Diggin’ Deep on UFC 215: Johnson vs. Borg – Fight Pass preview

While the contests on Fight Pass at UFC 215 aren’t bad matchups, they aren’t exactly can’t miss contests either. The lightweight contests feature fighters…

By: Dayne Fox | 6 years ago
Diggin’ Deep on UFC 215: Johnson vs. Borg – Fight Pass preview
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While the contests on Fight Pass at UFC 215 aren’t bad matchups, they aren’t exactly can’t miss contests either. The lightweight contests feature fighters whose ceiling are pretty well established and none of them being reputed as action fighters. The heavyweights are both young enough that it is impossible to predict how high they could climb. It could be high or they could wash out of the UFC rather quickly. You never know with heavyweights.

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:15 PM ET/3:15 PM PT on Saturday.

Mitch Clarke (11-4) vs. Alex White (11-3), Lightweight

It may be a surprise to some that Clarke is still on the roster, having lost two in a row and possessing an overall UFC record of 2-4. Then again, the UFC hasn’t been cutting anyone recently. Perhaps the lack of Canadians on the roster has something to do with him hanging around, but it isn’t like Mike Chiesa and Joe Duffy – his last two opponents – are opponents anyone would be embarrassed to lose to.

The best way to describe Clarke is scrappy with a penchant for submissions. He’s not very athletic, but is surprisingly effective in scrambles despite his lack of physical skills. He’s had a hard time getting the fight to the ground as he isn’t particularly powerful either, though he has shown relentlessness in chaining together takedown attempts to at least create a scramble. Adding to his scrappy label, Clarke lacks power, but is tough and capable of surviving on the feet even if he is unlikely to come out ahead on the striking exchanges.

While White is definitely the better athlete between him and Clarke – and perhaps the more technical puncher thanks to recent improvements — he doesn’t possess the same guile and savvy possessed by Clarke. Nonetheless, his physical gifts could be enough to make up for that. White made his lightweight debut in his last contest against the massive Tony Martin and struggled to adjust to being the smaller fighter. He should find better success in avoiding the ground and letting loose on the feet against Clarke. White has enough power to put the durable Clarke away, so long as he can keep the fight standing. If he can’t put him away, White throws enough combos and mixes his arsenal well enough that a decision victory is more than conceivable.

While I’ve seen some point out that Clarke did a solid job of hanging with Chiesa on the feet a few years ago, anyone whose regularly seen Chiesa’s standup knows it isn’t a noteworthy accomplishment. White has fought more intelligently in his last couple of contests and shown steady improvement. While Clarke isn’t old at 31, it doesn’t look like he’s getting better after 10-plus years in the sport. Clarke stands a chance if he can get his wrestling going, but he hasn’t landed a takedown in the UFC since 2012. Knowing that, I’m favoring the American. White via decision

Luis Henrique (10-3, 1 NC) vs. Arjan Singh Bhullar (6-0), Heavyweight

The first fighter of Indian descent on the UFC roster, Bhullar is also a proud Canadian, having represented the country in the 2012 Olympic games in freestyle wrestling. It’s no surprise Bhullar follows in the footsteps of another freestyle wrestler in Randy Couture in showing the most comfort in fighting against the fence. Keep in mind the comparison is only in style, not in effectiveness. From the fence, he can either grind away with short punches and knees or rip his opponent to the ground. Bhullar has shown potential to possess powerful ground-and-pound, but it’s still a developing phase as he has been a professional for less than three years at this stage.

Despite being only 24-years old, Henrique is significantly more experienced in MMA, having turned pro back in 2011. Like Bhullar, the cage has been his favorite area to take the fight, though he has shown a higher level of inactivity in the clinch and less power in his takedowns. Fortunately for Henrique, wrestling isn’t his primary strength – despite being a Brazilian wrestling champion – as he has picked up his two UFC victories by way of choke submissions. He’s patient in looking for an opening to appear and even has some skill off his back, though he’ll hardly want to try his luck from there against a behemoth like Bhullar.

This may be the first UFC contest for Henrique in which he has the advantage in the distance striking department as Bhullar is incredibly raw. His power is apparent, but he’s still a long way away from putting together all his tools on the feet. Does that mean Henrique is a lock for a victory? Hardly. Bhullar’s wrestling won’t be easy to contend with. If this contest ends up being dragged out, Henrique should get stronger as he has shown a fantastic gas tank. With all of that said, look for Bhullar to start strong, but to fade and give up a close decision if he can’t secure an early stoppage. Henrique via decision

Kajan Johnson (21-12-1) vs. Adriano Martins (28-8), Lightweight

It has been two years since Johnson stepped into the Octagon, but he’s been able to keep his name afloat with his outspoken nature about the financial struggles for a majority of the UFC roster. Whether his words have made him a target for the UFC management is unknown to this point, but the bigger question is whether he has declined at all since he last stepped into the cage. At 33-years old, Johnson isn’t so old that his decline would be exceptionally sharp, but he’s been fighting professionally since 2002. That’s a lot of wear and tear on his body. Perhaps the long break was good for him in that sense.

Though Johnson is on a two-fight win streak, some may say that has more to do with favorable matchmaking as his opponents, Lipeng Zhang and Naoyuki Kotani, are hardly known for their striking prowess. It isn’t that Johnson doesn’t have any striking ability; he’s quite competent as a striker. The problem is that his chin can and has been cracked and Johnson is very hittable. Johnson has a strong knowledge of how to use his long limbs in scrambling situations and submissions, though he can be overpowered by stronger wrestlers.

That’s music to the ears of Martins, reputed as one of the better wrestlers and grapplers in the lightweight division. There is no sign of finesse in Martins’ grappling, but to call him a brute would be inaccurate as he is still very technical with power submissions – i.e. straight armbars and kimuras – his calling card. The funny thing is, Martins rarely looks to take the fight to the ground, preferring to stand and trade. It isn’t that Martins has little ability on the feet; he possesses a powerful left hand and a fair amount of veteran craft. The problem is that he often waits too long for an opening that he likes as he falls into long bouts of inactivity.

This matchmaking has me questioning how much the UFC management cares for Johnson. While Martins and Johnson are quality gatekeepers, Martins is a higher level gatekeeper than Johnson is by a considerable margin. Even worse, he’s also a bad stylistic matchup for the Canadian. Expect Martins to either score a KO out of nowhere or grind his way to a boring decision. Martins via KO of RD2

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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