High-ceiling prospect Kyler Phillips (9-2) will look to get back into the win column and re-enter the contention for top-15 bantamweight status with a win over the entertaining veteran, Marcelo Rojo (16-7). Each man enjoys putting on a show for the fans – of the combined 25 wins, only 4 have come via judges’ scorecards – henceforth, Uncle Dana put these two on the main card of a PPV event. Do not be surprised if you see an electrifying finish that results in a performance of the night bonus on a stacked card from beginning to end.
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Phillips is a sizable -400 favorite over Rojo.
- Phillips: -400
- Rojo: +300
Phillips is an extremely talented fighter with limitless ability. Whether it be an electrifying head kick or a wrestle-dominate fight, Phillips’ skills are truly elite. The issue, for him, and the reason for his loss against formerly ranked bantamweight, Raulian Paiva, is his limitless ability can result in having poor fight IQ. For example, in his loss to Paiva, Phillips decided to use abnormal strikes – spinning kicks, flying knees, etc. – that ultimately gassed himself out. I believe, as the odds indicate, that his recent loss will prove to be beneficial in future fights, as poor fight IQ, for a highly-skilled fighter, is easily fixed. If Phillips does in fact learn from his previous performance, he should be able to re-begin his climb up the bantamweight division given his striking is one that utilizes frequent movement with lightning-quick strikes and his grappling can prove effective against extremely high-end, non-grappling centric fighters – an example being Song Yadong, whom Phillip’s holds a win over.
Unlike Phillips’ propensity to showcase odd, but impressive strikes, Rojo is one that looks to utilize basic striking in a pressure-oriented manner. In his only UFC fight, Rojo showed well early against a solid, creative striker in Charles Jourdain. In this bout, Rojo sought to pressure the striker by rushing in with big hooks, and once there, he threw in combinations with all-out power. His high-pressured mindset is inherently indicative of him having good dirty boxing. The issue, for Rojo, is that the high-pressure mindset faded as the fight went on, and given he used much of his gas tank early by throwing with all-out power, Rojo was able to be finished in the third round. The question, for Rojo, will be if he can keep the pressure on Phillips from start to finish, as he will need to negate distance to ensure Phillips cannot utilize creative and damaging striking.
Phillips is the better fighter in the matchup. He has far better distance striking and grappling compared to Rojo. Although technically better, Rojo does have a clear path to victory – pressure Phillips to be able to land his powerful striking early in the fight. For this reason, if Rojo gets the victory, it should happen early in the fight, if not, his gas tank will likely be depleted the same way it was against Jourdain. All in all, I anticipate Phillips being able to utilize his elite movement on the feet to combat the pressure-oriented style of Rojo. Moreover, Phillips has the skills necessary to take Rojo down, and once there, he should be able to inflict damaging strikes. Whether it be a ground and pound finish or a finish on the feet once Rojo depletes his gas tank, I foresee Phillips finishing the fight.
Bet: Phillips inside the distance
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.