The Ultimate Fighting Championship appears to have gotten it right in terms of putting the most relevant bouts on the main card at UFC on ESPN 12 this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. As a result, there are no real hidden gems on the undercard, which could become a bit of a slog.
Jordan Griffin-Youssef Zalal looks like the one guaranteed banger. There are some talents to watch beyond that pairing—Luis Pena still has plenty of potential, while Miranda Maverick and Kay Hansen are highly touted prospects—in matches that are well-made but not necessarily exciting. In MMA, the opportunity for breakout performances always exists.
Now to the UFC on ESPN 12 “Poirier vs. Hooker” prelims preview:
LightweightsLuis Pena (8-2) vs. Khama Worthy (15-6)
ODDS: Pena (-270), Worthy (+230)
Pena is an odd fighter. Obviously, there is his “Violent Bob Ross” persona thanks to his red afro, but his fighting style is strange, as he leverages his size and aggression to make each of his fights an absolute mess. On the feet, Pena is all big flashy power strikes, but in the clinch and on the mat is where he is most comfortable. He consistently forces scrambles to try and find a good position, and once he finds one, he can use his gigantic frame to rain down some damage onto his opponents. However, it can be a frustrating approach when it does not completely work. Sometimes Pena’s grappling just stalls out into control and little else, and his overconfidence in his own skills sometimes causes him to coast to a loss. He will look for a win here against Worthy, who finally gets the chance to follow up on his UFC debut—a shocking knockout of Devonte Smith in August. Worthy had a perfectly fine regional record but did not look like someone who would make much noise in the UFC. Instead, he stepped in as a late replacement, waited for his moment and absolutely obliterated Smith in the first round. That outlined the essentials of the Pittsburgh native’s game. He is a counter kickboxer who is content to wait out his opponent until the knockout presents itself. That makes for a fascinating dynamic here, since Pena is aggressive but wild. Pena might be open to get hit hard, but Worthy’s patience may cost him the fight if his opponent either wins rounds on volume or gets the opportunity to get his grappling game going. This could go either way, particularly since Worthy also has enough length to give the American Top Team rep some problems, but the pick is for Pena to get enough scrambles going to take the decision.
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