Perhaps the most undervalued matchup on the entire card is set for an early prelim bout when borderline top 15 lightweights enter the octagon. Alexander Hernandez (13-4) will look to build some momentum after a quick finishing victory in his last fight when he squares off against former top 5 and perennial title challenger of the featherweight division, Renato Moicano (15-4-1). The skillsets of both men are extremely high-level wherever the bout goes, so this is one that you need to circle and ensure you do not miss.
Fight fans can order the UFC 271 PPV to watch every fight live this Saturday night including the Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker title fight.
Moicano is a relative -180 favorite against Hernandez.
- Hernandez: +145
- Moicano: -165
Hernandez is an extremely well-rounded mixed martial artist. As such, when he fights, he typically elects to choose the attacks that bring forth the largest disparity in talent between him and his opponent. On the feet, Hernandez moves frequently in and out of range with lightning-quick attacks. When inside, he has the ability to land crisp and damaging blows with his hands; when at the range, he has solid kickboxing where he likes to use his movement to distract his opponent, and then, land a damaging leg kick. In total, his striking attributes are what one would expect from a well-rounded fighter in an extremely difficult top 15 lightweight division.
As with many fighters looking to establish themselves as ranked lightweights, Hernandez has strong grappling as well. His style is far more of the traditional clinch-wrestle approach than shooting from distance to secure a double or single-leg. When clinched, Hernandez typically has the strength advantage over his opponent, enabling him to lock his hands and out-strength his opponent to the mat. As stated prior, he does have increasingly strong fight IQ, given he may elect to forego a given attack depending upon what his opponent does well, an example being him not wrestling the extremely dangerous submission threat of Thiago Moises. In this matchup, I anticipate Hernandez seeking to keep the entire fight on the feet, given Moicano’s reputation on the mat. If Hernandez’s 62% TD def fails him, the style of ground fighter he is may prove ineffective on the bottom position.
Moicano, similar to Hernandez, is an extremely well-rounded fighter. Prior to making the move up in weight, Moicano was a top-ranked featherweight, having fought the likes of Ortega, Aldo, Kattar, the Korean Zombie, and many more. The interesting fact, and one that cannot go overlooked, is in each of the listed opponent matchups, Moicano was either the favorite or an extremely short dog. The reasoning for him being so respected among Las Vegas oddsmakers and bettors alike is due to his well-roundness, and even more importantly, his excellence on the mat – of his 15 professional wins, 8 have come via submission all by way of rear-naked choke. Combine his rear-naked choke finishing capabilities with a 60% takedown success rate, and the result is one that nets Moicano as one of the most dangerous grapplers in the UFC. Although dangerous, the question, for Moicano, will be if his chin can hold up, given many of his recent losses, albeit to elite fighters, have come via TKO/KO. Hernandez may not have the striking acumen of these opponents, but he does possess fast hands that do land cleanly.
At first glance, Moicano’s solid striking, elite grappling, and battle-tested career should net the prediction that he can get the win over solid, but not currently elite, Hernandez. However, when taking a deeper dive into the matchup, Hernandez cannot go overlooked given he is battle-tested in his own right – has a win over perennial title challenger, Beneil Dariush – and he seems to be coming into his prime. Although both men have cause for predicting victory over the other given each are truly well-rounded and dangerous fighters, I am electing to back the fighter who has seemingly overcome his youthful mistakes, to now, entering his prime as a fighter contrary to the fighter who is seeking to re-find success in a somewhat new division.
You can order the UFC 271 PPV on ESPN+ here to watch Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 and the entire fight card live this Saturday, January 12 in the United States.