The UFC returns to the Apex on February 19 for the second Fight Night of 2022. While Johnny Walker and Jamahal Hill headline the card, one of the most exciting matchups announced on the card is between KO artists Joaquin Buckley and Abdul Razak Alhassan. Both men are known for giving fans highlight-reel knockouts and always gunning for the performance of the night bonuses.
Buckley last fought in September when he defeated Antonio Arroyo by third-round KO. This was a “bounce-back” win after losing to Alessio Di Chirico beforehand but still puts him at 3-1 in his last 4 fights, and adds to his perfect 100% KO record in all his UFC wins. This is Along with his knockout of Jordan Wright and the infamous jumping back kick finish of Impa Kasanganay that blew up virally in 2020.
Abdul Razak Alhassan is no slouch when it comes to KO finishes either; however, with every win on his professional record, 11 and counting, coming by both knockout and in the first round. After earning himself a respectable UFC record of 4-1 between 2016 and 2018, Alhassan fell on a difficult time in his career, losing thrice in a row, unprecedented for him, and putting his contract in jeopardy. However, this past summer, he managed to snap the streak, securing another first-round KO over Alessio Di Chirico, the same man to beat Buckley last. On Saturday, Alhassan looks to extend his wins and go on his second winning streak in the UFC.
Buckley will play the favorite in this clash of KO artists.
- Buckley: -146
- Alhassan: +124
Joaquin Buckley has a bit of a hybrid style between short explosive peekaboo style boxing and light-footed traditional martial arts. He fights out of the southpaw stance and can pop out his front leg sidekick from the outer range, but when he looks to step into the pocket, he goes heavy on the lead leg, bobbing and weaving his way in. He is on the shorter end of the spectrum in the division and so coming up with his hooks, over-hands and uppercuts are a given as he weaves in but it also puts extra pop on his punches. This, plus his particular explosiveness and speed is a deadly combination.
However, his height has been the cause for concern in the past, with Buckley finding difficulty against some rangier fighters who can counter him on entry, especially if they dictate the gap with kicks. Specifically, those who can fight well moving backward to consistently maintain the gap in reach.
One of the ways Buckley can counter this issue is when he is able to explode forward and catch his opponent between the cage and himself. When he does this, he is very good at winning the battle for head position as he is naturally at a level at which he can get under the chin and apply immense pressure while keeping his posture relatively natural and strong. This is important because while he may look to complete the takedown, being able to control the clinch positions also allows him to break away and look to land his close-range boxing, the most dangerous aspect of his game.
While Buckley is known as one of the faster and harder hitters in the division, if there is anyone who even overshadows him in these areas it’s Alhassan. With all of his wins coming by first-round KO, it’s no secret that he leans on his immense power in almost all his fights. A key factor in most of Alhassan’s fights is he likes to control the center of the cage immediately, he doesn’t always come out at a high pace, nor is he always very patient, but regardless being able to control the octagon allows him to choose and work with whichever he decides.
He punches at odd angles from far away, often throwing wide hooks that connect from a tad further than what you would see normally, this makes his power even more terrifying as his unusual method of landing is unpredictable. However, as evident by his record for first-round wins, Alhassan does not improve as time runs on.
Alhassan has been known to tire if his power doesn’t get the job done early enough and when this happens, he will switch stance and look to lay back and counter with his right hook instead of leading in his orthodox stance with the rear power hand. This conserves energy as his punch becomes shorter, and he looks to time his opponent’s shot rather than explode forward with his own.
He also has a judo background, although it hasn’t been showcased much in the octagon so far, acting instead more so as a skill set to fall back on in scrambles and when he finds himself defending submissions. He should have the grappling advantage on paper against Buckley, but it’s not likely fans will see much of this because neither will likely look to take it there.
It’s always a bit of a gamble when two men with such power meet in the octagon. I believe the most telling factor will be the range control. If Buckley gets on the inside and catches Alhassan either close or as Alhassan tries to move backward, that’s his best bet. This becomes even more likely as the fight goes on, and Alhassan reserves himself to the back foot more often. For Alhassan, even though his reach is slightly shorter, his ability to lean out of range will probably put him at a slight advantage outside, but if history tells anything, he will likely want to end this earlier than later.
I think Buckley manages to get out of the first and win sometime in rounds two or three.
Prediction: Joaquin Buckley to win
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.