I have nothing but respect for TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa. Even though I pick against him every time he fights, he always finds a way to win. It also seems that he always comes from behind to do it. It’s been fun to watch Chiesa pull off victories over more talented opponents. This time, though, I think Chiesa has bitten off more than he can chew as he is set to face Jorge Masvidal.
Masvidal is one of the more underrated lightweights in the UFC. Part of this is because he’s been fighting on a smaller stage for much of his career. He hasn’t had the opportunity to show his skills to a large audience yet. Masvidal’s numbers are solid across the board. He’s a good striker, a very good wrestler, and has a decent ground game too.
If there’s one thing Masvidal isn’t great at, it’s finishing. He doesn’t possess a lot of striking power and doesn’t go for submissions. This isn’t as much of a handicap in the lightweight division as it would be in a heavier weight class. After all, the lightweight champion is Benson Henderson, who has been to decision seven times in seven UFC fights, so Masvidal’s relative lack of finishing ability doesn’t concern me too much.
Against Chiesa, Masvidal should easily prove to be the better striker. Chiesa always has to come from behind in his fights because he loses striking exchanges. The striking game is clearly not something that comes naturally to him. Against Masvidal, a fighter who is clearly an above-average striker, Chiesa has little hope of winning on the feet.
To win, Chiesa needs to do what he seemingly always does: land a takedown, take Masvidal’s back, and finish the fight by submission. It’s tough to tell if Chiesa would be able to do this against a high-level opponent. Even though Chiesa always wins, his victories have come against the likes of Anton Kuivanen, Al Iaquinta, James Vick, Justin Lawrence, and Jeremy Larsen. It’s good that Chiesa went 5-0 against those opponents, but none of them is anywhere near Masvidal’s level.
There are two reasons to have hope for a Chiesa victory here. One is that Masvidal has lost by submission twice in his career, so it’s not unprecedented. The other is that Masvidal is now 10 years in the professional MMA game and is at a slight risk of losing a fight he shouldn’t due to “fight age”.
And that’s what would happen if Chiesa pulls off another win against Masvidal – he would win a fight that he really shouldn’t win. Masvidal is by far the better striker and probably the better wrestler as well. It’s tough for a fighter to win at a high level with just one dimension, but that’s what Chiesa would have to do. As good as Chiesa is with submissions, Masvidal has many more paths to victory than Chiesa has. My pick to win is Masvidal, but if Chiesa wins all I’ll be able to do is tip my proverbial cap to him once again.
Pick: Jorge Masvidal by decision