Both men set to meet in the final bout on the preliminary card Saturday have been the bearers of bad luck as of late. Abdul Razak Alhassan and Alessio Di Chirico were both initially booked separately for UFC on ESPN 30, but both lost their opponents to withdrawals.
In a turn of events the two shall face off against each other in a middleweight match. Alhassan who was previously preparing for Jiu Jitsu standout Antonio Braga Neto will now try his hand at the much more well-rounded Italian. He is coming off a rough patch in his career losing three straight but remains always dangerous with incredible power in his hands.
Di Chirico who was first booked to fight UFC newcomer Aliaskhab Khizriev, also found himself on a three-fight skid but had managed to rebound with his most recent fight ending when Di Chirico knocked out Joaquin Buckley with a kick. He will ride this momentum into his fight Saturday.
Di Chirico vs. Alhassan betting odds
Di Chirico will enter the decently sized favorite coming off his stunning KO.
- Di Chirico: – 245
- Alhassan: +205
Di Chirico vs. Alhassan breakdown
The most dangerous element of Alhassan’s game is no secret to anyone. With great firepower in his hands, all ten of his wins have come by knockout and all in the first round. We’ve seen him come out guns blazing, chomping at the bit to burst forward and we have also seen him come out more patient. The common factor is always his ability to move forward right away, rarely giving up space regardless of pace.
This is because Alhassan knows that few men would be wise to test their power against his, and in an equal exchange of strikes, he has the better gamble. In terms of pure technique, he utilizes his wide hooks from both sides. He stands in a longer stance than most, and whip his shots from slightly further back, so that the punches connect at a bit of an angle less horizontal than a pure hook, when coming from both sides this is difficult to block, especially with the power behind it of Alhassan. More recently, this strategy faltered when meeting one of the few who could match his power in Khaos Williams who knocked out the aggressive Ghanaian.
When Alhassan tires later, we have also seen him switch from orthodox to southpaw and look to counter often with the lead right hook. It seems this approach, done also as he backs up later in the fight, is a means to reserve energy.
Although coming from a Judo background, Alhassan has not found the same kind of success on the mat that he has on the feet. It has rather acted more as a safety net, allowing him to scramble and stay defensively sound against submission attempts. His most recent string of losses, saw him lose the positional battle and fail to mount any offense of his own from the ground because he found himself constantly defending although defending well.
Di Chirico has shown a much more patient approach off the bat. Look for him to give space, and pick apart his opponents with short leg kicks, as well as throw out kicks to the body and head. While doing this he stays engaged but gives up enough room to draw out a bit of a chase, at which points he times a sniping right hand down the pipe.
Di Chirico has also shown an ability in the past to time his takedowns well from striking positions. He changes levels into double legs off of boxing sequences with good reactions. He has not had the same success necessarily controlling all of his opponents once getting them there, but just the threat of the takedown will be an important factor against Alhassan. In order to not allow Alhassan to find his rhythm and pressure Di Chirico towards the fence, it would be smart for the Italian to mix in a takedown early enough to get Alhassan considering it. By doing so, Alhassan will have to be wary of walking into both strikes or the takedown as he advances.
Di Chirico vs. Alhassan prediction
Di Chirico will have to weather an early storm, stay on his bike and use his movement to avoid the knockout from Alhassan’s end. However, if he can do this and keep Alhassan guessing, I believe he can drag him into deeper waters, slow him down and either find the knockout or accumulate points on the ground.
Prediction: Di Chirico to defeat Alhassan
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.