This is not an easy fight for me to break down because I don’t have nearly as much footage on Patrick Williams as I would like. I was only able to find three minutes of tape featuring wins against Rafael Dias and Gabe Maldonado. All I could really establish from that action is that Williams is a fighter who likes to move around the cage a lot and throw wild punches with a lot of effort. I’m also aware that Williams wrestled at Arizona State University alongside Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway, and Aaron Simpson, but that doesn’t mean a lot to me until Williams proves he has adapted well to MMA.
It’s clear that the best information I have regarding Williams is his professional record. Unfortunately, Williams’ record of 7-3 is poor for a fighter making his UFC debut. It’s even worse for Williams because his TKO win over Dias is the only time he’s beaten a fighter with more than two career wins. Meanwhile Williams has lost to 9-5 Pablo Alfonso, 10-8 Ralph Acosta, and 5-1 Justin Linn. That means Williams is 1-3 against opponents who have shown they’re at least somewhat serious about even being MMA fighters.
Just from looking at records, Chris Beal seems like a much better prospect to me. Beal is undefeated at 8-0 and although he hasn’t taken out any highly ranked opponents, he has at least fought a series of experienced opponents without losing. Beal did lose to Chris Holdsworth on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but that was technically an exhibition bout and doesn’t count on Beal’s record. Even if you include that loss, Beal clearly enters with the stronger professional record.
I was also able to find much more tape on Beal than I found on Williams. What I saw of Beal in his early career was mostly rough around the edges. His standup game wasn’t very polished; he threw a lot of power punches with no setup and didn’t land them with high accuracy. Beal’s ground game was also very suspect as he had to fight his way out of numerous submission holds despite being in top position on the ground. Beal’s biggest strength was his ability to land takedowns and then land strikes from inside his opponent’s guard.
As would be expected, Beal’s overall MMA game has developed as he’s become more experienced. He’s done a much better job of throwing straight punches in recent fights, which has led to his power strikes being more effective as well. Beal has morphed from a fighter who gets beat standing and needs to land a takedown to make up for it to a fighter who can compete standing and mix in a takedown on top of it.
That’s not to say Beal is a finished product. His overall defense and head movement in particular need work and he also needs to prove that he can advance position and stay out of submissions on the ground. Being submitted by guillotine choke against Holdsworth is not a good sign as far as his overall submission game is concerned.
Evaluating a fighter is like solving a 100-piece puzzle. If I only have a small part of the puzzle solved then I can’t say with much confidence exactly what a fighter brings to the UFC. I wish I had more information on Williams in particular but I don’t. What I do know is that Beal enters with a stronger record and a decent skill set. When that’s the best information I have, that’s what I have to use to make my pick.
Pick: Chris Beal by decision