Super prospect, Ilia “El Matador” Topuria is only 25 years old but has an undefeated professional record and has turned heads in his 3-0 start in the UFC. He won his debut via decision and then follow with back to back 1st round knockout finishes. His opponent, Jai “The Black Country Banger” Herbert is 33 and has an 11-3 pro record. Inside the promotion, he is 1-2 with all 3 fights ending by finish.
Topuria is one of the biggest favorites on the card with an 81% implied win probability.
- Topuria: -435
- Herbert: +335
Topuria is not just a prospect who is expected to reach the rankings, many people, myself included, believe he will eventually be a title contender. The biggest question mark in Topuria’s illustrious career is his weight. Prior to the UFC, Topuria fought at bantamweight but regularly missed weight. Then, in his first 3 UFC fights, he fought at featherweight. But, because of weight issues again, this week he is fighting at lightweight. This is a concerning trend. Once he steps off the scale and into the octagon, though, Topuria’s hype is understood. Topuria is a pressure heavy fighter who is very good anywhere he decides the fight will go. On the feet, he boasts technical and explosive boxing behind a high and intelligent guard. He throws in combination while moving forward and lands with real pop. Topuria’s wrestling and grappling are his specialties. Topuria is strong and technical when hunting takedowns, averaging 3.3 attempts per fight. Once on the mat, Topuria chains devastating ground and pound with lethal submissions fluidly. Said another way, once the fight hits the mat, he often gets the finish.
Herbert, too, is an impressive striker. He is tall for the division and often has a significant reach advantage, especially in this matchup. Herbert, typically, has a lower volume approach where he uses feints and footwork to set up his straight shots. His striking is clean, with minimal wasted movement, and Herbert has a wide variety of attacks. However, Herbert struggles against pressure and can get backed into the cage, where his reach advantage is nullified. When he flurries back, Herbert will often over-extend on his shots and leave himself open to a counter punch or takedown. When it comes to eating those shots or stuffing those attempts, Herbert is especially vulnerable. He has been knocked out in 1 of his 3 UFC fights and has only stopped 30% of takedown attempts. In a strict striking match where Herbert can build momentum on his schedule, he has talent; but, the blueprint on beating him is out: pressure and wrestle.
If anyone can pressure and wrestle well, it is Topuria. Assuming he fixes his weight issues, I really anticipate him fighting for the featherweight strap in 3-4 years, his game is that complete and that dangerous. In this fight, I anticipate him crashing distance early, dropping or taking Herbert down, and getting the finish soon after.
Prediction: Topuria by first-round finish