The first fight scheduled for UFC 174 is a lightweight contest between two fighters making their UFC debut. Jason Saggo is a 9-1 lightweight fighting out of Ontario, Canada, while Shockley is 11-2 and fighting out of Indiana. Both fighters appear to be submission specialists at first glance, but a deeper look tells me that Saggo will probably have his way with Shockley on the ground.
Saggo is a very aggressive submission fighter. He’s the kind of fighter who is willing to risk losing position to attack with a submission hold of some sort. He also has a wide range of submissions in his arsenal although his most reliable way to win has been with the rear naked choke. Saggo is excellent at transitioning to different positions on the ground and catching his opponent’s neck or arm in a scramble.
What I like best about Saggo is that even though he’s prone to losing position on the ground, I haven’t seen any of his opponents catch him with submissions of their own. For the most part, Saggo’s opponents want to avoid the ground game entirely, which says good things about Saggo’s overall grappling ability.
That stands in contrast to Josh Shockley, a very tall lightweight at 6’1″ who is good at quickly grabbing choke holds on his opponents, even from awkward angles. Shockley is a good offensive grappler but he also has a history of making mistakes and getting caught in submission holds from his opponent. Both of Shockley’s losses in MMA are by submission due to armbar. I also saw Shockley get caught and have to escape a tight guillotine choke attempt from Mike Cannon in one of his regional bouts.
In my mind, Saggo has the more diverse and polished submission game, so I have to favor him to get the better of Shockley on the ground. However, I’m not optimistic about Saggo’s long-term potential in the UFC. His striking is limited to a lead jab and roundhouse kicks to the legs, body, and head. He doesn’t have much knockout power and hasn’t shown much of a boxing game at all. Saggo also isn’t a particularly good wrestler; his go-to takedown is a double-leg shot, but Saggo tends to attempt these from a long distance and doesn’t complete them at a high rate.
I can see Saggo being favored against an opponent with questionable takedown and submission defense (and Shockley fits the bill in this case). Against tougher opponents who can strike and defend takedowns, Saggo is going to have a very difficult time winning. He’ll have to show some dramatic improvement before I think he’ll find consistent success in the UFC lightweight division.
In this particular fight, I think Saggo will get the better of Shockley on the ground in what is a pretty good style matchup for him. Even if Saggo is unable to take Shockley down, I think Shockley will take the fight to the ground himself anyway. At that point, I believe Saggo is a lot more likely to force Shockley to tap out than vice versa. I like Saggo to win this fight but I’m not overly enthusiastic about either fighter’s UFC future.
Pick: Jason Saggo by submission