After winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2021, Ricky “Pretty Ricky” Turcios dropped his UFC debut via unanimous decision back in July. This brought his professional record to 11-3, with 9 of his 14 fights going to decision. Interestingly, because Turcios also fought and lost on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017, four years before his TUF run, this will be Turcios’ fourth time fighting under the UFC lights. Counting DWCS and TUF, Turcios is 1-2 in the promotion.
Order UFC 281
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira is tonight! Watch every UFC 281 fight here.
- Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
- Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
- Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Kevin “Quicksand” Natividad, 29, is the same age as Turcios but has two fewer professional fights. Natividad is 9-3 as a pro and 0-2 in the UFC. All three of his losses and five of his nine wins have come via knockout. Turcios and Natividad will fight on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 215 fight card.
Turcios opened and has remained steady as a slight favorite ahead of Saturday night.
Turcios has the makings of an exciting and well-rounded fighter who is unafraid of a tough and dirty fight. He has strong wrestling credentials, and many expected him to bring quick single-leg and power double-leg takedowns into the UFC. However, Turcios seems to have fallen in love with his hands and has abandoned his wrestling. Whenever a wrestle-first fighter turns into a striker, he or she often realizes that striking at the highest level is more difficult and dangerous than expected. On the feet, Turcios fights with pressure and aggression. He has solid volume as he perpetually pressures forward, but he is inaccurate and physically limited in his striking. Rather than setting up his shots, Turcios tends to dip his head down, lead with his forehead, and swing big looping shots over and over until his opponent is against the cage. Once against the cage, Turcios doesn’t seem to have a striking game plan. Typically, once fighters get their opponent against the cage, we often see them incorporate Muay Thai knees, slicing elbows, gut-wrenching body shots, or, like in last week’s main event, powerful hooks and uppercuts.
Turcios, on the other hand, appears uncomfortable when the cage stops his ability to move forward. He tends to keep swinging big looping shots which gives his opponent opportunities to exit off the cage. Against fighters with solid counterstriking, Turcios’ linear pressure often results in him chasing his opponent and getting clipped as he does. Fortunately for the young bantamweight, he has reliable cardio and a tough chin which allows him to keep moving forward. In fights where Turcios incorporates his wrestling, he is much more successful. His wrestling, like his striking, is pressure focus and unrelenting. All in all, Turcios is a well-rounded offensive fighter, but his poor fight IQ or game plan, coupled with his physical limitations, put him in danger against any fighter who can respond successfully to linear pressure.
Natividad tends to struggle with pressure. He has legitimate knockout power, but he throws with low volume, lands with low accuracy, has minimal defense, and gets hit easily. Statistically, Natividad lands 2.6 significant strikes per 15 minutes at an unbelievably low 24% accuracy rate while absorbing over four significant strikes in the same timeframe. Typically, Natividad’s approach is to let opponents pressure him forward, back him against the cage, and then he tries to counter an overeager and overextended opponent. This strategy works for some fighters; for example, Derrick Lewis, in the main event tonight, is famous for standing with his back to the cage almost apathetically before he suddenly explodes with elite power and gets the finish. But, even the Black Beast has struggled with this strategy and has been knocked out 7 times.
Natividad, too, has struggled to remain awake in the cage; he’s been knocked out in all of his losses. If Natividad is able to land one of his big counter shots, he is able to put an opponent down and out. But, with his low volume, shaky chin, and poor accuracy, that approach has yet to prove dividen. The x-factor in this fight is if Natividad decides to move forward. If he can land more volume early, he can hurt Turcios and slow the pressure. If that happens, Natividad will be in the driver’s seat for the first time in his UFC career.
This seems like a get-right spot for Turcios. For some reason, the UFC really likes this kid. He was given a shot on DWCS and lost but was brought back for TUF. Then he lost his UFC debut handily but is given a perfect matchup here. Turcios is at his best when he can blindly pressure forward and Natividad has shown no ability to keep pressure opponents off of him. While Turcios’ history suggests a decision, I wouldn’t be surprised if he catches Natividad sometime in the 15 minutes. I’d suggest playing Turcios on the moneyline with confidence, and am willing to sprinkle a bit on him by knockout as well.
Pick: Turcios by knockout (bet now 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.