UFC 294 takes place in Abu Dhabi this Saturday and features a sure-fired banger on the prelims between Trevor Peek and Mohammad Yahya.
These are two resilient, hard-hitting Lightweights who rely heavily on their toughness to outlast their opponents and often make some stellar comebacks in fights that have looked lost.
This never-say-die attitude has made them both fan favorites in their respective regional scenes, but they’ll be in Yahya’s backyard this weekend.
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The odds opened with Yahya as the favorite but have steadily shifted towards Louisiana’s Trevor Peek. Peek currently sits as the favorite, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see it even out before it closes.
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Mohammad Yahya is the current UAE Warriors Lightweight champion and the first Emirati fighter to make it to the UFC. Yahya is 29 years old with a pro record of 12-3, winning seven by knockout. Yahya is a durable fighter and carries good power in his counters. He mainly sticks to jabs and crosses when he’s moving forward but likes to switch stances on occasion to attack the body kick from southpaw. His right hand is his best weapon; he carries a lot of power in it and has been fairly accurate with it in his time with UAE Warriors.
He likes to counter strike as well but when he’s looking to do so, he plants his feet, doesn’t move his head and waits for his opponent to throw. Though there are times he’s quick enough to the target to land the better shots, he’s often not fast enough to land anything flush in between his opponent’s strikes. His best counter I’ve seen is his rear knee when he’s trapped along the cage and his opponent crashes in. He has good timing to land it to the mid-section cleanly which often gives him the ability to reverse position along the cage as his opponent recovers.
Leg kicks have proven to be an issue for Yahya. His opponents have found a ton of success in attacking his front leg; he rarely tries to check and often it looks like he doesn’t even see it. They didn’t target the leg nearly as much as they should’ve considering the damage done after just a few; I expect fighters at the UFC level to quickly this area of his defense along with his chin. Though he’s been able to survive getting rocked to come back for a win on more than one occasion, he can’t afford to be as defensively vulnerable at the UFC-level.
Yahya’s grappling game is far from perfect but when he’s in top position, he uses his head to generate pressure on the chest of his opponent to keep himself in control. He doesn’t work too hard to transition past half guard; he likes to go for ground n pound even when his opponent gives him ways to pass from here to mount or side control where he could hunt submissions.
His defensive struggles continue on the ground as well where he relies on explosive movements to reverse positions or cause scrambles. In his last fight, he got caught deep in a guillotine and was able to escape but struggled to do so and made mistakes that would’ve led to a finish against a higher level grappler.
His opponent is the always entertaining Trevor Peek. Peek has quickly become a fan favorite with his backyard brawl style which has earned him a knockout in each of his eight pro wins. At 28 years old, Peek has shown small improvements to make his game more technical, but he still largely relies on heart, strength and determination to win.
Peek’s striking is built around his kicks. He comes out with heavy low kicks that he loads up on before using this same wind up motion to set up his heavy right hand. He comes forward with pressure almost always, except when he’s trying to catch his breath. He throws wild shots trying to take the head off his opponent, often throwing awkward downward hammerfists to try to hit his moving target from in tight. He likes to throw high kicks in space as well which carry a lot of power but we see less of them as he gasses.
The defense of Trevor Peek is his offense. The wind up on his punches gives his opponents chances to counter and catch him before he throws, but he just resets and goes again with a little head movement. He’s as tough as they come and refuses to back down from a slugfest, even when he’s being outstruck. We saw this determination against Malik Lewis on the Contender Series where Peek was all but finished in the first round before rallying late in the round before earning the TKO in round two. This determination has been huge for his success but with the amount of damage he takes, it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught defenseless and is knocked out.
Peek’s grappling has shown slight improvements with the addition of some reversals from the bottom position but, like his striking, he still relies heavily on being explosive and simply standing up, likely making Derrick Lewis very proud. Chepe Mariscal found a lot of success with throws from the body lock to get Peek down where he was able to work to the back and attack a rear naked choke, but Peek was able to escape and force the fight back to the feet.
All of these explosive movements wear on fighters and often zap their energy before the third round. That’s no exception for Peek as he’s visibly exhausted before the first round is even over. He gives poor visuals to the judges with his hands on his hips or hanging on the cage, trying to get a small break from the furious pace he refuses to stray from. His strikes come in slower and he’s even easier to hit in between his strikes but his pace barely slows. He pushes through exhaustion until he can sense his opponent getting worn down and then turns up the pressure even higher, knowing that they’ll likely break if he just keeps coming forward and throwing with power.
Neither of these fighters are going to be the go-to film study to learn quality technique but they make for fun fights and have found a way to be successful to this point regardless. Both guys are extremely tough and eat a lot of damage to dish out their own, so I’m expecting a war here with little technical aspects to break down.
There are two keys that I believe could play a huge role in the outcome however. For Peek, it’ll be the kicks. His leg kicks are very powerful and he can shorten the wind up just a bit, he’ll find the mark with them consistently against Yahya. Yahya has struggled to react to or even see the low kick and his leg stays firmly planted, allowing his opponent to dish out maximum damage. If Peel commits to targeting the front leg, it won’t take long before it opens up the head kick and right hand.
For Yahya, I’d like to see him utilize his knees. Peek uses a lot of dipping head movement when he’s advancing and he’s been caught with knees up the middle in these situations on multiple occasions. When Peek gets aggressive and gets past the straight punching range of Yahya, Mohammad should have opportunities to land it. He’s flashed this knee along the cage in UAE Warriors; he times it well and has found success landing it to the body. If Peek gets too drastic with the head movement, it’ll likely be the technique that ends the fight.
The line movement has shifted dramatically over the last week; Peek opened as a +142 underdog but has since risen to a respectable -158 favorite. This fight could go either way with both men having poor cardio but a will to continue and throw heavy shots. Peek seems like the stronger fighter and, unlike Yahya, he moves forward regardless of how tired he is.
Yahya has shown to shell up along the cage when he begins to get tired and Peek will jump all over these opportunities to swarm with strikes. Yahya’s wrestling doesn’t seem to be strong enough to control Peek for long and this will continue to wear on the gas tank of the debuting Yahya.
Outside of getting caught with the knee as he enters, I’m confident Peek gets it done. Yahya’s tough, but he’s been knocked out before and dropped on even more occasions, so Peek to win by knockout feels like a good bet. However, I’m happy to get Peek at under -200 so I’ll take him on the moneyline.
Prediction: Trevor Peek to win (-158 at BetUS)