Jake “White Kong” Hadley rebounded nicely after a debut decision loss with a second-round triangle submission win in 2022. Overall, the 26 year old English fighter is 9-1 with 2 knockout and 5 submission wins.
Malcolm “X” Gordon, 32, snapped a 2 fight losing streak that began his UFC career with a 2 fight winning streak of his own. Then, most recently, Gordon lost via finish for the 3rd time in the UFC and brought his record to 2-3. His wins are via decision and TKO (arm injury); while his losses are all via finish- 2 knockout and 1 submission.
Hadley vs. Gordon will feature on the UFC 286 prelims. Order UFC 286 PPV here.
Hadley opened as a smaller favorite but quickly grew as money came in on him.
Hadley is a sharp and technical fighter, who, after getting humbled in his debut, showed why he entered the UFC with such hype. On the feet, Hadley is a fast and heavy-hitting southpaw kickboxer. He has a devastating 1,2 combination where his left hand is fired like a laser and lands with an explosion. He is fantastic at landing to all areas of his opponent’s body- legs, body, and head- from range.
Hadley uses footwork and feints to set traps where his opponent is out of position or swings at air. From here, Hadley throws combinations at the exposed areas, landing impartially and with emphasis. Hadley has a unique and entertaining ability to strike with impressive technique and violence which combines to create a dangerous fighter on the feet.
On the mat, Hadley is a good but not great offensive wrestler with technical submissions from top position. He is a well-schooled grappler who is naturally athletic enough to find finishes on the mat. While his striking is natural and fluid, though, his grappling is more fundamental and seems to require thought and planning. While the best grapplers can flow intuitively, Hadley’s need to think though his positions is not the worst situation to be in. It forces Hadley to take his time, hold position, rack up control time when needed, and find the right opening as opposed to the first opening.
Where he struggles, as evident in his debut, is against a larger opponent who is a more naturally grappler. Hadley can be taken down himself and controlled on the mat, but not easily. It takes a large, relentless, and skilled opponent to get Hadley down because “White Kong” has technical scrambling and sweeps. However, wherever the fight goes, Hadley is prepared and often in control.
While Hadley has struggled, only one time, against a particular opponent- large, athletic, strong, and fluid- Gordon has struggled against a variety of opponents. He is a half decent wrestler and defensive grappler with an ability to clinch opponents on the cage or survive off his back. His typical path to victory is through basic boxing to close distance so he push an opponent against the cage or shoot a takedown. His boxing has some power but tends to be slow and rudimentary. Gordon struggles against speed and variety on the feet, especially considering his less than reliable chin.
Against the cage, Gordon uses head position well and can hold opponents as he racks up minutes but he rarely advances position or deals damage. He also struggles against superior grapplers who can reverse the clinch or take him down with trips. Gordon’s best path to victory is to shoot takedowns over and over, landing one or two a round. However, he struggles to land takedowns consistently, especially against superior wrestlers. And, once down, he has the same issues on the mat that he does against the cage- he can control but not advance position. If Gordon can land a takedown early in the fight, while both fighters are dry, we’ve seen Gordon be able to find a submission finish. However, that came outside of the UFC against a lower level of competition.
In the end, Gordon is a good test for unproven prospects because he is decent everywhere in the cage- boxing, clinch, and grappling. But, most fighters with a component of their game that can be described as “great” or even “good” tend to finish “X.”
Prediction and Betting Guide
Against a strong wrestler with an uncharacteristically large frame for the division, Hadley struggled to keep his back off the cage and the canvas in his debut. Gordon does not have the size or strength to mimic that game plan.
Instead, I anticipate Hadley to use his technical defensive grappling to keep the fight standing while his superior boxing propels him to a clear win. Hadley will be sharper on the feet and should land a put-away shot against the defensively porus and weak-chinned Gordon.
I love Hadley as a parlay piece, especially with Shore or Mokaev; but, as an individual play, I think Hadley can take advantage on the feet and find the finish while standing.
Best Bet: Hadley by KO/TKO (+180 at MyBookie)