Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez will duke it out this Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) at the UFC 180 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside Arena Mexico in Mexico City.
After building up a solid four-fight win streak, which includes names like Cub Swanson and Erik Koch, Lamas challenged Jose Aldo for the featherweight strap. Though he clearly lost, Lamas has already begun working his way toward a rematch, starting with his victory over Hacran Dias.
Since losing his debut via armbar in a wild brawl with Diego Brandao, Bermudez has been on a tear. Recently, he put on an utterly dominant performance against Clay Guida, rocking and choking the historically durable "Carpenter" within two rounds.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Key Wins: Cub Swanson (UFC on FOX 1), Hacran Dias (UFC Fight Night 44), Erik Koch (UFC on FOX 6)
Key Losses: Jose Aldo (UFC 169)
Keys to Victory: A Division III All-American wrestler with a well-rounded skill set, Lamas is very much a fighter of intangibles. Between his excellent conditioning and constant forward pressure, "Bully" has been able to overwhelm some very talented fighters.
In this match, Lamas will be facing a fellow wrestler who loves to push the pace. To defeat his doppelganger, Lamas will need to ensure that he's the more active striker and at the minimum, remain on his feet.
Overall, this is quite a close match up. However, there is one strategy that would serve Lamas quite well and help him turn the tide.
On the outside, Lamas has some pretty strong kicks. Bermudez has some powerful leg kicks of his own, but Lamas is a much more versatile kicker. With those skills, Lamas should be able to out-point his foe.
Of course, Bermudez will definitely try to close range with vigor. That's Lamas' opportunity to either land hard counter punches -- something Bermudez has shown a vulnerability to in the past -- or look for a reactive takedown.
Against an opponent who Lamas cannot simply out-hustle, having a strong game plan will be especially important.
Key Wins: Clay Guida (UFC on FOX 12), Matt Grice (UFC 157), Jimy Hettes (UFC 171)
Key Losses: Diego Brandao (TUF 14 Finale)
Keys to Victory: Bermudez is a powerhouse featherweight. Though a bit short for the division, "The Menace" makes up for it by being thickly built with muscle, which aids both his wrestling prowess and knockout ability.
In addition to his beastly physicality, Bermudez possesses great conditioning and pure toughness. Using all these attributes, Bermudez often overwhelms his opponent with a constant stream of heavy offense, which has resulted in seven finishes.
In a scrap between such similar combatants, two aspects of the fight often decide who the eventual winner is: volume and aggression. For Bermudez to win, he must ensure that he is far ahead in both of these areas.
Bermudez is undoubtedly going to pressure Lamas. However, he must be certain to close range and cut off the cage before attacking with punches, otherwise he's likely to try and reach for his opponent. When that happens, Bermudez gets hit with counters often.
Punch-for-punch, Bermudez is at an advantage here as well. That means if he notices Lamas is willing to exchange, he should take advantage. Not only is Bermudez ridiculously durable, but Lamas has been finished a couple of times by strikes.
Finally, Bermudez can look to score key takedowns when he has Lamas trapped against the cage or the two are in the midst of a heated exchange. He won't likely be able to control Lamas for an extended period of time or do significant damage, but takedowns can mostly definitely persuade the judges in a close fight and leave a lasting impression on which fighter controlled the round.
Bottom Line: Currently, it seems that the winner of Cub Swanson vs. Frankie Edgar and Conor McGregor are the next couple fighters in line for a featherweight title shot. However, the winner of this bout also has a strong argument and could see a match up against one of those fighters in their near future.
Lamas' first win after losing to Aldo was hardly the dominant performance he needed. If Lamas wants to work his way back to the title after the first dull attempt, he needs to showcase serious improvement and just blow top fighters out of the water.
Otherwise, he's stuck far from the title until Aldo loses.
Similarly, a loss would derail any chance of Lamas earning his rematch. Simply put, Lamas needs a string of near-perfect performances if he ever wants to square off against Aldo once more.
Though some of the decisions were a bit shaky, Bermudez finds himself on a hell of a win streak. In his last step up in competition, Bermudez put on the best performance of his career. If he replicates that result here, Bermudez is certainly on the short list for future title contenders.
As the favorite, Bermudez also has a fair bit to lose here. He's currently seen as a fast-rising contender, but a loss to Lamas would put a damper on this in a hurry, especially since many see Bermudez as the younger, better version of "The Bully."
At UFC 180, Ricardo Lamas and Dennis Bermudez will fight their way into title contention. Which man will walk away with a victory?