UFC on ESPN 31 Prediction: Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic breakdown, betting odds 1

Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic will feature this weekend on UFC on ESPN 31, at the tail-end of the preliminary card. The fight holds high stakes for both men who currently reside on losing streaks but have shown the ability and skill to hang with some of the world’s best. Pitolo, a Contender Series alumni, first created buzz among fans when he destroyed Charles Byrd in the second round of their fight. Since then, he has shown an ability to not only hang with the UFC’s big names but even dominate before being caught in momentary lapses and being finished. This Saturday he will be tested, and have to show whether he can use his skills while leaving no openings for his opponent.

Dusko Todorovic came into the UFC also fresh off of the Contender Series in 2020, as an undefeated prospect known for his finishing ability. However, following his debut win over Dequan Townsend, it seems Todorovic realized that stopping this next level of competition is much harder than his fights pre-UFC. Now he looks to up his level and prove that he can get to a point where he can recreate the destruction from outside, in the world’s biggest MMA promotion.

Pitolo vs. Todorovic betting odds

Maki Pitolo will enter the bout as the +140 underdog. A wager of $100 will return a profit of $140 if he can make the upset win happen.

  • Pitolo: +140
  • Todorovic: -170

Pitolo vs. Todorovic Breakdown

Maki Pitolo has shown a variety of skills in the octagon. First and foremost he is feared for his boxing prowess. Light on the feet, with great fluidity and crisp hands, Pitolo has shown immense ability to mix up his striking and work relentlessly, breaking down his opponents to the head, body, and legs. Just looking at the Hawaiian, it is evident that his stature is unlike most fighters, short for the division, but with thick legs that act to generate a lot of force in his punches, and because his power comes from his base, although he throws to touch there is always some heaviness in his shots. Likewise, although he doesn’t throw 100% power behind every punch, his relentless boxing does leave space for his hard kicks to finish his combinations, often to the legs and body.

In terms of how he breaks down opponents, Pitolo is great and shifts in and out of range until he can pressure his opponent to the fence, where from the pocket he is great and slipping in and working the body with hooks, or transitioning to a pressure heavy grappling style. This style is a mix of dropping low for double leg takedowns or tying up the upper body and tripping his opponents over his powerful base, both with lunging trips and sweeps from back clinch.

On the bottom, he uses heavy hips to spread his base and control his opponent, especially in half guard where he can work to punish his opponents with ground and pound. For the most part, Pitolo, both standing and grappling likes to slowly cook his opponents by controlling distance or position, and beat them down with strikes while not putting himself in much danger of being beaten back.

The largest hole in his game is his habit of putting his neck in danger for the purpose of taking his opponent down. While this is a clear weakness on his record, having been submitted by choke more than any other way he has lost, it’s something he needs to very much address. Throughout Pitolo’s fights, even the ones that he has won, having to scramble out of chokes is a common occurrence. It seems Pitolo is confident in his ability to do so because more than often he does, but because he risks these positions at some point, his defense works until it doesn’t. Figuring out how to avoid this while looking for a takedown should be his number one priority in training, but if it isn’t that largely the most vulnerable area for Todorovic to exploit.

Todorovic is a unique fighter with unique movement. He utilizes head movement far more than any form of blocking, allowing him to slip and weave into unorthodox position and land with immense whipping power, especially with his overhangs and hooks. The way he moves is untraditional, with very low rolls, and a lot of leaning offline and backward, but because of this, he does tend to take some of the power off of his opponent’s punches even if they do land to some degree. In particular, he likes the overhand, to roll through the right exit.

Often you will also see him engage, engage again and on the third or fourth exchange, look to slip or roll and burst forward with multiple steps, driving his opponents back across the octagon. He does this with switch-hitting and looping overhands.

The problem with his style of striking, especially against Pitolo, is that unless he has Pitolo hurt, his large amount of upper body movement is taxing. Pitolo’s ability to box cleanly and relentlessly will force Todorovic to move a lot, and if he cannot deter Pitolo with his one or two big counters, this style will wear on him. However, another strength of his is constant feinting, and if this can slow down Pitolo it can somewhat negate this problem.

In terms of grappling, he has a great double leg but not the most refined technique on the ground. You will often see him have some basic trouble cleanly transitioning and sometimes he will lose some control, however, to make up for this Todorovic is always looking to strike on the mat. By doing so, he doesn’t allow his opponents to engage in technical groundwork and forces them to squirm and panic as he picks away at them.

Pitolo vs. Todorovic prediction

Ultimately, both men have skills that pose a great threat to one another. However, Pitolo’s biggest weakness is not one that I think Todorovic can particularly exploit with his style, and I think that Todorovic has to bank on being able to hurt Pitolo enough to alleviate his pressure striking. Technically, I think that Pitolo is crisper and will be able to wear down Todorovic with a combination of his boxing and wrestling.

Prediction: Maki Pitolo to win via TKO

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