A surging Grant Dawson seeks to score the signature win of his career when he collides with lightweight veteran King Green in the main event of UFC Vegas 80 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The co-headliner at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas pits Joe Pyfer against Abdul Razak Alhassan in a must-watch middleweight match-up while welterweights Alex Morono and Joaquin Buckley battle it out in the featured bout.
Also on tap is another lightweight scrap between Drew Dober and Ricky Glenn and a featherweight fight between Alexander Hernandez and Bill Algeo.
MAIN CARD (from 2 AM Sunday SA time):
Grant Dawson (1.24) v Bobby Green (4.20) (Lightweight)
A silent assassin of sorts, Dawson (20-1-1) is unbeaten in his past 12 fights and has climbed up to 10th in the rankings.
Matriculating to the UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017, “KGD” is 8-0-1 inside the Octagon, the one being a majority draw with Ricky Glenn in 2021. Five of his eight wins were by stoppage, four of which came by rear-naked choke.
A strong wrestler and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he boasts 13 wins by tapout overall including over Mark Madsen, handing the Olympic wrestler the first loss of his career.
Most recently defeating Damir Ismagulov by decision in July, Dawson’s stellar streak will see him headline his first UFC card in what’s an opportunity for him to breakout.
Despite being unranked, Green (30-14-1) is Dawson’s highest-profile opponent to date. “King” is a fan favourite who’s built his reputation on an all-action approach in which he’s willing to take damage to inflict it while he’s charismatic outside of the cage.
Though past his prime, he showed there’s still plenty of fight left in him as he pieced up the legendary Tony Ferguson before choking the former interim lightweight champion unconscious in July to bounce back from back-to-back losses to current king Islam Makhachev and Drew Dober and a no-contest with Jared Gordon in a big way.
The 36-year-old is a crisp striker with swagger who wants to make the most of his momentum in his second main event. His first headlining bout ended in the first round as he was TKO’d by Makhachev in 2022 with the Dagestani mauler going on to win the title in his next fight.
With 10 knockouts and nine submissions to his name, Green’s dangerous wherever the fight goes and boasts some of the best head movement in mixed martial arts.
Dawson, who’s a solid if not high-level striker, should hold his own on the feet as he presses to take the fight to the ground where he’ll have the advantage. At 29 years of age, he’s in his prime with a good marriage of athleticism and experience and is the faster, more dynamic fighter.
With a typical tireless wrestling gas tank, he’ll constantly push forward, make Green carry his weight and shoot takedowns to wear out his older adversary and ultimately sync in a fight-finishing submission.
Prediction: Dawson by submission.
Best Bet: Dawson by submission at 2.20.
Alternative Bet: Under 3.5 rounds at 1.66.
Joe Pyfer (1.24) v Abdul Razak Alhassan (4.20) (Middleweight)
Middleweight excitement machines will bring the fireworks in the co-main event.
Pyfer (11-2) has a 90% finish rate (eight knockouts and two submissions) while Alhassan (12-5) boasts a 100% knockout rate, so the judges should be reduced to spectators.
At opposite ends of their career, Pyfer is part of the new wave and has won four in a row – three of them by early knockout – while Alhassan, who at 38 is 11 years older than his emerging opponent, has lost four of his last six fights.
Pyfer’s super explosive and will have a size and speed advantage over “Judo Thunder” who’s on the smaller side at middleweight and did his best work down in the welterweight division.
With high-level karate and judo and proven knockout power, Alhassan poses threats, but “Bodybagz” will win this one early and violently.
Prediction: Pyfer by knockout.
Best Bet: Pyfer by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.57.
Alternative Bet: Pyfer by first-round stoppage at 1.74.
Alex Morono (2.42) v Joaquin Buckley (1.58) (Welterweight)
The featured bout is a compelling contest at 170 pounds. An underrated veteran, Morono (23-8) is coming off a submission win over Tim Means and has won five of his last six.
A good tactician and dual-threat (six knockouts and seven submissions), “The Great White” is an understated achiever and a live dog in this one.
Muscle-bound Buckley (16-6), in contrast, looks like a star, is flashy inside the Octagon and boasts one of the best knockouts in UFC history, which came against Impa Kasanganay in 2020.
“New Mansa” made the move from middleweight to welterweight in his last fight and signalled his arrival with a 12th career knockout over Andre Fialho to get tongues wagging about his potential in his new weight class.
Morono’s a good test but doesn’t have the strength to put Buckley on his back and grind him out. Buckley’s a significantly better and more diverse fighter on the feet, plus he has a four-inch reach advantage, which points to him making it two from two at welterweight.
Prediction: Buckley by knockout.
Best Bet: Buckley at 1.58.
Alternative Bet: Buckley by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.95.
Drew Dober (1.21) v Ricky Glenn (4.50) (Lightweight)
Lightweight veterans looking to bounce back from knockout losses collide in what should be an exciting encounter.
Dober (26-12) is a compact and highly conditioned athlete who hits like a truck. His Muay Thai skills and power have seen him claim half of his wins by knockout while he also has six submissions to his name. He’s a solid wrestler as well but prefers to stand and bang and while has an iron chin, his recklessness has cost him on a few occasions.
Glenn (22-7-2) matches his opponent with 13 knockouts but not in dynamism and skill. He also lacks the high-level experience of Dober, who’s fought champion Islam Makhachev and top contender Beneil Dariush and holds stoppage wins over the likes of headliner Green and main card opener Hernandez.
Dober’s too big of a step up in competition for him as the odds suggest and should win with style points.
Prediction: Dober by knockout.
Best Bet: Dober by KO/TKO/DQ at 1.57.
Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 1.83.
Alexander Hernandez (2.20) v Bill Algeo (1.70) (Featherweight)
Coming off a short-notice win over veteran Jim Miller at lightweight, Hernandez (14-6) drops to featherweight where his only previous outing saw him gas out early and being TKO’d by Billy Quarantillo.
It seems a curious move but if one looks at his inconsistency at 155 pounds, it’s understandable why he sees his future at featherweight.
“The Great Ape” carries good power (six knockouts), is the superior athlete and has a wrestling background but struggles to put it all together.
A slick grappler, both in the wrestling department and as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Algeo (17-7) is coming off his seventh career submission win over TJ Brown.
“Senor Perfecto” is a battle-tested 145-pounder who has the skillset to shut down Hernandez’s strength and will put his foot on the gas to try to blow him up like “Billy Q” did.
Hernandez’s inconsistency and change in weight class make him a gamble rather than a calculated risk, so bank on the capable and durable Algeo to get it done.
Prediction: Algeo by decision.
Best Bet: Algeo at 1.70.
Alternative Bet: Algeo by decision (check markets).