It’s make-or-break for South Africa’s JP Buys when he makes his third walk to the world-famous Octagon to battle Cody Durden in a flyweight affair at UFC Vegas 57 on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time).
“Young Savage” will get down to business on the preliminary portion of the event taking place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The card is headlined by top-15 lightweights Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot.
PRELIMS (from 1 AM SA time):
JP Buys (1.86) v Cody Durden (1.95) (Flyweight)
We’ve all heard the term. The American dream. But for Buys (9-4), his time in the States has been an American nightmare. He’s faced devastating losses inside and outside of the Octagon and finds himself fighting for his future in the world’s pre-eminent mixed martial arts promotion this weekend.
Having moved to the States to live and train with his wife Cheyanne in 2020, things were rosy initially as he submitted Jacob Silva on Dana White’s Contender Series to earn a UFC contract. Then came the cruel twist of fate.
The couple made their promotional debuts on the same card last March, with both suffering disappointing defeats. Matched up with an absolute killer in Bruno Silva, JP was knocked out, while Cheyanne was neutralised by Montserrat Ruiz.
The Brakpan-born battler’s willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, anytime saw him move up from flyweight (57kg) to bantamweight (61kg) – on short notice – last September to take on Montel Jackson, a man who looked at least two weight classes bigger than him. It was an ill-advised move that ended in a decision loss.
Buys took it on the chin and offered no excuses. Rolling with the punches, after all, is part of the process. Unfortunately, personal problems became a greater challenge than any he’d encountered inside the Octagon, leading to a separation and months of being in limbo.
While it had to be mentioned to paint the full picture of the lead-up to this all-important fight, more on this matter is best left to Buys himself, who spoke with MMAFighting.com in January. Months removed from the peak of the public focus on the issue, Buys has had time to fully focus on his fight camp, but he’ll know it’ll resurface as a talking point this week.
Still just 26, Buys is one of the brightest mixed martial arts talents South Africa’s produced, with a pedigree to back it up. He’s an African champion wrestler and a former two-division champion in the South African-based EFC, having won the interim flyweight title and bantamweight belt with submission wins over Baldwin Mdlalose and Philippe Rouch in 2016 and 2018 respectively.
Wrestling forms the foundation of what makes him an elite fighter, but what makes him an ultra-dangerous one is his kill-or-be-kill mindset. He’s not known as “Young Savage” for nothing as all of his wins are by stoppage – five by submission and three by knockout (plus one by DQ).
In Durden (12-4-1), he has a dance partner who’s willing to engage without getting sucked into a brawl and like Buys, is well-rounded. The American has an 84% finish rate, with five wins by knockout, five by submission and two by decision.
He, too, is looking to bounce back after being submitted by the undefeated Muhammad Mokaev in March. Prior to the setback, Durden picked up his first win in the Octagon against Aori Qileng in November, although, his performance was overshadowed by the following controversial comment he made in his post-fight interview: “I knew he was going to be tough, but I had to send him back to China where he came from.” It didn’t help that he doubled down when he spoke to the media minutes later.
Dropping back down to flyweight is a big step in the right direction for Buys. At 5’5″, he’s two inches shorter than the American – something he’s used to – but more significantly, they have an identical 67-inch reach. He’s the more decorated wrestler and has the heavier hands. Making those advantages count, though, is anything but straightforward.
For one, Durden’s a solid grappler in his own right, as he showed in his decision win over Qileng. The 31-year-old’s size advantage will also come into play. Therefore, Buys will have to be super swift and technical to complete his takedowns.
Secondly, the chess match on the feet will require head movement, patience and precision from Buys. Durden throws much more volume than him, so he’ll likely have to eat a few while he works out his opponent’s timing and movement.
Durden, though, does offer openings. He absorbs 4.06 significant strikes per minute, so Buys – who absorbs 2.46 for comparison – WILL be able to get off. The tightrope he’ll have to walk is not to force shots and chase a finish but rather put money in the bank and capitalise once he does daze Durden.
Up until last Sunday, the fight was a pick ‘em with the pair sharing 1.90 odds. Fight week has seen the line move in Buys’ favour and given his proven killer instinct, it’s well worth backing the South African boytjie. I sense he’ll hurt the hittable Durden on the feet, jump on him and sink in a submission for the most important win of his career.