Mana “Manaboi” Martinez is a 26-year-old bantamweight fighting out of James Krause’s gym, Glory MMA. Professionally, Martinez is 9-3 with eight knockout wins, but in the UFC, Martinez is 1-1 with both fights going to decision.
Brandon “Killer B” Davis returned to the UFC after finally repairing his torn ACL. Davis fought on a torn ACL in several fights after getting cut in the UFC back in 2019 because he didn’t have the money for surgery. After returning to the UFC and losing by 1st round finish, Davis was able to repair that injury. He returns, healthy for the first time in years, nearly a year ago to the day for his second fight during his second stint in the UFC.
Martinez opened as a slight favorite, and the line has remained steady throughout the week.
Martinez is a composed and fundamentally technical boxer who, offensively, rarely makes a mistake that leaves him exposed on the feet. Standing at 5’10 with an equally noticeably long wingspan, Martinez is tall for the division and uses his height well while boxing. He’ll pump his jab out regularly, keeping his opponent at his preferred range, while he hunts the combination with intelligent footwork. Martinez’s game plan is to cut off the cage behind his jab and footwork, corner his opponent, then unload a multi-piece combination with some real power behind it. Most of his knockouts follow this blueprint; and, against a fighter willing to let Martinez dictate pace and space, “Manaboi” has found consistent success with this style.
His issue, though, is when an opponent can perry his jab, move more efficiently on the feet, or wrestle. If Martinez’s jab can’t find a consistent home, he struggles to get the rest of his game going. Martinez does have slick combinations and true knockout power, but, he needs the jab to land early for those combinations to have any real impact. Further, while Martinez’s footwork is fundamental, it is a more plodding boxing style movement. This is effective against counter strikers who let Martinez move linearly. But, against fighters who can move well laterally and keep Martinez chasing them, he struggles to cut off the cage.
Finally, opponents who can eat his shots, still move forward, and force Martinez to be the one on the back foot with pressure boxing or wrestling have found success. Martinez can survive on the mat with defensive jiu-jitsu but he can still be controlled for long periods of time. “Manaboi” is young and improving so some of these gap in his game are likely to be filled between fights, and he has the offensive firepower to win impressively. For now, though, Martinez tends to win the same way each time- jab, combination, and repeat.
Davis has one of the best underdog recovery stories in the UFC. Following a DWCS win in 2017, Davis was in the promotion for 2 years and went 2-5. Some of those losses came to the likes of Zabit and Giga, at the time, relatively unknown but now proven top tier fighters. Further, Davis being able to not only return after a devastating knee injury but actually fighting on a torn ACL on his path back to the UFC makes “Killer B” easy to root for.
Despite the sympathetic fan fare, Davis has continued to struggle in the UFC. He is a well rounded fighter- a tough nosed boxer, gritty wrestler, and has the cardio to win later in fights. On paper, he is the type of fighter to beat one-note opponents; yet, those wins haven’t regularly come. Rather than using his well-rounded skillset to nullify his opponent’s primary attack, Davis will regularly fight his opponent’s prefered fight. This often results in Davis losing striking battles to better strikers, rather than wrestling, and grapple heavy fights to better grapplers, rather than striking against them. Davis has a complete game that he could use to neutralize opponents and find easier paths to victory; but, at least until now, Davis has not shown that ability.
The way to beat Martinez is for an opponent to wrestle or get on their bike and force Martinez to chase. Davis can do the former but will likely struggle with the latter. Even with a repaired ACL, Davis likely won’t have the footwork needed to stay away from Martinez for 15 minutes. And, considering Davis has continually fought the toughest type of fights, I doubt he is willing to wrestle Martinez either. I expect Davis to get into a striking battle against the younger, crisper, and more powerful boxer in Martinez. I like Martinez to win, possibly by finish as well.
Pick: Mana Martinez to win (-155 BetUS)