UFC Fight Night 200, headlined by Sean Strickland and Jack Hermansson will feature a fascinating match-up between two rising welterweights. Phil Rowe, just two fights into his UFC career after an impressive knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series, has broken onto the scene with his hard-nosed striking style and creative grappling. On the other hand, it has been the textbook high-level wrestling of Jason Witt which has earned him his established spot within the world’s top MMA promotion.
This fight is an interesting puzzle to be solved for either fighter, Witt, a man seemingly unable to lose a decision, and Rowe a finishing artist who often allows himself to lose a round in order to hunt the knockout or submission. Jason Witt as of now has dominated his way to victory in his fights, having gone to the judges’ scorecards 7 times with 7 wins. Rowe may have lost in both times that the clock has run out on him but in all 8 of his wins, every single one has come within the time allotted. Will Jason Witt be able to maintain his dominating style for three rounds once again? Will Phil Rowe capture the perfect moment and end Witt’s night? Or will, as so often in the case in MMA, something happen totally unexpected.
Although Witt comes in as more the veteran fighter, the young and hungry Rowe will come in as the decent favorite to win.
- Rowe: -168
- Witt: +142
Rowe’s most obvious advantage is his 80.5-inch reach which extends generally further than most in his division. However it’s not just the case that he has it, but further that he knows how to use it extremely well. On the feet, he knows how to work both forward and back, particularly when he chooses to shift back to avoid his opponent’s range, he is great at maintaining the distance he needs to still counter. However, while he is great at throwing offense as he advances, he has a tendency at points to end up charging into a clinch rather than maintain his range as he pushes forward. The downside to this is that in the past at points where he may have hurt his opponents, they have been able to survive by clashing into the clinch with him and collecting themselves. His range is also used to land with particular impact, often as he exchanges he may move in close enough to be hit back, but his punches land at a distance where they almost pierce through the target, emphasizing his power. It’s not uncommon to see Rowe land with his punch extending through and whipping his opponent’s head back, visibly clean and sharp. His knees are also sharp but the overhand counters are sometimes there as he throws them with a high posture and low guard.
Grappling-wise, Rowe is a tricky puzzle. He will pull guard if he feels he needs to and it’s often a safe option for him because he is able to tangle up his opponents with unorthodox positions. Off his back he has a particular technique in which he clenches his own forearm under his knee within his closed guard, breaking his opponent’s posture and essentially stalemating the position. While it’s difficult to advance from here, what it does is cause enough frustration to direct his opponents to create openings at which point Rowe’s excellent submission repertoire can be highlighted. The downside is if he cannot open up these opportunities he may find himself running out the clock on his back. Against the cage as well because his base is generally higher than most he finds difficulty in the head position battle.
Witt as mentioned before is good at all but great at wrestling. Within his wrestling what he strives at most is being impactful with his techniques, he won’t simply take someone down but the takedown itself usually causes some sort of damage to influence the fight, whether it’s a slam or immense pressure. The upside to powerful takedowns like slams or blast doubles is that there is sometimes a split moment process on impact for the opponent, this allows Witt to secure position slightly more comfortably and with more force.
Witt is not a seasoned clean striker, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t effective. He would likely have difficulty engaging at striking range with someone of Rowe’s skills but even more so given the reach gap. For Witt, it will be important to use the threat of the takedown to throw his punches and use them more than anything to get to the clinch. Witt’s biggest weapon will be the takedown and his best strikes are often looping overhangs and hooks so he has to be extremely careful of Rowe’s knees. At the same time, because Rowe tends to drop his hands, it will be those overhangs that could get through.
Largely this will be dictated by whether or not Jason Witt can go three rounds without making a mistake. He should have the ability to close the gap and take Rowe down but he has to work through a game plan where he doesn’t take too many risks as Rowe is the kind of fighter that jumps on opportunities. I think that it is Witt’s fight to win, and he has to be able to stay composed and go to his wrestling if he finds himself hurt, but his main goal should be to get to the clinch and not be afraid to spend some time there even if the fight seems dull. I think the route to victory for Witt isn’t the most exciting one but if he can stay on it he should be able to pull out the upset victory.
Prediction: Jason Witt to win via decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.