Ismael Bonfim weighs in for his Dana White's Contender Series bout (Zuffa LLC)

The older of the Bonfim brothers, Ismael, 27, enters the UFC octagon for only the second time. His debut was an incredible flying knee knockout against the red-hot prospect Terrance McKinney. That brought Bonfim’s professional record to 19-3 with 13 finish wins and all 3 losses coming via submission.

Benoit “God of War” St. Dennis is 2-1 in the UFC. He dropped his UFC debut in a violent decision where St. Dennis absorbed an absurd amount of power shots but didn’t go out. He rebounded with back-to-back finish wins.

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Betting Odds

Bonfim is a highly touted prospect and is getting the respect of oddsmakers in this one.

  • Ismael Bonfim: -295 (BetUS)
  • Benoit Saint-Denis: +250 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Bonfim is a highly-skilled, well-schooled, and powerful striker who uses footwork at range and in-the-pocket vision to land lethal damage without absorbing much himself.

In his debut, Bonfim faced one of the most dangerous finishers in the division: McKinney. McKinney is known for starting out with extreme aggression, yet, it was Bonfim who likely won the first round. He accomplished this by immediately pushing the pace, bringing the fight forward, and working the body.

Both Bonfim brothers have killer body shots which they land with ill-intent. By working the body early, Bonfim was able to slow down the hyper-aggressive McKinney, exploit his already questionable gas tank, and force his opponent to be more desperate in round 2. Then, he waited for his opportunity and exploded for a highlight reel flying knee knockout.

I break that fight down to illustrate just how tactical and strategic Bonfim is in the cage. He can land every strike with precision and power; but, more impressively, he tends to fight with the ideal game plan that not only elevates his dangerous weapons but exploits the weaknesses of his opponent.

St. Denis’ debut went so poorly and he absorbed so much damage that many, myself included, thought he may never fight in MMA again. His striking was labored, he was a step or two behind in speed, pace, and athleticism, and his defensive strategy was to use his face as a punching bag. But, despite the mauling he took, the ex-French Special Forces operative responded in back-to-back fights in impressive fashion.

His striking offense has tightened up a bit, and he’s landed power shots of his own. His striking defense still leaves much to be desired- his head movement is minimal and he leaves his chin exposed- but his chin and toughness are undeniable. St. Denis’ preferred game is to land power shots on the feet to either clip his opponent or force them backward with a high guard, thereby exposing their hips. Once he sees an opening on the hips, St. Denis looks to shoot a takedown.

While he averages over 3 takedowns per 15 minutes, his success rate- against sub-par grapplers- is at 30%. Still, if he gets the fight down, St. Denis wastes no time looking for the finish. He tends to lay heavily on top, land solid ground and pound, and hunt the submission. His strong grappling and submission game are the strengths of his arsenal. St. Denis needs to continue to tighten his standup and find more consistent success with his wrestling, though, to prolong his success.

Prediction and Betting Guide

This fight boils down to levels. Bonfim is simply levels above St. Denis, as the odds suggest, and has the ideal blueprint to follow: Zaleski Dos Santos’ dismantling of St. Denis. Like Zaleski Dos Santos, Bonfim has the striking variety, volume, precision, power, and vision to piece St. Denis up at range and in the pocket. Couple his offensive arsenal with excellent footwork and a clear edge in athleticism and Bonfim should be able to land power shots over and over, exit the exchange safely, and then repeat at his desired rate.

Bonfim lost two of his first three professional fights by submission and another one a few years later. St. Denis has a strong submission game; but, as with most high-level prospects like Bonfim, he’s grown substantially since those losses and is significantly more challenging to get and hold down. I don’t expect St. Denis to find much success with his wrestling, beyond possibly holding Bonfim against the cage for short periods of time. Instead, I think Bonfim’s explosiveness, striking prowess, and footwork will combine to finish St. Denis for the first time in his career. St. Denis absorbed an insane amount of damage in his debut; and, while that showed heart, toughness, and cardio, it still took a toll. I think Bonfim will be the first put St. Denis out. I like Bonfim by knockout and in a parlay with Morales, check out that article on the website for a deep breakdown.

Best Bets: Bonfim by knockout (+185) and Bonfim (-295) and Morales (-225) in a parlay (-107)

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One Comment

  1. I think what you’re missing here is context. You seem to base the main bit of your Saint Denis analysis on his debut fight vs Elizeus.

    Saint Denis took a last minute fight, above his actual weight category. There’s no way it would have went well. Well prepared, fighting guys of his own weight, he’s a different fighter.