In his first two UFC fights, Bryan Battle took on and defeated his fellow ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ contestants Gilbert Urbina and Tresean Gore. His first test at a UFC caliber fighter outside of his TUF season will come by way of Takashi Sato, a former title challenger from Pancreas, who also owns two UFC victories, both by TKO.
The Japanese fighter is coming off two losses, however, most recently at the hands of Gunnar Nelson in March. He desperately needs a win if he hopes to recapture a winning record in the UFC eventually, and to do so, he will be looking to continue his 100% UFC finishing rate by taking out Battle within the three-round limit.
On a two-fight win streak, Battle will ride his momentum into the fight as the -280 favorite over Sato.
The two men’s styles are incredibly different from one another. On the feet, Sato stands and fights like a traditional martial artist, although his background is in kickboxing. He stands sideways and long as one would expect of a karateka, and his most prominent weapon is his left reverse punch from the southpaw stance. He bounces in and out of range very fluidly, but he tends to throw just one or two punches at a time, looking to snipe his opponent rather than set up combinations. He does, however, have a very crisp 1-3-2 or jab-lead hook-left cross when he throws it. He also tends to hand fight or slap away his opponent’s lead guard to set up the angle for his left cross.
Bryan Battle, on the other hand, is all about the volume. He stands tall in a Thai boxing stance and begins his fights skirting the edge of the cage with a wide variety of kicks; typically, this includes roundhouses to the head, body, and legs, with teeps to the midsection thrown in to chip away at his opponent’s gas tank while maintaining a safe range until he chooses to engage in the pocket. He uses lateral movement tremendously, never letting his opponent set and get off more than one combination at a time in the same spot. However, while he has a higher output than Sato, Sato’s ability to snipe out his cross and cause enough damage to TKO most of his opponents is not reflected in the power of battle. The issue he has faced is that even when he can get off more often than his opponents, opponents have been able to hang in the fight on the scorecards by making up the difference in damage.
In terms of grappling, Battle has a ‘wear you down style, which is not the most technical, but by relentlessly chaining takedowns and strikes together, he eventually drags his opponents down on the third or fourth try. Largely when he is on the receiving end of grappling exchanges, he can be manhandled to a degree, but his ability to make it out to the other side, having constantly defended, puts him in a good place against gassing opponents. He is continually jockeying for position so that nothing gets off on him for free. However, one of the recurring issues he had against Urbina, in particular, was when they were both fresh, he gave up the back clinch more often than one would usually. This is mainly because he is not significantly explosive, so early in the fight, he is more susceptible to sharp takedowns than once both men are rallying through some exhaustion.
Sato’s grappling background is in his judo. He has heavy hips, which makes elevation takedowns very difficult to pull off on him, but like Battle, he has shown a weakness to back takers. In general, he is difficult to clinch because his bouncing footwork allows him to retract when his opponent bursts in looking to get a hold on him, but if timed when he explodes, the level changes could be there. He is very good at striking during scrambles and exciting chain scenarios. If there is one major hole to fill, it’s potential submission awareness, especially rear-naked chokes.
This is a fascinating matchup of styles. It makes sense that Bryan Battle is the favorite, being the more active and recently successful fighter. However, I believe the real key to this fight is experience. Both of Battle’s previous fights were fought at a very anxious pace, as we have seen from TUF contestants trying to make a name for themselves.
Essentially Battle isn’t a very refined fighter but is continuously adding to his tool kit, and he has the grit to push through those challenges when young fighters butt heads. Yet, I think those openings that Gore and Urbina weren’t able to capitalize on will be much more available to a composed fighter like Sato, who is also known for his accuracy and power. He has his back to the wall but will have to fight a disciplined fight and take advantage of Battle early while forcing him to fight at a distance and pace that’s less chaotic. Largely I think this is where the difference between having 20 fights behind you vs. having eight will come into play.
Pick: Takashi Sato to win (+210 odds at BetUS)