Beyond The Odds series shines a spotlight on the intangibles of 3 fighters for each UFC card. Here are three of the more intriguing fighters competing at UFC on ESPN 2 this Saturday evening in Philadelphia.
The 27-year-old California native fighting out of Team Oyama heads into this fight against Mark De La Rosa as a -275 favorite sporting an impressive 21-5 professional record. Perez enters fresh off the heels of a controversial TKO stoppage loss to top-flight flyweight, Joseph Benavidez, after which the outcome was protested. Midway through the first round, an unfortunate clash of heads occurred between the two combatants that sent Perez tumbling to the canvas. In an interview with Fightful MMA & Boxing, Perez shares his perspective when he states “We collided heads, and getting punched in the back of the head about 50 times didn’t help either.” Perez eventually moved on from the Benavidez loss and revealed his character in a recent interview with (Did You See That) MMA Podcast when he stated “I think a lot of people, when they lose, are quick to blame other people instead of blaming themselves.” Perez has his eyes back on the task ahead of him.
The massive flyweight now makes the move back up to 135lbs against a De La Rosa who has also bounced between the flyweight and bantamweight divisions. There should be a significant size, strength, as well as power advantage in the favor of Perez, who has a $9,200 DraftKings price tag in this matchup. Look for Alex Perez to keep this on the feet, and use his strong wrestling background if need be against “The Bumblebee,” who possesses some slick BJJ and boxing.
Super” Sodiq Yusuff is no stranger to overcoming adversity. The 25 year-old, 8-1 fighter of Nigerian decent showcased his versatility and will to become victorious right off the bat on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as he stayed composed after suffering an early round foot injury, and mixed it up en route to earning his first UFC contract. Yusuff then overcame the adversity of fighting while grieving the loss of his older sibling during his UFC debut against Suman Moktahrian. Yusuff’s brother, Tope, had died just days earlier from Typhoid fever. How did “Super” Sodiq find a way to win? In a post-fight interview with Submission Radio, Yusuff shared his thoughts by saying “I’ve done some really unhealthy mental health stuff, which is bottling stuff up and hiding it. I’m really into mental health. I read a lot of books about it. I know that’s not good for me. But, I had to do it.” There is something to be said about someone who not only recognizes their coping style, but also is willing to do whatever it takes to perform at their best. Yusuff’s experiences speak volumes in regards to his mental strength and where he is willing to go to win.
This weekend, Sodiq Yusuff sits as a -155 favorite with a $8,700 DraftKings price tag against 11-2 Brazilian powerhouse, Sheymon Moraes. Although a heavy hitter at 145lbs, Yusuff may need to use his technical prowess, 1.5” reach advantage, and solid cardio to pull out the victory in what has the potential to be a banger of a fight.
To expect fireworks from this weekend’s main event between Edson “Junior” Barboza and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje is an understatement. Just the thought of the matchup is enough to elicit heart palpitations in many a MMA fan. Barboza, the 20-6, -135 favorite, fighting out of American Top Team, is in the upper echelon when it comes to elite striking in the UFC. The Brazilian possesses tremendous power and a wide variety of fight-ending techniques that have left crowded arenas around the world in sheer awe. Gaethje, an All-American wrestler who has refused to use his wrestling inside of the Octagon, is also no stranger to delivering copious amounts of violence. What sets Gaethje apart from other fighters is his willingness to dig incredibly deep, absorb an exorbitant amount of physical damage, and throw caution to the wind in all-out slobberknockers. This fight may eventually come down to whoever’s body gives out first. When asked by MMA Junkie about his approach against such a fearsome opponent, Barboza states “I trained for a 25-minute war. That’s what I’m ready for. I trained so hard for this fight.”
Look for Edson Barboza, along with his $8,500 DraftKings price, to make the most of this opportunity against an opponent with limited striking defense and an incredible heart. Barboza strikes hard, with precision and that should pay dividends, potentially early. If Gaethje does find success, it would be in the way of crowding Barboza, landing hellacious leg-kicks, and dragging this fight into deep waters.
All three of the fighters mentioned above are prepared to showcase their skills and reveal the character that makes them who they are on the grandest stage. Training camps are completed. Now, it is time to shine.