Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Andre Fili and Godofredo Pepey will go to war this Saturday night (March 21, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 62 on FOX Sports 1 from inside the Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After brutalizing Jeremy Larsen in his debut performance, Fili fell to rising contender Max Holloway in a back-and-forth battle. He returned to the win column against Felipe Arantes and will now look to build momentum in Brazil once more.
Pepey's start to his UFC career wasn't the best, as he lost three of his first four bouts, and his sole win was hardly convincing. Since then, he's destroyed two straight opponents in highlight reel fashion, and both victories earned him performance bonuses.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each combatant.
Key Wins: Felipe Arantes (UFC 179), Jeremy Larsen (UFC 166)
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 172)
Keys to Victory: Displaying strong athleticism and aggression inside his trio of UFC bouts, Fili has established himself as a fighter to watch in the featherweight division. A Piano key belt in JoeJitsu, Fili has finished seven of his opponents via knockout and submitted three more.
While Fili has proven to be more than competent wherever the fight goes, his opponent is much more single-minded. Pepey pursues the submission with fairly reckless abandon, meaning that Fili must be wary in every grappling exchange.
Due to Pepey's wild style, the fight will likely end up on the mat at some point. Fili can definitely limit that time but circling out after landing his strikes and keeping his feet under him, but Pepey is willing to dive for leg locks and pull guard.
That doesn't mean it has to be to Pepey's advantage. Considering the fact that Pepey's two most recent losses are knockouts due to ground strikes, Fili should certainly look to punish Pepey for his grappling attempts as well as demoralize the jiu-jitsu black belt.
After landing some elbows, Pepey's guard will loosen up. From there, Fili can choose to return to his feet or deliver more ground strikes. So long as he's careful, Fili can potentially force a finish from either position.
Key Wins: Noad Lahat (UFC Fight Night 38), Dashon Johnson (UFC Fight Night 51)
Key Losses: Rony Jason (UFC 147), Sam Sicilia (UFC Fight Night 32), Felipe Arantes (UFC on Fuel TV 10)
Keys to Victory: Pepey rose to fame through the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil, though he failed to defeat Rony Jason in the finale. Since then, Pepey has been struggling to find consistency, finding himself either finishing his opponent or succumbing to strikes.
While Pepey is not a particularly technical striker, he throws with power and fairly reckless abandon. Plus, he always has his excellent jiu-jitsu to fall back on, which has led him to seven submission wins.
In order to defeat Fili, Pepey needs to find a way to drag "Touchy" to the mat. Worst comes to worst, he could pull guard, but that will likely results in him swallowing elbows rather than cranking on joints.
Instead, Pepey needs to force Fili to respect his striking. His opponent is the superior kickboxer, but that's never stopped Pepey from trying to separate his opponent from his senses. Pepey doesn't have to knockout or even hurt Fili, just let him know that he is dangerous.
Then, the Brazilian can hide a double leg behind a pair of big hooks. If Pepey gets on top of his opponent, he needs to jump on any submission attempt that he can; Pepey is not likely to have an abundance of opportunities.
Bottom Line: Fili is one of the division's best prospects, while Pepey could become a quality fighter if he further develops his striking. Regardless of each fighter's potential, this is sure to be an exciting showdown.
While Fili's loss to Holloway definitely stung, it's becoming more excusable as "Blessed" continues to find success. "Touchy" is still an excellent prospect in one of the UFC's strongest divisions, which makes his fights worth watching. If Fili is successful in his second trip to Brazil, it may be time for the UFC to give him a ranked opponent.
Alternatively, if Fili is caught by a powerful strike or submission, another couple fights in the middle of the featherweight division wound not hurt his progression. Featherweight is quite rich in talent, meaning there are plenty of potential opponents for Fili.
This is a big opportunity for Pepey. If he manages to take out Fili, it's the biggest win of his career and puts him on a three fight win streak. While it's not enough to suddenly make him a contender, it would do wonders to erase his consecutive knockout losses.
A loss wouldn't really affect Pepey's current position in the division. At this point, he gets put on Fight Night cards in Brazil because of his TUF popularity and exciting fighting style.
That's not going to change.
At UFC Fight Night 62, Andre Fili and Godofredo Pepey will attempt to take another step forward in the crowded featherweight division. Which man will have his hand raised?