Prediction: Terrance McKinney vs. Erick Gonzalez | UFC on ESPN 40
Terrance “T-Wrecks” McKinney returns to the octagon after one of the most exciting, action-packed, and high-octane fights of the year. In that fight, McKinney was knocked out in round 1 but nearly got his own finish early in the same round. Most of McKinney’s professional fights have gone a similar way – high action and early finishes.
McKinney, 27, is 12-4 as a professional and 2-1 in the UFC. All of his fights, both wins, and losses, have ended via finish, and only once has he entered the third round. Fourteen of his sixteen fights have ended in the 1st round.
Erick “The Ghost Pepper” Gonzalez, 30, has a 14-6 professional record and is 0-1 in the UFC. Gonzales has eight knockouts, one submission, and five decision wins.
McKinney is the largest favorite on the card and the largest favorite he’s been in his career.
McKinney is electrifying in the octagon. He fights as if the entire match is only five minutes long. Typically, as soon as the ref yells, “fight!” McKinney will blitz forward and start to throw clubbing power punches. While his striking technique is lackluster, his power, pressure, and athleticism more than makeup for his fundamentals.
McKinney has bricks for hands and throws them from his hip. He uses wide, looping, power shots to crack his opponent early. The wide striking allows for his opponent to return fire with a straight cross, but, given McKinney’s immediate pressure and volume, few opponents have the time or opportunity to counter strike. If McKinney drops his opponent, he’ll immediately follow them to the ground and hunt the finish. If he doesn’t drop his opponent striking, he’ll quickly look to shoot a takedown, often following an overhand right and using the natural momentum of the strike to aid in the attempt.
While McKinney’s striking lacks high-level skill, his wrestling is much more polished. McKinney was a Division II college wrestler and knows how to translate his time on the mat to an octagon. Once he gets his opponent down, which is the game plan regardless if it’s a big power shot or an explosive double leg, McKinney continues the pressure on the mat. He will take risks on top, ignoring tactical progression we often see from some wrestlers and many jiu-jitsu artists, in favor of mauling his opponent. If his opponent turns to avoid ground and pound, McKinney can snag a slick submission for the win as well.
Despite the praise above, the success McKinney has had, and the excitement he brings in the octagon, the young lightweight does have flaws. When an opponent, like Dober last time out, can survive the barrage of attacks early, McKinney can gas out during round 1 and be finished himself. If the fight enters round 2, McKinney typically takes the same blitz approach but does not have the cardio to implement it in the same way. Basically, McKinney is an elite “shock and awe” fighter who has proven he has the skill to beat legitimate UFC caliber fighters and beat them emphatically. But, he has yet to show a second level to his game, and as he climbs near or possibly into the rankings, McKinney will need that second level.
Gonzalez fights with a concerning style, given the division he’s in. A lightweight, most fighters are athletic, fast, and can find finishes. Gonzalez typically is a single-shot counter striker who looks for the perfect opportunity to land a heavy strike for the finish. In heavier divisions with slower fighters, lower volume, and less versatile fighters, this approach can carry you along. However, at lightweight, finding a single put-away shot without first losing significant minutes or the fight itself is a tall task.
Striking-wise, Gonzalez’s low-volume counter approach, where he is often backed into the cage, is concerning, but he does have a second layer to his game that is more promising: wrestling. When Gonzalez gets backed into the cage, he can respond with a level change himself. He is a solid wrestler with natural strength and decent timing. This level change can often surprise his opponents because of his passive striking, which only helps Gonzalez with the attempt. Once on the mat, Gonzalez uses his elbows well to hunt the ground and pound finish.
Although, his top game is flawed, and Gonzalez can give up position or get submitted to a fighter with an active guard. Typically, Gonzalez’s path to victory is to evade and absorb volume and counter heavy or wrestle over eager strikers. However, fighters with technical and powerful striking, solid wrestling, and active guards have given Gonzalez fits in the past.
McKinney is better everywhere this fight goes, with the only possible outlier being his cardio since we haven’t really seen him fight longer than one round. That’s because McKinney is an incredibly fast starter who looks for the finish from the opening seconds.
Given McKinney’s style and Gonzalez’s slower approach on the feet, I expect McKinney to, again, take an aggressive approach in this fight and add to his 1st round finish tally.
I like McKinney to rush forward, land heavy, and get the finish with a club and sub in round 1. Normally picking round and method together is a crapshoot, but given the massive odds, betting this fight straight calls for it.
Pick: Terrance McKinney to win by first-round submission (+175 odds at BetUS)
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.