Submission ace Makwan “Mr. Finland” Amirkhani is a 33-year-old featherweight who has been in the UFC since 2015. During his tenure, Amirkhani is 7-5 with five of those seven wins coming via finish.
Meanwhile, Jonathan “JSP” Pearce, 30, joined the UFC following his Dana White’s Contender Series knockout in 2019. Since earning his contract, Pearce is 3-1 with a knockout, submission, and decision win. Amirkhani vs. Pearce is a scheduled bout on this weekend’s UFC London preliminary card.
Pearce opened as nearly a 2.5:1 favorite, but money has steadily come in on Amirkhani, bringing the line down.
If the UFC had one-round fights, Amirkhani might be a ranked fighter. For the first five minutes of a fight, Amirkhani is a dangerous fighter with a well-rounded game. But, after five minutes, he looks like he just finished running a marathon, and he either gets pieced up for the rest of the fight or finished. During round 1, Amirkhani has solid wrestling, more so defensive scrambling, and a slick submission game. He has two wins via heel hook and four via anaconda choke. In both of these submissions, a fighter is often in a compromising position, then creates chaos, scrambles, and finds the submission win before his opponent knows what hits him.
That is exactly how Amirkhani fights early- creating chaos to find the finish. On the feet, he stands southpaw and looks to counter with a heavy and athletic striking. He tends to strike with extremely low volume, only landing 1.3 per minute, but lands from odd angles and with pop. Then, he wants to create a scramble situation, either by shooting his own takedown or allowing his opponent to shoot in on him. From here, he creates madness on the mat and looks for a submission. He’s finished 12 fights this way.
The issue with his style is that Amirkhani’s powerful striking and unique approach to grappling gasses him out. After the first round, he does not have much left in the tank and spends most of the remaining rounds laterally moving, looking for one big shot or sloppy takedowns. That first round, though, Amirkhani is fun and dangerous.
I often describe Pearce as having fundamental aggression. He strikes with solid volume, mixing in fundamental kickboxing to all parts of his opponent while often being the fighter with his foot on the gas pedal. He, no matter the round, moves forward continually. Against subpar strikers, Pearce’s aggression is primarily through his kickboxing. But, against subpar grapplers, Pearce rolls that pressure over into his wrestling.
Just like his striking, Pearce’s wrestling is athletically limited but fundamentally sound and always unrelenting. He averages an exhausting 6.8 takedowns per fight and lands them at a 58% clip. Then, once Pearce gets the fight to the mat, he immediately looks for the finish, typically through ground and pound. From the opening salvo, Pearce is always moving forward and is on offense in some capacity- striking, wrestling, grappling, or ground and pound. He has top-notch cardio and rarely lets his opponent breathe.
The only downside for “JSP” that we’ve seen so far in the octagon is his all-offense approach can get him caught, either cracked coming in or in a vulnerable position on the mat. However, he’s shown increased skill in recovering from poor positions, resetting, and re-engaging his pressure.
Outside of another Amirkhani first-round defensive submission, this fight is tailor-made for Pearce. The interesting angle, though, is round 1 is tailor-made for Amirkhani.
Pearce is going to pressure early and likely look for a takedown quickly. Amirkhani, while he still has the energy, will gladly accept Pearce’s pressure and look to grapple counter the all-offense fighter. An Amirkhani round 1 submission is a viable bet. But, I like Pearce to stay smart early and deplete the gas tank of Amirkhani with intelligent but still relentless pressure.
Pearce wins fights on the back of his cardio, and Amirkhani loses them that way. Give me Pearce to find the finish in round 2 or 3.
Prediction: Jonathan Pearce to win inside the distance (+135 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.