Orion “Galaxy” Cosce, a 2020 Dana White’s Contender Series alum, lost his UFC debut, and first professional fight, via second-round knockout. Outside of the UFC, the 28-year-old has seven wins, six by knockout and one by submission.
Mike “Blood Diamond” Mathetha, 34, is a City Kickboxing product with a limited MMA career. Mathetha’s professional record is 3-1 with one knockout, one submission, and one decision win. His sole loss, also coming in his UFC debut, was a first-round submission. Both of these fighters are exciting but have fairly limited experience and several question marks in their game.
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Cosce opened up as a short favorite early in the week and has grown slightly larger by midweek.
Cosce first gained notoriety when he and his brother both earned UFC contracts following knockouts on the same night of DWCS. Orion is the younger of the two brothers and is a bit more well-rounded. On the feet, Cosce packs some pop, especially when he is fighting at range where he can more safely lead the dance. Because Cosce tends to be a headhunter while striking when he gets into boxing range, his lack of defense poses issues. He becomes very hittable and tends to shell up like a turtle, likely attempting a Philly Shell without the movement. When he’s caught in these positions, Cosce will use his shell to absorb strikes and then blindly blitz forward, attempting to clip his opponent or push them back to kicking range.
While Cosce’s power makes his shell and explode style viable, a technical striker will be able to outpoint him and use footwork to avoid Cosce’s power. Knockouts tend to get fans, but Cosce’s best path to victory, more often than not, will be his wrestling. He is a naturally strong athlete with solid cardio and wrestling fundamentals. He is able to shoot several takedowns in a round, and, even if he can’t secure the official takedown, Cosce can force his opponent against the cage and into a clinch fight.
While Cosce struggles defensively in boxing range, he excels offensively in clinch striking and dirty boxing. Cosce is adept at putting a pace on opponents and landing with power from odd angles in the clinch. Unfortunately, though, in the fights where Cosce has primarily clinch wrestled without getting the finish, “Galaxy’s” gas tank noticeably slowed in later rounds. Bottom line, Cosce has a dangerous combination of powerful striking and above-average wrestling that can carry him through a successful career, but if he wants to win regularly, he’ll need to sure up his striking defense and improve his cardio tank.
Mathetha, who will likely be called “Blood Diamond” by most, including the UFC, is exactly what you’d expect out of a City Kickboxing fighter with only 4 MMA fights. He is a sharp and dangerous kickboxer with better than expected but still poor grappling. On the feet, “Blood Diamond” strikes with a variety of attacks, punches, and kicks, with precision and power. At his preferred range, “Blood Diamond” will often land first and land with more impact than many unranked strikers in the UFC. His height, pedigree, and striking acumen pose a real threat to anyone that tries to stand and trade with him.
MMA is not kickboxing, though, and “Blood Diamond’s” inaugural fight showed why a well-rounded game is imperative at the UFC level. While he landed some impressive strikes in his debut, “Blood Diamond,” was quickly backed into the cage where his height was nullified and his kicking game limited. Once here, a wrestle-first fighter was able to land cleanly against the accredited kickboxer. Then, unsurprisingly, “Blood Diamond’s” takedown defense was tested. He was able to defend and impressive 4 out of 5 attempts, using his height and the cage like a seasoned pro. However, on the 5th attempt, “Blood Diamond” hit the mat and was submitted soon after.
The key takeaways from his debut are: “Blood Diamond” can legitimately kickbox well, but if distance is crashed, he can be hit cleanly, and while his takedown defense was better than expected, he had zero answers once he hit the mat. Progression is possible in four months, but at 34 years old, I’m anticipating the “Blood Diamond” we’ve seen is the “Blood Diamond” we’ll get.
Vegas has this fight as favored, heavily, to end inside the distance. That’s because both men are hittable on the feet and pack real heat when they throw. There is a real path to victory for “Blood Diamond” to catch Cosce coming in and end the fight quickly.
However, I like Cosce to weather the early storm at range, close distance, and go to work in the clinch. Even if he can’t land his first takedown attempt, Cosce is relentless enough to try over and over until he gets the fight to the mat. Once down, Cosce is miles ahead of “Blood Diamond” in both wrestling and BJJ, so the finish should come quickly. I like Cosce inside the distance but also am willing to play a sprinkle on him in round 1.
Pick: Cosce to win inside the distance (-180 odds to win at MyBookie)
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.