This Friday night (Dec. 6, 2013) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweights Dylan Andrews and Clint Hester will meet in the opening main card bout of UFC Fight Night 33 from Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia.
The fight is an intriguing battle of Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 participants who have found early success inside the Octagon.
After losing to finalist Uriah Hall on TUF 17, Andrews is undefeated since joining UFC. He finished Jimmy Quinlan via technical knockout at TUF 17 Finale and followed that up with an impressive knockout of Papy Abedi at UFC Fight Night 27 this past August.
The seven-year veteran of mixed martial arts (MMA) hasn't lost a fight in over three years.
His opponent, Hester, was the first pick of coach Jon Jones on TUF 17. The former professional boxer has the striking power to end anyone's night. Hester made his promotional debut at TUF 17 Finale by finishing Bristol Marunde with a vicious elbow. He was scheduled to make his second Octagon appearance against Cezar Ferreira at UFC 163 but had to withdraw due to injury.
Both Andrews and Hester have shown a ton of grit in their short stints in UFC. This bout has all the potential to end up winning "Fight of the Night." Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Dylan Andrews vs. Clint Hester:
Record: 17-4 (1) overall, 2-0 UFC
Key Wins: Papy Abedi (UFC Fight Night 27), Jimmy Quinlan (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Uriah Hall (TUF 17), Brian Ebersole (Cage Fighting Championships 3)
Keys to Victory: New Zealand-born "Villain" is an extremely resilient fighter who seemingly gets stronger as the fight goes on. His hard-nosed victory over Luke Barnatt on TUF 17 is a testament to this.
He isn't extremely flashy in any one area of MMA, but he is solid in all of them. His takedown offense and defense is sharp and his grappling is decent. Submission defense has been a bit of an Achilles' heel for him as he's tapped out in three of his four losses.
Luckily for him, Hester most likely won't be going for too many submissions "down under."
Andrews' main strength as a fighter is his impressive finishing ability. Only one of his 17 wins has gone to the judges' scorecards, an alarming rate. Andrews has proven that his stats are no fluke by finishing the only two foes he has faced in UFC
Andrews has finished five out of his last six fights via striking stoppage, but his best chance to win this weekend will be to take this fight to the ground. His stand-up is proficient but that's also where his opponent's glaring strength lies. There isn't any sense in standing toe-to-toe with Hester and hoping that his punches do the most damage.
Two out of Hester's three losses came by submission, so that's where Andrews should look to exercise an advantage. Dragging Hester to the canvas shouldn't be too difficult unless his takedown defense has matured to a new level. Grappling is his kryptonite and Andrews already knows this from their time together on TUF 17. He should look to transition his strikes to a takedown that blasts Hester way out of his comfort zone.
If he can, the rest should be elementary, leading Andrews to a big win in front of the Australian fans.
Record: 8-3 overall, 1-0 UFC
Key Wins: Bristol Marunde (TUF 17 Finale)
Key Losses: Jimmy Quinlan (TUF 17)
Keys to Victory: Hester is a former cruiserweight boxer who has scored a knockout in six of his eight MMA victories. Hester's polished striking has added a Muay Thai dynamic to his already lethal boxing game. He has an effective arsenal of knees and elbows that can end a fight in an instant.
Problem is, he's got to stay upright long enough to implement them. Against a gritty wrestler like Andrews, that won't be easy.
Hester is still raw in his development as an MMA fighter. If he has a good team of coaches around him, he'll have spent the better part of the last year training takedown and submission defense to shore up his all-around game.
If he hasn't, it will be a long night against Andrews.
Andrews is the more complete mixed martial artist so Hester will look to push the pace early on in order to end the fight quickly. Hester will look to get in Andrews' face and land a fight-changing power shot to open up an opportunity for a knockout.
Hall showed that Andrews could be finished on TUF 17. Hester will be eager to prove that theory once again.
Hester hasn't fought since April, so there's a very real possibility that he has increased his mat skills to bridge the gap with his striking, which needed little improvement. Hester has the chance to prove he is a dangerous up-and-coming prospect in a talented division.
Adding a ground game to his resume is the only way to continue doing so.
Bottom Line from Brisbane: The bottom line for this fight is going to come down to the discrepancy between the ground skills of Andrews and Hester. Hester is a bit of a wild card that has dynamic striking and knockout power. The same can hardly be said about his mat prowess.
On the other hand, Andrews showed he could beat top-level grapplers by defeating Quinlan; a fighter who submitted favored Hester on TUF 17. While MMA math rarely proves true in most instances, it is a telling statistic in this case.
A fighter who Andrews throttled submitted Hester, so you'd have to think that "Villain" has the talent to give him fits on the ground.
Hester's only area of advantage is on the feet, but even that's debatable. The overall skill comparison puts him in a deep hole before the fight even starts. Barring any huge knockout shots, Hester will need his game to have progressed to an entirely new level.
That's unlikely at this point in time because he was injured a few shorts months ago. Hester's health could also be a big factor in this fight because he will need to be fully healthy to give Andrews a run for his money.
If he's not, don't be surprised to see "Villain" take him down and lock up a fight-ending submission.
Dylan Andrews and Clint Hester will kick off UFC Fight Night 33 in a battle of TUF 17 alumni. Who is your pick to win and fight on in the stacked UFC middleweight division?