Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 170 Prediction: Mike Pyle vs. T.J. Waldburger

With his loss to Adlan Amagov at UFC 166, T.J. Waldburger now has an overall record of 16-8 in MMA. Six of his eight losses are by knockout – a record similar to Frank Mir. But while Mir has taken on world-class opposition at heavyweight for a long time, here are the men who have knocked out Waldburger:

  • Adlan Amagov
  • Johny Hendricks
  • Ricardo Funch
  • Pete Spratt
  • Josh Neer
  • Sammy Say

Sure, Amagov and Hendricks, I get it. But Ricardo Funch? Pete Spratt? Somebody named Sammy Say?

Now consider that Waldburger is 25 years old but has been competing in professional MMA for eight years now. He’s a shining example of why a fighter’s pro career should not begin at the age of 17. Just now Waldburger is reaching the age considered to be the start of an athlete’s prime in a lot of sports – but in Waldburger’s case he really needs to consider stepping away from MMA.

Of course, Waldburger is an outstanding grappler and that makes him a dangerous opponent for a lot of guys. It’s a good thing Waldburger is excellent on the ground because he needs to avoid the striking game at all costs – there’s just too much risk of Waldburger being knocked out again.

At first glance, Waldburger’s 12 takedowns landed in 46 minutes at 55 percent accuracy might seem like excellent numbers. However, a closer look shows that most of Waldburger’s success in takedowns has come against low-level opponents by UFC standards:

  • vs. David Mitchell, Mike Stumpf, and Jake Hecht: 10 takedowns landed
  • vs. Johny Hendricks, Brian Ebersole, Nick Catone, and Adlan Amagov: 2 takedowns landed

When Waldburger is matched against an opponent with above-average takedown defense, he actually struggles badly in the takedown game. Just witness his last fight against Amagov. Waldburger feebly tried everything he could to take Amagov down before being knocked out three minutes into the first round.

Now Waldburger is taking on Mike Pyle, a fighter who defends takedowns at a 69 percent rate. Pyle is a jack of all trades, good at everything but great at nothing. Pyle’s best attribute is his ability to attempt submissions; he’s known for being tricky to deal with from any ground position. As good as Waldburger is with submission offense, he’s also had seven submissions attempted against him, so there’s a real chance that Pyle could catch Waldburger with a submission hold of some sort.

Pyle’s second-best attribute, surprisingly enough, is his knockout power. In three fights in 2012 Pyle won by knockout all three times. That only increases the need for Waldburger to succeed in taking Pyle down.

I have to favor Pyle to win this match overall. He’s the kind of fighter Waldburger is prone to lose to – a fighter who isn’t easy to take down and a fighter who is a threat to win by knockout. However, I can’t favor Pyle by a large margin because Pyle is also vulnerable to being stopped. In Pyle’s nine career losses, four were by knockout and four were by submission. Waldburger has two knockdowns and 12 submission attempts to his credit in 46 minutes, so his chances of winning by stoppage shouldn’t be dismissed either.

Pick: Mike Pyle by KO


Pyle is the favorite at -185 with Waldburger the underdog at +160. That line makes a lot of sense to me – Pyle is favored but not by an overwhelming margin. What interests me a lot more is the over/under line. I normally don’t play over/under props because I’m not good at them, but under 1.5 rounds is currently +140. With two fighters who are so vulnerable to being stopped I like those odds a lot. I’m going to put a flyer on it and risk $0.50 to win $0.70.


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