Light HeavyweightsMichal Oleksiejczuk (14-3) vs. Jim Crute (10-1)
ODDS: Oleksiejczuk (-140), Crute (+120)
Crute was obviously set up for success during his season of Dana White’s Contender Series—“The Brute” came in as a winner of a sponsorship contest, and his opponent was coming off a loss to Matt Hamill—but the Aussie has done well to make good on the opportunity. Crute does not have a standout skill, but for being a 23-year-old light heavyweight, he has a good head on his shoulders. Paul Craig and Sam Alvey are potential trap opponents for rising prospects, and Crute handled both of them without much trouble. For now, there is still a clear ceiling against the better fighters in the division. Misha Cirkunov took down Crute and earned a submission without much issue, but the former Hex Fight Series champion still has years to improve and, most importantly, has shown a high enough floor that he will be able to stick around and do so.
Crute will take on Poland’s Oleksiejczuk, who is an interesting prospect in his own right but much more frustrating. Oleksiejczuk looked set up for failure in his UFC debut. Nearly all of Oleksiejczuk’s regional fights saw him absorb a beating before coming back against fatigued opponents, and a hard hitter like Khalil Rountree figured to annihilate him. As it turns out, Oleksiejczuk is apparently made of granite, as that approach worked once again, with the Pole eating abuse before rebounding in the latter stretches of the fight. Oleksiejczuk missed all of 2018 due to a drug test, but his 2019 campaign saw him suddenly flip the script in both positive and negative ways. He kicked off the year with sub-two-minute wins against Gian Villante and Gadzhimurad Antigulov, but his September fight against Ovince St. Preux showed that Oleksiejczuk may have become the same fighter he used to exploit, as he was the one throwing offense until he tired and got finished. No one knows what to expect here.
Based off Oleksiejczuk’s last outing, this seems like a fairly simple fight to break down. The Pole is going to come out swinging like a madman, and he will either score a quick finish or exhaust himself in the process. Crute is still somewhat limited in terms of his depth of skill, but again, he seems to be a solid enough fighter mentally that Oleksiejczuk’s pressure will not break him. An early knockout is certainly possible, but it seems more likely that Crute keeps his poise, outlasts the early danger and takes over from there. Oleksiejczuk’s been durable enough that the pick is Crute via decision, but a late stoppage caused by exhaustion is also a distinct possibility.
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