Fresh off of a Contender’s series victory, Jafel Filho will be given no easy fight in his UFC debut. With a record of 14-2, Filho has primarily built a reputation through Shooto Brasil, one of the most recognizable promotions in the country. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist will clash with the flyweight division’s most feared wrestler, Muhammad Mokaev.
Mokaev is coming off of yet another victory in his so-far perfect record. In October he submitted Malcolm Gordon with a third-round armbar to bring his pro record to 9-0-1, the only blemish being a no-contest in 2021 stopped by an accidental groin kick.
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Filho will walk into his UFC debut as a very substantial underdog. At +400, every dollar bet on Filho could return $4 in an upset.
Jafel Filho will introduce himself to UFC fans this weekend when he makes his promotional debut. Those who have seen him fight on the Brazilian MMA scene or on the contender series, know that he is an especially good grappler and a specialist on the back. However, every fight starts standing and he is no slouch on the feet either.
Filho has a loose relaxed style, but his work rates his very high. He has nice sharp boxing when he lets his hands go but does require a feeling-out process to find his range. This is why you will see him throw more kicks early in the fight and grow his boxing combinations the further the fight takes him. He likes to exude constant pressure, but because of this, he will tend to throw strikes to fill that space without always setting them up, often low kicks which have been countered over the top before. He has a solid right cross and a great left hook that he throws in various combinations, such as his cross step cross to left hook, or jab, cross, hook, and low kick.
His takedowns are efficient, he does not typically look to pick men up, but rather work from a body lock and executes leg reaps to drag his opponents down. He will happily work by smothering his opponents against the cage if he misses an opportunity to get them to the mat, but when he does he has slick guard passing and ultimately wants to reach the back. He utilizes his guillotine in tricky ways, he will use it to defend takedowns, but also to threaten upstairs as he transitions from side control to mount. While he does have good submissions from the mount, he is specifically known for his quick body triangle, the tightness of it and the rear-naked choke is the most consistent submission on his record.
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That in particular is what Mokaev has to be most wary of. In his last outing, Mokaev was caught in a potential rear-naked choke as the second round ended and found his back taken again in the third. This more than anything should have been the position of focus defensively in camp. That being said, in general, Mokaev’s grappling style is very well-equipped for Filho.
Mokaev’s striking is dangerous because he is both creative and fearless. He has come under some criticism for showboating and unnecessary risk-taking on the feet but it’s an important part of what he does. He will use an excess of distance in his footwork, throwing spinning kicks, lead sidekicks, flying knees, and leaping punches. His ability to burst in and jump back out draws his opponents into rushing him and trying to counter, at which point he is so good at level-changing under their blitz and getting to double under hooks or one under hook and a knee tap. From here he turns the pipe or drives them to the cage and finds the takedown.
This is important because although both men will want to test one another’s grappling abilities and should, when and how they get to the ground will most likely be on Mokaev’s terms.
Like Filho, Mokaev also likes to take the back although his submission record is a bit more spread out. He will take the back from the clinch before dragging his opponents down, or figure four the legs off a takedown and maul them until they expose their own back.
Prediction and Betting Guide
Filho’s best bet is to build on the success Malcolm Gordon had in taking Mokaev’s back last year, however outside of that Mokaev will likely control the positioning for most of the fight.
On the feet, both Filho and Mokaev are a huge danger but because Mokaev fights at such a difficult range, the opportunities to land enough combinations before another scramble is started is fairly slim.
I do see most of this fight playing out on the mat, with Mokaev using the cage, getting the better of more of the scrambles and potentially finding a submission opportunity. At -649 this is not a lucrative bet but there is a high chance that he gets it done within the 15-minute limit.
Mokaev’s one decision inside the UFC came because of his opponent’s great takedown defense, Filho while a more dangerous grappler himself will be willing to contest there. It may be a more dangerous fight for Mokaev but I believe there opportunities for him to secure a submission at some point will be more available.
Pick: Muhammad Mokaev to win inside the distance (-155 at MyBookie)