At first glance, the upcoming fight between Dennis Bermudez and Jimy Hettes might seem like nothing more than a fun fight between featherweights who have proven they belong in the UFC. If FPR is to be believed, then Bermudez and Hettes are more than just solid UFC featherweights – they’re not far from being upper-tier featherweights. Hettes is currently ranked #8 in the featherweight division in FPR while Bermudez is #11. Both fighters rate above Clay Guida, Ricardo Lamas, and Cub Swanson, among others.
For the most part, both fighters have achieved that status due to very effective overall grappling. Hettes is more of a submission fighter than a wrestler, but he’s developed some very effective techniques to get fights to the ground. In just four UFC fights, Hettes has landed a whopping 21 takedowns and has yet to be taken down himself (mostly because his opponents likely want nothing to do with his ground game). Those takedowns have led to 23 guard passes, six submission attempts, and two finishes – submission victories over Rob Whiteford and Alex Caceres.
It’s good for Hettes that he’s able to take fights to the ground, because his striking is very rough around the edges. Hettes has an overall significant strike count of 175-155, but most of his success came in a fight against Nam Phan. As we saw with Phan’s lopsided loss to Vaughan Lee a couple weeks ago, he’s a fighter who is very easy to hit – and in that fight, Hettes out-struck Phan 81-16 with a lot of strikes being landed on the ground.
Remove that fight, and Hettes’ significant strike count becomes 94-139, which I believe is much more indicative of his overall abilities as a striker. In other words, Hettes isn’t a natural striker at all and really needs to get fights to the ground if he wants to win.
When Hettes fought Marcus Brimage, he was a heavy favorite to win the fight but ended up losing by unanimous decision. The biggest reason for that was that Hettes was only able to land a takedown in one round out of three. Hettes won the second round of their fight but lost the first and third rounds. Hettes was just 2/9 in takedowns in that fight.
Now, in this particular match against Bermudez, I have a hard time seeing Hettes succeed much with takedowns. Part of that is because Hettes doesn’t have a long history of success with takedowns against good wrestlers. The other part is that Bermudez isn’t just a good wrestler – his takedown defense is among the very best in the featherweight division, arguably third best behind Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo. Bermudez has successfully defended 89 percent of his opponents’ takedowns overall.
In theory, I believe Bermudez should succeed in stuffing Hettes’ takedowns and winning a striking match. In practice, it’s possible that Bermudez simply chooses not to follow that game plan. Too often a wrestler will choose to take a fight to the ground even when it’s not the best idea for them. My fear is that Bermudez will take Hettes down, only to find himself in a world of trouble on the ground. Bermudez has had four submissions attempted against him in the UFC and all three of his career losses are by that method. His chin isn’t wonderful either, but I doubt Hettes will be the one to test it.
Ultimately, I have to favor Bermudez because of his ability to control where the fight takes place. If he’s smart, he’ll keep the fight standing and look to knock Hettes out or at least win on points. I expect Hettes to at least make it a good fight, but it’s not a good style matchup for him.
Pick: Dennis Bermudez by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
Bermudez is the favorite at -225, a price that makes a lot of sense to me. I wouldn’t want to pay too high a price on Bermudez, as he’s more prone to being finished than I would like to see. At the same time, I do think Bermudez’s wrestling makes him the favorite in this fight, so I have no intention of betting Hettes as the +175 underdog.