Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight sluggers Ross Pearson and Francisco Trinaldo will battle this Sunday (Jan. 17, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 81 inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Pearson has been struggling to put together wins, but he's generally looked quite good in recent performances. While he's not a contender at the moment, Pearson has really put all the pieces together and found his power in the last couple years.
Trinaldo was in a similar position -- largely alternating wins and losses -- until he suddenly burst into a four-fight win streak over some tough competition. If the Brazilian can maintain his winning ways here, he's due for a real step up in competition.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Record: 17-8 (1)
Key Wins: Paul Felder (UFC 191), Gray Maynard (UFC Fight Night 47), Dennis Siver (UFC Fight Night 21)
Key Losses: Evan Dunham (UFC Fight Night 72), Al Iaquinta (UFC Fight Night 55), Cole Miller (UFC Fight Night 22)
Keys to Victory: One of the finest boxers in his division, Pearson is one of the more overlooked fighters at Lightweight. He's difficult to takedown and possesses real snap in his punches, which has helped him earn seven knockout victories.
In this bout, Pearson needs to be cautious early. He's likely the more technical fighter in every area except for jiu-jitsu, but Trinaldo is huge, durable, and known to start fights quickly.
That could be a recipe for disaster, as Pearson is not known for having an iron jaw.
Therefore, Pearson must be wary of early exchanges. He had excellent head movement and must rely on it, as Trinaldo loads up on his punches. So long as Pearson doesn't carelessly dive into exchanges, he should be able to keep himself reasonably safe.
Before long, Trinaldo will begin to slow down. Once that happens, Pearson can take over with his precise combinations and slick counter punches, which will go a long way in shutting down Trinaldo's attack.
Key Wins: Chad Laprise (UFC Fight Night 74), Norman Parke (UFC Fight Night 67), Leandro Silva (UFC Fight Night 51)
Key Losses: Michael Chiesa (UFC 173), Piotr Hallmann (UFC Fight Night 28), Gleison Tibau (UFC 153)
Keys to Victory: Trinaldo is a powerful and well-rounded fighter. He's got big power and a Kickboxing background, as well as a black belt in jiu-jitsu. Thanks to this skills, Trinaldo's 11 finishes are almost evenly split between knockout and submission.
In this bout, Trinaldo has to take full advantage of his kicks. Since submitting Pearson has never been easy, Trinaldo probably shouldn't attempt to force takedowns on the Englishman, as it would only serve to gas him out.
Trinaldo needs to accept that this is a striking match and take his opponent out.
Since Pearson relies so much on head movement, Trinaldo's kicks to the head and body are an obvious weapon. Trinaldo has obvious power in these kicks -- just ask Piotr Hallmann, who was nearly finished by a liver kick from "Massaranduba" -- and could even finish the fight with them.
Even if the kicks don't end up doing significant damage, limiting Pearson's head movement is a big part of defeating him. If Pearson's head is stationary, Trinaldo's power punches will find their target with far greater frequency.
Bottom Line: Both of these men are looking to break into the top-tier of Lightweights, and they need big wins to do so.
Pearson may not be on a deep win streak, but his victory over Felder was perhaps the most important of his career. If he can follow up that victory with a strong performance here, Pearson may earn another shot at a ranked fighter.
Alternatively, a loss means Pearson continues to stagnate where he's at currently. That's not the worst thing in the world -- Pearson is fairly well-known and generally puts on fun fights -- but "Real Deal" certainly has his eyes set on the top of the division.
This is a far bigger fight for Trinaldo. If he wins here, it's a major victory to cap off a solid win streak. That's precisely what is required to climb the ladder in a division like Lightweight, and it could likely earn Trinaldo a high-profile bout.
However, the consequences would also be far greater. Trinaldo is 37 years old and likely doesn't have many big win streaks left in him, so it's potentially now-or-never for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran.
At UFC Fight Night 81, Ross Pearson and Francisco Trinaldo will throw down. Which fighter will have his hand raised?