This weekend’s UFC event is the finale of The Ultimate Fighter: China. As such, it features a series of fighters making their UFC debut I know nothing about. I don’t have the time to properly scout all of them, so I’m just going to write previews for the fighters I can give an educated opinion about. That means I’ll be writing four previews this week: Vaughan Lee vs. Nam Phan, Hatsu Hioki vs. Ivan Menjivar, Shawn Jordan vs. Matt Mitrione, and the main event between John Hathaway and Dong Hyun Kim.
I always feel like a bad person whenever Nam Phan fights, because he seems like a very easy person to root for. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of this but Phan has always struck me as a nice guy outside of the cage and a tough competitor inside the cage. The reason I feel like a bad person is because it’s hard for me to find things I like about Phan’s game.
It’s hard for Phan to win fights by knockout because he’s displayed no knockout power (zero knockdowns in 683 significant strikes landed). It’s hard for Phan to win fights by submission because he almost never completes takedowns (2 takedowns landed, 30 opponents’ takedowns landed). It’s hard for Phan to win fights by decision because he absorbs strikes at such a high rate (6.16 significant strikes absorbed per minute).
For Phan to win a fight in the UFC, he needs to face an opponent who A) isn’t a very good striker and B) isn’t a very good offensive wrestler. Then Phan can keep the fight standing and look to out-pace his opponent. That’s what he did in wins over Leonard Garcia and Cole Miller. Phan has lost against everybody else, and it can be argued that he shouldn’t have been awarded the decision against Miller either. If you include Phan’s fights in the WEC and Strikeforce, then he’s just 2-8 in major promotions, although he should be 3-7 with two wins over Garcia instead of just one.
The good news for Phan is that Vaughan Lee might fulfill those criteria. Lee has only landed 1.4 takedowns per 15 minutes at 36 percent accuracy. He’s also absorbed more significant strikes than he’s landed overall (85 landed, 97 absorbed).
Still, when I look at Phan’s history on Fight Metric, I’m blown away by just how bad the numbers are. Phan has absorbed at least 100 significant strikes in four of his last five fights. In the fifth fight, Phan absorbed 81 significant strikes and was taken down 11 times. The only reason Phan is even remotely competitive is because he’s very tough to finish and has excellent conditioning. He’ll be competitive against Lee, but Phan takes punishment so consistently that I can’t bring myself to pick him to win.
Pick: Vaughan Lee by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
To me this seems like a fight where it will be a high-volume striking match, and that means I can’t favor either fighter too heavily. I’ll put down a flier if I get serious plus money on either side, but I doubt that will happen.