It’s always interesting when a fighter chooses to fight in a way that doesn’t play to his strengths. Rony Jason is a perfect example of such a fighter. Jason has a very nice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game – when he’s taken down, he has an active and attacking guard. He immediately gets wrist control and looks for triangle choke possibilities. Jason is also effective in top position but hasn’t had many opportunities to work from there, because he doesn’t go for takedowns much.
Jason’s preference is definitely to stand and strike; at least, it has been as long as he’s been in the UFC. In four UFC fights Jason has landed just one takedown in three attempts. The one takedown he landed was a result of catching a body kick thrown by Sam Sicilia, who was already hurt by Jason’s strikes and finished shortly afterwards.
So far Jason has a positive significant strike differential, but only by a slim margin. He’s landed 90 significant strikes and absorbed 78 against the following opponents: Godofredo Pepey, Sicilia, Mike Wilkinson, and Jeremy Stephens. Apart from Stephens, that’s a fairly low level of competition – a top prospect should definitely win striking battles more emphatically against them, but Jason’s fights have been very close and competitive.
Watching Jason on tape, he’s far from a precise striker. He tends to throw wild and looping strikes in search of a knockout victory. His TKO win against Sicilia was fun to watch, but it was far from a technical masterpiece, as both fighters threw punches from the hip. Jason ended up scoring the victory but was fortunate he didn’t get knocked out as Sicilia hit him hard with a lot of clean strikes.
Jason’s luck ran out against a tougher opponent in Stephens, who defeated him by knockout just 40 seconds into the first round.
If Jason wants to maximize his chances of winning, he should probably look for takedowns against Steven Siler. Siler is a fighter who has established himself as a capable striker and a dismal wrestler. He’s maintained a positive significant strike differential (259 to 252) despite being taken down 18 times in seven UFC fights. Siler is 1-2 in the UFC when he gets taken down more than once, but 4-0 if he gets to stand and strike.
While Siler isn’t nearly as wild with his strikes as Jason, his defense isn’t any better. He was hit 72 times in three rounds by Cole Miller and has absorbed 3.21 significant strikes per minute overall. While Siler moves around the cage fairly well, he doesn’t anticipate his opponents’ strikes very well at all. The result is a fighter who relies on conditioning and volume to out-point his opponents.
Superior conditioning is Siler’s biggest advantage in this particular matchup. The problem with Jason’s reckless striking is that each punch takes a lot of energy. Jason isn’t particularly well equipped to fight that way for three rounds; Siler could definitely capitalize late in the fight on points or even possibly by TKO.
With his polished BJJ and eight career wins by submission, Jason could make himself the clear favorite to win if he pursues takedowns. However, I can’t assume he’ll do that, because he hasn’t done that yet in the UFC. Fighters who establish a certain style tend to repeat that style in every fight. Sometimes a fighter like Demian Maia will wake up and realize he needs to get fights to the ground, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Even so, I favor Jason to win this fight for a couple reasons. One is that he hits harder than Siler does. Even though he hasn’t been credited with a knockdown yet, he’s still early on in his UFC career – I anticipate the knockdowns will come. Meanwhile, Siler has only won by TKO three times in his career.
The second reason is that it’s possible Jason will change his fighting style and pursue takedowns against Siler. Again, that would be his best bet to win the fight even though I anticipate he won’t do it.
Finally, the fight is taking place in Brazil, which should be an advantage for Jason. I should do research on what (if anything) causes Brazilian fighters to have a “home-cage advantage,” but if that advantage truly exists, then Jason will be the beneficiary of it.
Pick: Rony Jason by decision
DEGENERATE GAMBLER’S CORNER
I foresee a competitive striking battle where Jason will have the power advantage while Siler has better conditioning. I favor Jason but not by a wide margin, so I’ll need plus money at the least to get some degenerate gambling action down on him. I have a feeling I won’t get that price, but we’ll see.