Predictions: Carlos Ulberg vs. Tafon Nchukwi | UFC on ESPN 38 1

Carlos Ulberg (6-1 professionally; 1-1 in the UFC) is set to fight Tafon Nchukwi (6-2 professionally; 1-2 in the UFC) this weekend at UFC on ESPN 38.

Both Ulberg and Nchukwi are hard-hitting, talented strikers. The issue, and why they have a combined sub .500 record in the UFC is that they have massive inconsistencies in their technique. What is quite interesting, in relation to this specific matchup, is that the major ailment of one is simultaneously the best of the other, so this fight should be one that abruptly ends once the first mistake arises.

Betting Odds

The odds are directly aligned with the belief that this fight is likely to end the second one of the fighters makes a mistake, with Nchukwi listed at -125 against Ulberg who is currently -105.

At the odds listed above, a successful $100 bet on Nchukwi to win would return $180 this weekend. Ulberg promises a great return, too, with a payout of $195 following a winning $100 bet.


Ulberg has the size, speed, power, and overall physique needed to become a superstar in this sport. Moreover, being a close training partner of the UFC middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, makes Ulberg an exciting and marketable prospect for the UFC. With that said, Ulberg has shown major flaws relative to his high-end potential, as such, the UFC is seemingly pumping the breaks on his trajectory up the light heavyweight division, given his opponents to date are nothing to write home about.

To begin with the positives of Ulberg, one need not look any further than him using quick footwork and distance management to abruptly enter the striking range to land damaging blows – choice agnostic relative kicks, knees, elbows, and/or straight punches. The style of keeping range with his large frame and sound footwork is quite intelligent, but, his biggest flaw is the abrupt decision to enter the pocket, as he leaves his chin alarmingly high once he exits back to a “safe” range.

The aforementioned flaw accompanied by an inconsistent cardio display has me pumping the breaks on his ceiling as a fighter; but, if Ulberg learns to keep his chin tight and focus on technique over damage with his strikes, he has a well-rounded game – underrated wrestling – with elite attributes throughout. If Ulberg continues to discount the need for sound defensive technique on the feet, he can get clipped and dropped by just about any UFC light heavyweight currently on the roster, including his current opponent.

Nchukwi began his professional fight career by being a renowned kickboxing champion. This skill set has translated over to MMA, as he has unbelievably powerful kicks that work well off his hands. This biggest issue he has had, and to be quite frank, a surprising issue at that is using footwork and movement in the octagon. Rather than cutting angles and using speed to land strikes, Nchukwi moves like a statute in the sand, whereby he seemingly ignores and/or discounts any strike thrown by his opponent so that he can land his own. Furthermore, Nchukwi has an output issue on the feet, given he wants to land nearly all of his strikes with as much force as possible – this may sound good, but it becomes quite worrisome if the power is not landing cleanly.

With these negatives stated, Nchukwi has gotten better each time he enters the octagon, and that includes his recent KO loss to the DWCS alum, Azamat Murakonov. In that fight, Nchukwi was landing damaging blows throughout and controlling the pace to fit him. The issue, and why I brought up his incredibly slow, statute-like movement, is that Murakonov was able to time a flying knee to come back and win the fight. If Nchukwi can learn from this past performance, particularly with needed quicker bursts, and value the threat of his opponent, he, similarly to Ulberg, has the power and underrated wrestling needed to become a problem within the division.


I believe this fight will be Ulberg’s to lose. His speed will allow him to land before Nchukwi, and if he remains smart, he has the necessary footwork to evade the most damaging blows thrown by his opponent. With that said, Ulberg has shown to be devastatingly countered due to having a high chin, so the solid counterstriking of Nchukwi may prove to be lethal in this match. But, when projecting the winner, I will nearly always side with the faster fight who will be winning the fight, until he doesn’t. As such, I am cautiously backing Ulberg in this matchup.

Pick: Ulberg to win inside the distance (+185 odds at BetUS)

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