Luis Saldana enters the UFC octagon for the third time following his 2020 knockout on Dana White’s Contender Series. In the UFC, the 31-year-old featherweight is 1-1 with both fights ending by decision. Bruno “The Tiger” Souza is five years younger and 0-1 in the UFC. He dropped his debut via decision to bring his professional record to 10-2.
Saldana opened as a respectable favorite but the money has moved the line in Souza’s favor.
- Saldana: -115
- Souza: -115
Saldana entered the UFC with some hype; he is tall, long, a talented striker, solid grappler, and finishes fights. More specifically, Saldana often strikes in boxing range where he can land flowy combinations while moving his feet well. At kicking range, Saldana has a wide variety of kicks in his arsenal, but, his best attack is a snapping leg kick. Offensively, we’ve seen Saldana use his length well, smoothly move in the octagon, land heavy shots, often on his way to a finish. However, Saldana struggles in two key areas: against pressure and with his own cardio. When forced to fight off his back foot, Saldana tends to back straight up on the center line and throw ill-advised counter shots. He struggles to break the pressure and get the fight back at his range and pace. Saldana fighting at his pace is important because he has shown, consistently, that he slows in the 3rd round. Ultimately, Saldana is a talented fighter but has not combined that natural talent with consistent skills, cardio, or fight IQ.
Souza is a karate-style fighter who will likely draw comparisons to Wonderboy for their similar background and style. The issue with that common comparison is Wonderboy has climbed the mountain and is the highest echelon of karate-style fighters, Souza is not. Souza has a kick-heavy approach, often using long prodding kicks to gauge distance and point fight from range. He moves well laterally but often will stay on his bicycle for too long, moving around the edge of the cage, without any significant offensive output. Further, Souza prefers to act as a counter striker who looks to trap his opponents into a particular spot so he can land a kick, follow it up with a 1,2 combination, and exit back on his bike. His movement is smooth, cardio is consistent, and kicking game is varied. However, Souza’s biggest issue is that his style is more akin to a sparring partner testing his partner’s movement and ability to crash distance rather than a flowy karate-focused killer. If he can turn on the aggression, though, Souza’s unique style could pose issues Saturday night.
This fight is testing each man’s biggest weakness. Saldana’s cardio and decision-making will be tested by Souza’s movement. Souza’s hesitancy to plant and throw will be tested by Saldana consistently moving forward. In a fight where both men are flawed, I side with the fighter who I can trust will move forward and look to land compared to the one looking to move and point fight.
Prediction: Saldana by decision
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.