Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews has been in the UFC since 2014 but is still only 28 years old. During his tenure, Matthews has amassed an 11-5 record with six finishes and five decision wins. Matthew “Semi The Jedi” Semelsberger has sandwiched two wins with two losses. The 30-year-old is 10-4 as a professional, with seven wins ending inside the distance.
Matthews opened as slightly more than a 2:1 favorite and has steadily grown throughout the week.
- Matthews: -260
- Semelsberger: +200
Matthews is an experienced and hard-nosed welterweight with high-level cardio and a complete skillset. He is well-rounded with above-average wrestling and improved striking. Since Matthews entered the UFC, he has been marked as someone with high potential and an expectation of being a fighter to crack and climb the rankings. Typically, Matthews looks to wrestle his way to decisions, but he does so after setting up single and double-leg takedowns behind intelligent striking. Matthews tends to fight strategically; he rarely throws a strike without having a plan for a follow-up shot, either strike or takedown. He stands orthodox and has fundamental boxing. Early in his career, his boxing was basic, more focused on defense rather than offense. But, recently, Matthews has shown significant strides on the feet, able to land tight combinations with little wasted movement. He is still defensively sound, and he uses technical footwork well to evade getting clean. In his last fight, Matthews showcased his improved striking speed and snap against a legitimate power kickboxer.
Additionally, “The Celtic Kid” still has strong and reliable wrestling, which he can use to get the fight to the mat, especially at the end of rounds. Previously, Matthews struggled to transition from striking to wrestling; but, with his improved hands, he can chain his striking into his wrestling. This possible path to victory, considering the previous way to beat Matthews, was to stuff takedown and make him fight a technical kickboxing match. Now, Matthews can hang and even find success on the feet while still able to secure important minutes on the mat.
Semelsberger is a willing and aggressive slugger who struggles with the technical side of striking. He has real power in his hands and is able to explode with combinations that, if they land, can end the fight. He strikes with a contradictory blitz volume approach. Statistically, Semelsberger lands with high volume; but, during a fight, he tends to sit and wait for an opportunity, then blitzes forward with a big combination. This results in his stats showing high volume; but, in reality, Semelsberger tends to fight with more bouts of inactivity than expected. In short, Semelsberger is a powerful and explosive boxer with good hands and a good chin, but he could benefit from more consistent activity and better footwork. Because Semelsberger tends to wait and then burst, he will, at times, stand still or move linearly. Technical and fundamental s
trikers have been able to capitalize when Semelsberger stands still, as a stationary target, or moves linearly in a predictable way. Just like his striking, Semelsberger’s wrestling is successful when he’s offensive, but he struggles defensively. Semelsberger was an ex-D1 football player, so, unsurprisingly, he knows how time a shot and get a guy down. His wrestling, like his striking, relies on athleticism and timing over technique. Defensively, though, “Semi The Jedi” struggles to keep the fight standing. The bottom line, Semelsberger is a dangerous and fun brawler who can win fights with explosive movements but tends to lose them against more technical and multidimensional fighters.
This is really Matthews’ fight to lose. He can win on the feet behind is jab and superior footwork, sticking and moving for 15 minutes while Semelsberger chases him around the cage. Further, Matthews has a significant edge in wrestling and should be able to get the fight to the mat whenever he wants. The only danger is if Matthews gets caught in a brawl with the more athletic and powerful Semelsberger. This fight will test Matthews’ fight IQ and restraint. I anticipate him passing with flying colors. I prefer him in parlays, but as a straight play, I like Matthews to get the fight down and get Semelsberger out.
Pick: Matthews by submission
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.