Both fighters in this match are making their UFC debut. This fight was added to the UFC on Fox card just a week ago as a replacement bout for Pascal Krauss vs. Adam Khaliev. Rhodes enters with a 6-1 overall record while Sullivan is 14-3. Rhodes last defeated Alan Jouban by unanimous decision; Sullivan won his last fight by second-round TKO over Jesus Martinez.
Rhodes has a fairly strong 6-1 record. His only loss was by first-round submission to Brandon Thatch. Thatch is a phenom so that loss shouldn’t be held against Rhodes too strongly. Rhodes has four wins against opponents with current winning records, including wins against the 7-2 Jouban and 6-1 Zak Ottow.
Rhodes trains at Roufusport alongside fighters like Anthony Pettis and Ben Askren, and it shows. He has excellent distance control and accuracy with his punches. Like most fighters trained by Duke Roufus, Rhodes has a diverse striking arsenal featuring plenty of various punches and kicks. His movement in the cage is very good and he does a great job of setting up his strikes. I was very impressed by his overall striking on the regional circuit.
Rhodes’ overall grappling is a bit of a question mark. He was submitted by Thatch but because Thatch is widely regarded as an excellent prospect, it’s hard to hold that result too strongly against Rhodes. Even so, he tends to give up favorable clinch positions to his opponent too often – a tendency that could lead to mediocre takedown defense in the UFC.
Sullivan enters the UFC with a 14-3 overall record. His losses have come against Elijah Harshbarger (6-4), Nick Calandrino (5-2), and Marc Stevens (15-8). Sullivan is a veteran of the Ring of Combat and Cage Fury Fighting Championships promotions with wins against Greg Soto (9-3), Brandon Becker (5-1), and Erik Oganov (21-12). His overall record is not as impressive as Rhodes’.
Sullivan is an aggressive fighter who likes to move forward and attack with jabs and straight punches. He hits with decent power and has 10 wins by KO/TKO in his 17 fight career. He also has decent scrambling ability and has shown the ability to escape difficult positions.
However, when I saw Sullivan on tape I saw a fighter who has some very critical flaws. He tends to lift his chin when opponents attack him with strikes. His takedown defense is a liability and he hasn’t shown much effective grappling as he has yet to win a professional fight by submission. He gives up vulnerable positions too easily as well.
Mike Rhodes vs. George Sullivan
I think Rhodes is just the better overall fighter. His striking is more fluid and technical, he hits harder, and while Rhodes’ ground game is a question mark, Sullivan isn’t well equipped to take advantage of Rhodes there. I believe this will mostly be a striking match, one in which Rhodes hits Sullivan with clean, hard strikes and potentially wins by stoppage.
Pick: Mike Rhodes by TKO
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I probably won’t bet on this one unless Rhodes is at plus money. When I don’t have any Fight Metric data on either fighter it’s difficult to justify a bet – it’s hard for me to be better informed than the betting public on fights like this. However, I’m pretty confident that Rhodes is the better of the two fighters so I would put a small bet on him if he somehow opens up as the underdog.