Alateng Heili vs. Kevin Croom at UFC on
Heili, at one point a top 5 wrestler in all of China has proven he is willing to contest the fight anywhere whether it be going to his roots and grappling or swinging with bad intent. Croom likewise is a long and tricky striker who constantly throughout his career has shown an amazing ability to snatch onto submissions at any time. This fight is a great example of why mixed martial arts is so exciting and how many different scenarios can arise.
Alateng will come into the bout as the favorite at -180. This means that it will cost a wager of $180 to earn a profit of $100 should he win.
- Alateng: -180
- Croom: +152
With their wide arsenal of martial arts abilities, there are many many possibilities regarding how this fight could play out. Alateng’s background is in pure wrestling, at one point being one of the best in China, however one knock on his MMA game is he sometimes neglects to use it. For the most part what we have seen from him is a willingness to trade, but to go to his takedowns late in the fight in order to cement himself in an otherwise razor thin contest. On the feet, he does demonstrate some of the telltale signs of a wrestler turned striker. He is a power puncher in a low stance, who uses fast powerful punches, namely the right straight or over hand and likes to follow them up with a crisp left hook. He also utilizes the right overhand into a roll under in order to bridge distance.
He stands orthadox, and has shown a weakness to southpaws in the past when it comes to their left body kicks. Alateng maintains a very high guard, and especially when he is hurt or pushed back, he tends to raise the right guard high and extend his left, exposing the ribs. This has been the case in multiple fights, but the hole in his defense was highlighted best against Casey Kenny, who exchanged punches but was able to consistently end combinations with the kick as Alateng retreated. The reason this is so effective is because in range, Alatengs counter right is very dangerous over kicks but get him moving away and it suddenly becomes unavailable to him.
Kevin Croom is an orthadox fighter as well, but one of his strengths is utilizing weapons on both sides and one of these is his lead left kick. Both by shifting forward and a traditional switch kick, his kicking game will be a key component against Alateng. Alateng has also shown a vulnerability to fighters who manage to cut quick shots down the center faster than his hooks can move, and beating him to punch on the centreline has also been effective. Croom can fight moving in pretty much any direction, and while he doesn’t necessarily throw punches straighter than most fighters, if he can add this to his game plan it will pay off. Furthermore, using straight shots more predominantly will be accentuated by his reach advantage.
In terms of grappling, the edge has to go to Alateng with his wrestling pedigree, although Croom is the larger submission threat. For the most part it seems that Croom is an opportunistic grappler, he has struggled looking to hunt the takedown in the past and doesnt always succeed in a grappling heavy game plan but when he hurts opponents or they make a mistake he is quick to capitalize. He showed a deadly fast front headlock ability recently in the UFC but the rear naked choke has been the most consistent weapon over his career. In terms of wrestling, the biggest talking point is an inability to spread his base wide, quickly enough to constantly stuff takedowns and he’s often caught short stanced and dragged down. His preferred method offensively has also been to swivel around to the back and drag his opponents down rather than look for shots at the legs.
Alateng is specifically good at shooting deep and always looking to turn the corner on his takedowns,securing either the finish or ending up on the back. When he decides to turn to his wrestling he can be relentless but as mentioned before in relation to the entire fight this often comes late. On the mat he is usually happy to remain inside the guard, press his forehead into his opponents chest and pepper them with short hooks and elbows to maintain control. Passing isn’t a rushed priority to him, which although doesn’t always lend him the luxury of a finish, does make it extremely difficult to opportunistic grapplers like Croom when Alateng does not give them any space.
This is a fight that both men have the ability to win. On the feet, Croom’s distance control, straight shots and left body kick are key elements in beating someone like Alateng. Alateng’s tight wrestling style and ability to chain things from the initial shot are often the kryptonite to long latch on grapplers like Croom. However, based on their previous fights, Croom seems to be the one that is able to adapt and change things up mid fight better than Alateng, and if Alateng once again shows his wrestling too late, I think it will not be enough.
Prediction: Kevin Croom 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.