “Sniper,” is called such for a reason. His striking is very slick, being compared to a matador in his defensive footwork, but it’s his way of firing back with one or two clean and accurate shots that coined him the name. He is very good at staying long, which his upright stance allows, and he likes to cut off on angles, especially to the right, and slip away from shots with precision head movement.
The drawback to his style is because he is looking for that one or two clean shots at a time, he can end up being passive and ending up lower on points than his opponent. Especially when pressure is put on him and forcing him backward or against the cage, he has difficulty getting off punches on his own terms.
This is exactly what Albazi will look to do, and he has the style to do it. In terms of striking, Albazi has a very conventional style, he has a mid-width stance and a good high guard. He utilizes a great jab, mixing it up between the body and head before using it to feint and land the left hook around the defense. Compared to Sniper, he allows his head to stay on the centreline much more, but what he truly wants is to avoid trading from long range. Look for him to press Figueiredo with strikes and feints and ultimately get to the cage, where he can turn the fight ugly and try to bully him around with dirty boxing and clinch grappling.
Albazi has tremendous takedowns on the fence and an acute positional awareness which sees him often immediately turn his opponent away to avoid wall walking. However, out in the open mat, Figueiredo is a high-level BJJ artist, especially with how patient and composed he is looking for sweeps and submissions, particularly his knee bar from bottom scrambles. It may actually be wiser for Albazi to keep Figeirdeo with his back to the cage in order to negate as much space as possible, taking the chance of him standing up into the clinch rather than the threat of a sweep or submission.
That being said, Albazi does have a very tight top game; he excels in maintaining top chest to chest pressure while cutting through guards with hip pressure and knee cuts, which allows him to minimize sweep threats while advancing.
It’s a very fun matchup, and I believe the difference will be Albazi’s work rate. He could easily get tagged with his head down the center channel, but for each punch Figueiredo lands, I see Albazi firing three or four in retaliation and ultimately getting him trapped to the fence. The uglier and grittier this fight gets, the better it weighs towards Albazi, and that is a very likely scenario.
Prediction: Amir Albazi to win (-400 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.