Omar “Venezuelan Fighter” Morales is a 37-year-old lightweight with an 11-3 professional record. In the UFC, Morales is 3-3 following a DWCS win in 2019. All 3 of his wins have come via decision while 2 of his losses, also his most recent 2 fights, have ended inside the distance.
The second fighter named Chris Duncan on this card, Chris “The Problem” Duncan is also a DWCS alum. He makes his UFC debut following an electrifying comeback first-round knockout win his last time out. Overall, “The Problem” is 9-1 with 7 knockout wins and 1 knockout loss.
This fight has the narrowest odds on the whole card, sitting at nearly a pick’em.
Morales is much older than his record suggests and he joined the UFC at an atypical age as well. Because of this, his career is unlikely to result in him earning a ranking, more likely he is fighting for paychecks as long as he can. I bring that up because Morales is starting to show his age in the cage. He has been finished in back-to-back fights. To his credit, both fighters to finish him are powerful and talented; but, the way in which he was finished is concerning.
Morales has always been a powerful kickboxer who tends to fight with low volume as he looks to land one shot counter strikes throughout a 15 minute stand up battle. But, recently, Morales has increased his pressure and volume. On paper, that is great to see since Morales has always had decent hands and a heavy-kicking game. However, as he’s increased volume, Morales has taken more risks on the feet and has been tagged more frequently.
In his most recent fights, “Venezuelan Fighter” appears to be pressing and he’s paid for it by getting finished. Morales is at this best when he patiently moves forward, chops his opponent’s lead leg, and lands infrequent but accurate counter combinations. It may not be the most exciting strategy but Morales is too slow, too linear, and, possibly too old, to engage in blow for blow fire fights. If he dictates distance and pace, Morales can win fights through attrition.
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While Morales is at his best when he’s patient, Duncan is at his best when he aggressively moves forward. He lacks technique, footwork, and defensive awareness but he has anvils for fits and hits heavy. If Duncan tries to win a fight at range against most UFC-caliber strikers, he’ll be picked apart and likely swing at mostly air. Instead, Duncan’s best game plan is to push forward, land a dense leg kick that immobilizes opponents and look to tee off against a stationary target.
The danger in this strategy, though, as evident during his most recent fight, is Duncan can forgo the little defense he has when he ramps up to full momentum. When this happens, Duncan is tagged and can be hurt. He was dropped in his last fight and ate 3 consecutive uppercuts that nearly ended the fight. Then, somehow still conscious, Duncan rallied to find his own finish by throwing a massive overhand right. His power is undeniable but the longer the fight goes, the more danger he is in.
Prediction and Betting Guide
There has been a recent trend of handicappers fading debutants from DWCS. While a blind fade of any fighter is a risky endeavor, the rationale behind this strategy is sound.
Many debuting fighters, we saw a prime example last week from Dumas, are unproven and untested. They come into the UFC with excitement for the unknown but don’t have the experience necessary against a higher level of competition, even if that competition has struggled in the UFC.
Given the UFC debut angle and the nearly pick’em odds, I expect this fight to be hotly debated in MMA circles. I could be burned again by a recent DWCS alum fighter but I like Duncan here. He, unlike many other graduated fighters, did have respectable competition outside of the UFC. Moreover, specifically in this fight, Morales is slowing with age and has become increasingly hittable.
I expect a slugfest for as long as it lasts. And, in a fight like that, I’ll side with the younger and more powerful striker in Duncan.