Miguel “Carmel Thunder” Baeza is 29 years old, and 3-2 in the UFC. His career has been feast or famine, starting out 3-0 with 3 finishes, but dropping his last two bouts. Across the octagon, Andre Fialho has a 14-4 professional record but lost his UFC debut via unanimous decision. Combined, of their 24 wins, these fighters have 20 finishes.
Baeza opened as a short favorite and has steadily grown during the week.
- Baeza: -170
- Fialho: +140
Baeza is an exciting kickboxer with an impressive mix of power, accuracy, and aggression. In his first three UFC fights, Baeza ran through his competition with emphatic finishes. He showcased his devastating kicking game, solid boxing, and fluid footwork. Then, in his most recent fights, both losses, Baeza ran into an obstacle, fighters who could take his best shot and return fire themselves. Baeza’s grit, cardio, and granite jaw helped him survive in these fights, one as a contender for fight of the year in 2021; but, some weaknesses were exposed. Baeza’s path to victory is to stay at range, move laterally, and land whipping kicks to the entirety of his opponent. These kicks aren’t just prodding shots or strikes meant to dictate pace and space, they are meant to deal real damage. Then, once his opponent is good and damaged from kicks, Baeza will close distance and land heavy combination shots while seeking the finish. Offensively, Baeza is composed but powerful. Defensively is where his game showed gaps. He keeps his head on the centerline, leaves his chin exposed, especially when kicking, and can be forced to fight off his back foot against pressure. “Carmel Thunder” is still growing and has the offensive tools to win impressively; but, he’ll need to tighten up his defense if he wants to get back on a winning streak.
Fialho impressed me in his debut, despite losing a unanimous decision. This is because I did not have high expectations for the Sanford MMA product prior to the UFC. In a division with a variety of well-rounded fighters and extreme athleticism, Fialho appeared to be a one-note fighter lacking speed and footwork. He typically moves slowly forward, flat-footed, and swings big looping power shots. This approach is often a poor matchup for someone with speed and athleticism. However, in a fight with one of the most naturally athletic fighters in the UFC, Fialho lasted 15 minutes and looked good in spots. He still moved slowly, over swung on his shots, and landed with low accuracy; but, he threw with more combinations, intelligence, and patience than I expected. He showed that his striking, although inaccurate and of a lower volume, can do real damage if timed right. The biggest gaps in Fialho’s game are his mobility, accuracy, and volume. If he can improve in one of those three areas, his power and ability to walk through heavy shots will often make him a live dog.
While Fialho impressed me in a loss, Baeza is a stylistic nightmare for him. Baeza can follow the blueprint laid out in Fialho’s last fight and rely on a speed, mobility, volume, and variety advantage for the win. Fialho’s power is an x-factor that will keep him live; but, Baeza should be able to pick Fialho apart for 15 minutes or finish him late.
Prediction: Baeza to win