BantamweightsMiles Johns (12-2, 3-2 UFC) vs. Vince Morales (11-6, 3-4 UFC)
ODDS: Johns (-165), Morales (+140)
A former wrestler with some knockout power, Johns seemingly has all the tools to compete at a high level, even in a deep bantamweight division. Yet things have yet to fully come together for “Chapo.” While he has a lot of right ideas on the feet, Johns still is not a particularly comfortable striker—an issue that cost him in a 2020 knockout loss to Mario Bautista. Johns rebounded with two straight wins, including a 2021 victory over Anderson dos Santos that suggested he might be turning a corner. He mostly picked dos Santos apart with kicks before closing the show in the third round. In retrospect, it may not have been the best result for Johns, who seems to have firmly fallen in love with his striking. He did not look for much of his wrestling in a February loss to John Castaneda, who brought the type of speed and pace to bring out Johns’ discomfort on the feet once again. Johns looks to rebound against Morales, a much different fighter who has followed much the same path of inconsistency. Morales came to the UFC as a counter-heavy boxer and took a while to veer from that path. “Vandetta” is still quite good in that phase, but it did not prove to be much of a winnable approach inside the Octagon, as opponents were able to take the initiative and beat him to the literal punch. Morales started to press the issue more with a 2021 win over Drako Rodriguez, and a subsequent knockout of Louis Smolka suggested that he might have finally found a winning gameplan. However, Morales’ last loss brought back a lot of his old issues. Jonathan Martinez’s kicking game and wrestling showed that while Morales is much more successful on his own terms, well-rounded opponents can still fight their way around all of his strengths. This all comes down to Johns, who should be able to make some hay with his wrestling but has not shown much in the way of desire to do so in his last few fights. Add in his occasional discomfort, and this seems like a fight where Morales should be able to keep it on the feet, whether by his own doing or not. The pick is Morales via decision.
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