I have to admit that I was perplexed to see the inclusion of James Krause on the UFC 173 main card. Krause seems like an easy enough fighter to root for, but his history is very light on successes at a high level in MMA. Krause’s (admittedly controversial) loss to Bobby Green last November dropped him to just 1-3 in the UFC and WEC, with only a win over Sam Stout to brag about. Krause is a very tall and lanky lightweight at 6’2″ and displays all the usual flaws of such a fighter. He’s relatively easy to hit (3.66 significant strikes absorbed per minute) and has successfully defended just one out of seven takedowns attempted against him.
In Krause’s defense, all three losses were to fighters who could reasonably be considered high-level competitors by UFC standards. Green is a fast-rising lightweight who could soon be in the title picture at 155 pounds, while Krause’s WEC losses were to top ten opponents in Ricardo Lamas and Donald Cerrone. Krause was very competitive in the losses to Green and Lamas in particular.
Still, when Krause was invited to compete on the 15th season of The Ultimate Fighter, he was knocked out by Justin Lawrence. When he competed in Bellator, he was submitted by Toby Imada. Krause’s history is one of having a lot of trouble winning fights at a high level.
When I look at Krause’s offensive output, I see a fighter who is a pretty good volume striker, but that’s about it. Krause doesn’t have much knockout power and isn’t likely to succeed with takedowns against stronger UFC opponents. With Krause’s lack of striking defense and takedown defense, his only realistic paths to victory are to either out-pace his opponent with strikes or sneak in a sudden submission hold as he did in his victory over Stout.
Now, I’d love to say that Jamie Varner is above being defeated in such ways, but the reality is that he’s not. Varner is also relatively easy to hit, and he’s relatively easy to finish. Among current UFC lightweights, the only fighters who have been finished more times than Varner in high-level competition are Charlie Brenneman (the most likely UFC fighter to be parodied as Glass Joe in a Mike Tyson’s Punch Out remake) and Takanori Gomi, who has been fighting forever.
Varner is a fighter who puts more energy into his techniques than is good for him. He likes to wing looping power punches in the pocket, chain them together with takedown attempts, and go right after his opponent from the opening bell. It’s a style that’s made for tremendous excitement in fights against Edson Barboza, Joe Lauzon, and Abel Trujillo, but it’s not conducive to consistent success, especially not when he faces an opponent with an iron jaw and a powerful punch (Trujillo) or a finisher who can put him away when he gets fatigued (Lauzon).
Fortunately for Varner, he’s facing an opponent in Krause who isn’t really either of those things. I expect that if Krause wants to win this fight, his only real option to do so is to set a high pace with strikes and try to goad Varner into throwing strikes from the pocket instead of shooting for takedowns.
The thing is, Varner might just do exactly that, and with his recent history of being too busy throwing strikes to defend the strikes that are thrown back at him, it wouldn’t shock me if Krause was able to out-pace Varner and win a points-based decision. I feel like there’s no way Varner should let that happen, but it’s a distinct possibility.
Even so, the most likely outcome as far as I see it is one where Varner piles up points with strikes and takedowns and takes a decision victory, with a good chance of winning by TKO due to his sheer aggression.
Pick: Jamie Varner by decision