There have been a number of UFC prospects I’ve hyped up over the past few years. Some of them, like Chris Weidman, Daniel Cormier, and Johny Hendricks, have lived up to my hype, either becoming UFC champion or getting very close to it. More often, however, the prospects I hype end up getting a shot against a high-level opponent and hit a brick wall. It’s not often that a fighter has what it takes to succeed at the highest levels, so it’s inevitable that most prospects will fail against ranked competition.
I don’t think that will happen when Myles Jury faces Diego Sanchez, for a number of reasons. I think this is a tremendous style matchup for Jury, one that plays into Jury’s biggest strengths as a fighter.
Now, I was taken aback by Jury’s performance in his last fight against Mike Ricci. Jury did just enough to win the fight by split decision, but the fight was mostly a stalemate caused by a clash between Jury’s desire to take down and control Ricci, and Ricci’s desire to not be taken down and controlled. Against an opponent in Ricci who was battling for his UFC job, I expected Jury to put together a great performance… but it didn’t happen.
My working hypothesis with Jury is that he thrives against opponents who are aggressive but struggles against opponents who look to counter. Jury completely dominated the aggressive Michael Johnson, taking him down in all three rounds and out-striking him 56-6 in significant strikes. That fight seems to have been forgotten when people talk about both fighters, but Jury really looked like the far superior competitor in that one. Jury also looked very good in stoppage victories over aggressive opponents in Ramsey Nijem and Chris Saunders.
Against both Ricci and Al Iaquinta, Jury faced opponents who looked to counter Jury’s attacks… and in those fights, Jury struggled to produce offense. It certainly seemed as if Jury needed his opponents to attack first for him to know what to do.
That’s why I believe Jury matches up so well with Sanchez… because in the entire Ultimate Fighting Championship, what fighter is more blatantly aggressive than Sanchez?
To be clear, Sanchez’s aggression has not resulted in very effective fighting recently. As Patrick Wyman pointed out on Twitter, Sanchez is 3-3 in his last six fights, but would be just 1-5 with proper judging, as he was given very dubious decision victories against both Martin Kampmann and Takanori Gomi. In his last four fights, Sanchez has absorbed a whopping 316 significant strikes, for a rate of 5.27 strikes per minute. It’s not quite a Nam Phan level of taking punishment, but it’s close.
To go along with his clear lack of striking defense (to the point where Sanchez will just take strikes to the face on purpose), Sanchez has only defended takedowns at a 52 percent rate in the UFC. If Jury was able to take down an aggressive Michael Johnson, then he should be able to take down an aggressive Diego Sanchez as well.
My biggest concern for Jury is that he does tend to fight at a very slow pace, and is now taking on an opponent who fights like a crazy person. This is easily Jury’s most important fight yet, against an opponent who is going to put a ton of pressure on him. It’s possible that Jury breaks under that pressure.
However, when I see how Jury and Sanchez match up, I see Jury as having far superior takedowns and far superior striking defense. He should be able to capitalize on the many openings Sanchez will give him and control this fight.
Pick: Myles Jury by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I really thought Sanchez would be favored in this one, since he’s coming off his all-out war against Gilbert Melendez and Jury is coming off his underwhelming performance against Ricci. Instead, Jury opened as a -210 favorite against +160 for Sanchez. There was apparently a ton of betting action on Sanchez as the price on Jury fell all the way to -115, but it’s bounced back up since then. At the moment, Jury is -175 with Sanchez at +155. I think the line is probably about right, but I placed a bet on Jury when he was at -185… because I’m a degenerate. I mean… it’s Myles Jury! I have to put a bet down! Probably not the sharpest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve risked $1.85 to win $1.00 on Jury winning this fight.