Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight up-and-comers Bryce Mitchell and Ilia Topuria will battle this weekend (Sat., Dec. 10, 2022) at UFC 282 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I don’t know that anyone expected “Thug Nasty” to be quite this good. He joined the roster off an unheralded season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), didn’t have any serious credentials, and still doesn’t train with a major camp. Nevertheless, Mitchell has more than proven himself, winning six straight to break into the Featherweight Top 10.
Conversely, expectations have been high surrounding Topuria since the beginning, and he hasn’t underwhelmed either. When a highly touted grappler suddenly starts knocking opponents out left and right, fight fans tend to take notice, and the Georgian talent has quickly gain momentum as a result.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Edson Barboza (UFC 272), Andre Fili (UFC Vegas 12), Charles Rosa (UFC 249), Matt Sayles (UFC on ESPN 7)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Mitchell is a really suffocating wrestler. He doesn’t always take the cleanest shots, but Mitchell has good drive behind his double and can chain wrestle very well. Once on top, Mitchell’s top pressure and submission threat is very real. For a man that doesn’t look like a top-tier athlete, Mitchell sure seems to surprise opponents with his speed and strength.
Mitchell has to back Topuria up. “El Matador” fights more like a bull than his moniker implies, using the threat of his right hand and wrestling to walk opponents down. Mitchell has a crisp, long cross of his own, as well as the grappling skill to stand up to Topuria — he doesn’t have to back off.
Chain wrestling along the fence is generally Mitchell’s path to victory, and that holds true here. Again, Topuria is accustomed to imposing his will. Mitchell can keep up with his wrestling, and if he jams Topuria into the cage, he can really flip the script. Plus, Topuria has a difficult weight cut, and there’s nothing more exhausting than an endless wrestling match on the cage.
Key Wins: Ryan Hall (UFC 264), Damon Jackson (UFC Vegas 16), Jai Herbert (UFC London), Youssef Zalal (UFC Fight Island 5)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Topuria is very clearly a great natural athlete, and at 25 years of age, he’s already developed plus skills in all areas. The Climent Club-trained fighter looks like one of the division’s best prospects, which is really saying something considering just how talented the Featherweight ranks stand.
11 of his victories came before the final bell.
I’m not advocating for a full sprawl-and-brawl strategy here, but Topuria sure seems to have an advantage in the stand up. His right hand is like a fastball, sudden and devastating, and overall, he just puts combinations together with more fluidity than Mitchell. If the two were in a kickboxing bout, Topuria would be the clear favorite.
This is not, however, a striking match. If this fight goes beyond a couple minutes, there will surely be some wrestling/grappling exchanges. On that end, the goal for Topuria should be to draw out bad shots from Mitchell and capitalize. If Topuria is pressuring him and sticking the right hand in Mitchell’s chest, he should be able to get a read on Mitchell’s takedown attempts.
Most of Mitchell’s opponents are solely focused on stopping the shot and getting away. Topuria, meanwhile, can look to snatch the neck or snap Mitchell down and counter with his own takedowns.
This is a really fun match up over a spot in the Featherweight Top 10.
If Mitchell wins here, it’s time for a Top Five opponent. It doesn’t matter that he’s technically fighting down, not when everyone already understands that Topuria is really damn good! Handing Topuria his first defeat is a big deal, particularly since it would extend Mitchell’s win streak to seven.
On the other hand, Topuria is fighting to steal Mitchell’s No. 9 spot. Beyond the detail of their current positions, however, the stakes are similar. Topuria has momentum and can derail an undefeated fighter’s own strong win streak to score the biggest win yet of his career. It’s a big deal, and victory should set him up for another bump in competition.
At UFC 282, Bryce Mitchell and Ilia Topuria will open the main card. Which man will earn the victory?
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