Hakeem “Mean” Dawodu, the 31-year-old Canadian, makes his ninth UFC walk on Saturday night. Since joining the promotion, Dawodu is 6-2 with one win and one loss by submission. His most recent fight was a decision win over the grizzled veteran, Mike Trizano.
Julian “Juicy J” Erosa, 33, has been in the UFC since 2018 and has racked up nine total fights. His record during his UFC tenure is 5-4, with several fights ending by finish. He is on a two-fight win streak where Erosa finished Jourdain and followed it up with a split decision win over Steven Peterson.
Dawodu is a respectable favorite with a 68% win probability.
Dawodu has an abnormal record that contains three wins by split decision, yet, he’s only outright lost in the UFC twice. “Mean” has all the makings of a ranked fighter but has struggled to maintain consistency in the octagon, even in fights that he’s won. On the feet, Dawodu is a quick and elusive athlete with good technique and varied striking. He’s physically gifted and uses those gifts to land with consistent volume and quality accuracy. He typically bounces on the balls of his feet, keeping a wide, almost karate-style stance, then pounces into range. When moving into range, Dawodu often leads intelligently with his long jab and follows up with a combination, rarely throwing one strike at a time. After a quick, pop-pop-pop exchange, Dawodu will athletically circle out and avoid any counter shots.
The times Dawodu has struggled have come when he gets cracked cleanly and wobbled or when an opponent can wrestle. In both cases, Dawodu has proven he can respond well and overcome adversity, but the adversity itself is a bad look to the judges. Dawodu’s defense, and the reason he can be cracked cleanly, relies heavily on movement compared to a strong guard. If an opponent can time the movement, Dawodu has been caught zigging when he should have zagged. Again, though, “Mean” has, time and time again, proven he can clear the cobwebs and recover. If he can sure up his defense to avoid the big counter, Dawadu is a talented and skilled enough striker with good enough takedown defense to win consistently in a tough division.
Win or lose, Erosa fights the same way every time he steps onto the canvas- with violence. At range, he strikes with big looping hooks designed to drop his opponent or create enough chaos to allow Erosa into the pocket. Once in the pocket, Erosa looks to stand toe-to-toe, ignore defense, and unload a high volume of offense. He tends to keep his head on the centerline, almost inviting his opponents to crack him so he can respond in kind. His striking style forces opponents into a war where Erosa often has the edge in volume and cardio. The longer the fight goes on, the stronger Erosa gets.
If an opponent can’t put him away early, easier said than done despite 5 KO losses, they’ll be in for continuous striking exchanges that are as violent in the last minute as they are in the first. If forced to grapple, something Erosa rarely initiates himself, “Juicy J” has a strong submission game and a slick ability take the back of his opponents. Offensively, Erosa is exciting and dangerous wherever he, often being the aggressor, decides the fight goes. However, his inability or unwillingness to avoid his opponent’s strikes and his swing-big miss-big approach to striking have resulted in poor rounds and fights. The bottom line is that Erosa is a dangerous fighter for the entire 15 minutes, but a technical and intelligent approach can often beat him. Though, it’s easy to try and be technical until Erosa starts throwing haymakers at opponents.
This fight is an excellent matchup. Both men are inconsistent performers with solid records. The two knocks on Dawodu are a lack of power and an inability to be a consistent dominating fighter for a full 15 minutes. Both attributes are necessary to enter the competitive 145-pound rankings.
Erosa will be there to be hit, giving Dawodu the chance to tag and drop him. Erosa will also throw everything, including the kitchen sink at Dawodu and take advantage of even the smallest mistake. This will test Dawodu’s consistency and composure. If Dawodu can pass the tests, he should win and win convincingly; if not, we might see another Erosa upset. I’m backing Dawodu here, his striking will be cleaner, his counter shots should land easily, and he has the footwork to stick’n move around the all-offense barrage from Erosa.
Pick: Dawodu to win inside the distance (-215 odds at BetUS)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.