Former WEC champion Cole Escovedo will aim for his first UFC victory. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood
Cole Escovedo (17-7, 0-1 UFC) vs. Takeya Mizugaki (14-6-2, 1-1 UFC)
The Matchup: With the relative lack of depth in the bantamweight division’s lower tiers, there is room aplenty to grow as the UFC fleshes out the ranks and adds talent. In Escovedo-Mizugaki, we have an interesting contrast of styles to settle the matter.
Escovedo’s best standing weapon is quick kicks to the legs -- if allowed to unleash them without repercussions, he will deal them out all night long. He is more of a volume-style striker, willing to pile up points if the fight is extended on the feet. On the ground, he possesses a jiu-jitsu-based game in which he is comfortable on his back -- and sometimes too comfortable. It can backfire against a capable top-control specialist with solid wrestling and good ground-and-pound.
Mizugaki does not do anything pretty, but he is one of those athletes that gets results despite how ugly it may look. His standup is raw and nowhere near any muay Thai textbook’s step-by-step technique breakdowns; he fails readily and will wade in for tie-ups without protecting his face. Yet, he is exceptionally tough, resilient and, at times, has a zombie-like factor that allows him to simply keep coming. Opponents that cannot plant him on his back are usually in for a long night, as Mizugaki simply pushes the pace and wears them down.
This one has the looks of a long fight, especially if Escovedo is willing to cede the takedown to look for a submission. However, he might be better served by sprawling-and-brawling early to soften up the Japanese brawler. Certainly, Mizugaki will offer openings aplenty to strike, as he pushes forward to force confrontations. He cannot fight any other way.
Escovedo should be able to score enough points standing in the early portions of rounds to sway the judges his way. It is what happens if and when he ends up on his back that determines Mizugaki’s fate.
The Pick: Escovedo has solid defensive jiu-jitsu and showed it in dropping a decision to the ultra-talented Renan Barao. He should be able to scratch out a close decision while taking some punishment on the mat in a fast-paced and moderately entertaining fight.
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