The second fight on Facebook this Saturday features two bantamweights coming off losses, as Canadian fighter Mitch Gagnon will be taking on the extremely tall (for his weight class) Walel Watson.
Striking: As a 5’11” bantamweight, Watson has a huge advantage. When he’s in the clinch, he can land big knees, and when he’s at distance, he can keep his opponent on the outside with jabs and leg kicks. That’s what he did a lot against Yves Jabouin at UFC 140. Watson is no master striker though – the much shorter Jabouin was still able to land a good number of strikes and eventually win by split decision, although I felt Watson did enough to win. I don’t know a lot about Mitch Gagnon’s striking, but from the little I saw in his fight with Bryan Caraway at UFC 149, he throws every punch and knee with a lot of power and energy. That may look great for the fans, but it’s not good for Gagnon’s gas tank, which was a constant issue throughout his UFC debut. I would say that, at distance, Watson has the advantage with volume, but Gagnon has a better chance of winning by knockout.
Wrestling: If you were to think that a 5’11” bantamweight would struggle against a wrestler, you would be right. In Watson’s last fight, he was manhandled by T.J. Dillashaw, being taken down once and then dominated in all three rounds. Bad news for Watson: Mitch Gagnon is a submission-based fighter who will want to take this fight to the ground. Gagnon is not as good with takedowns as Dillashaw is, but he does have some good throws from the clinch, and just as he throws strikes with a ton of power, he goes for takedowns with a lot of power and energy. I think Gagnon will succeed in getting Watson on his back.
Submissions: This is the method by which both Gagnon and Watson have won a majority of their fights. All of Gagnon’s career wins are by submission, but five out of the eight submissions were guillotine chokes, a technique not indicative of a good ground game in my opinion. But Gagnon does also have two wins by rear naked choke, and showed pretty good submission defense against a very tough grappler in Bryan Caraway. Meanwhile, Watson’s long limbs make him a very tricky fighter to deal with. He has two wins by anaconda choke, one by triangle choke, and one by triangle armbar. If Watson is taken down, he could prove very tough to deal with, even off his back.
Prediction: Walel Watson by submission. I went back and forth on this fight, but the deciding factor to me is Gagnon’s conditioning. In Gagnon’s UFC debut, he was already fading in the second half of the first round. That’s bad for any fighter, but particularly bad for a bantamweight. Watson is the better striker in my opinion, and should be good enough to stay out of Gagnon’s guillotine choke. Gagnon probably will look pretty good early, but if this fight goes past the first round, I have to favor Walel Watson to win the fight.