Jake “White Kong” Hadley is a 26-year-old flyweight with an 8-1 professional record. He earned a contract with the UFC following a second-round submission win on Dana White’s Contender Series. His skill set and arrogant attitude made him a polarizing prospect. Hadley was humbled in his debut, losing a well-fought unanimous decision in May.
Carlos “The Cannon” Candelario is five years older than Hadley but only has one more professional fight. Candelario started his professional career 8-0 but lost back-to-back UFC fights. The first was a split decision loss on Dana White’s Contender Series and the second was a unanimous decision in his UFC debut.
Hadley opened as a respectable 2.5:1 favorite and has remained steady at the price throughout the week.
One of the larger storylines surrounding Hadley was the drama that preceded and followed his DWCS fight. Before the fight, Hadley missed weight, normally a clear indication that no matter the outcome, Dana White would not give out a contract. Despite the weight miss, though, Hadley earned a contract. Rather than being apologetic and grateful, Hadley took a more “heel” approach to the situation and boasted about his performance. Later, news came out that UFC staff found Hadley difficult to work with and outright rude at times. Still, Hadley chose unapologetic confidence as his response. Then, in his debut, Hadley remained confident and vocal until he dropped round 1 to a tough veteran fighter. For the first time in his career, Hadley had to overcome adversity. Even though he lost the fight, Hadley demonstrated grit, cardio, and a defensive awareness many, myself included, thought might not be in his toolbox.
His skillset has been clear for a while. He is a fast and heavy-handed kickboxer who hits hard with a thudding 1,2 combination that fires like a piston. His offensive game centers around being faster, more powerful, and a better technical striker than his opponent. His defensive game plan was typically to use natural strength to keep the fight standing or create a scramble where he could end up on top. What he showed in his debut is that his scramble centric approach to grappling defense helps him survive against experienced grapplers but he found less success in reversing position. Hadley was able to stay composed on the mat and get through rounds, but he was unable to get back to his feet or get on top of his opponent. Still, though, Hadley has the skillset and ability to fight with violence that should result in a successful career. So long as he gets his ego in check and finds a reliable way to get up from a takedown, Hadley’s hands are dangerous weapons that will result in many victories.
Candelario fits the mold of a tough veteran fighter who is a difficult test for young prospects. Even though Candelario only has 10 professional fights, his style, toughness, and persistence make him a tough out for anyone who overlooks him. Typically, Candelario is a blitz striker with a gritty clinch game who pushes an exhausting pace. From the opening moments of a fight, Candelario rushes forward to close distance and force the fight to happen for the whole 15 minutes, with no moments off.
He strikes with aggression but little technique. His attacks typically land because of his volume and awkward angles, not because he sets up his shots with feints or footwork. Once he blitz strikes into range often after a 50/50 exchange, Candelario looks to continue the pressure and force his opponent back to the cage. From here, Candelario uses body shots to hurt his opponent, head position to grind and lay on them, and a low base to effectively hold position. Said simply, Candelario wants a dirty fight where his toughness, pressure, and cardio can outlast any advantages his opponents have in talent or technique.
This is a “get right” fight for Hadley. I suspect the UFC gave him a challenging matchup in his debut as a consequence for his weight miss and challenging personality with staff. But, now that he’s been humbled a bit, Candelario is an ideal matchup for Hadley. Hadley excels as a technical kickboxer and can land heavy, especially when countering. Candelario tends to walk blindly into the pocket with little regard for defense. Further, Hadley struggled against a strong wrestler who wanted the fight to the mat. Candelario tends to clinch against the cage which should be an easier path for Hadley to reverse position. I like Hadley to win and find the finish, possibly a knockout.
Pick: Hadley to win inside the distance