Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight bruisers Mirsad Bektic and Russell Doane will throw down this Saturday night (Oct. 8, 2016) at the UFC 204 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Bektic is one of the most highly-regarded prospects in the talent-rich 145-pound division, but a knee injury has kept him on the sidelines for well over a year. In this bout, Bektic is looking to prove that he’s still the same top-notch mauler.
On the other hand, Doane took this bout on just five days notice. Doane had a strong start to his UFC career, but he's come up short in his last three appearances, putting some serious pressure on the Hawaiian to perform in a big way.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men.
Key Wins: Chas Skelly (UFC on FOX 11), Lucas Martins (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Bektic is a physical talent and fantastic wrestler. He really tends to maul his opponents, pushing forward with aggressive combinations, slamming them to the mat, and delivering some particularly nasty ground strikes.
That will probably work quite well in this match up.
Doane is a well-rounded veteran, but his athleticism is lacking in comparison with the Bosnian. That’s true for much of the division, but Doane's recent reliance on wrestling will likely play right into Bektic's hands.
Bektic shouldn’t waste time in looking for the takedown. He’s going to win most wrestling exchanges, and he’s incredibly devastating from top position. Plus, with his opponent coming in on short-notice, grueling wrestling exchanges are the last thing he wants.
If Bektic can get on top early and often throughout the bout, he’ll likely be able to end this one.
Key Wins: Leandro Issa (UFC Fight Night 34), Marcus Brimage (UFC 175), Jared Papazian (TPF 17)
Key Losses: Pedro Munhoz (UFC Fight Night 90), Jerrod Sandors (TUF 21 Finale), Yuri Alcantara (UFC Fight Night 51)
Keys to Victory: Doane is a skilled striker with some well-timed double leg takedowns. While submission defense has been a problem for him, Doane did pull off a nasty triangle choke of jiu-jitsu ace Leandro Issa in his debut.
Doane's back is up against the wall in this match up.
With a full camp, Doane's strategy would be different. He's a good striker at range and has some pop in his hands, meaning attempting to play the outside striking game would be a smart idea. If he could avoid the takedowns of his foe with footwork, the more experienced fighter could likely get into his rhythm on the feet.
With just five days of preparation, that's not really an option.
Instead, Doane needs to be aggressive and hunt for the early knockout. If he can hurt Bektic with a punch or kick, Doane is excellent at capitalizing on a wounded opponent, as all but three of his victories come via stoppage. To add Bektic to that list, Doane will need to do something significant early in the match.
Bottom Line: This is a pretty standard prospect vs. veteran match up.
Knee injuries often raise questions. Coming off perhaps the best performance of his career, Bektic needs to prove that he still possesses his old explosiveness. For a man with his overwhelming style, that will be very important.
A win proves that Bektic can continue rising up the ranks.
On the other hand, a loss could be attributed to many things depending on how the bout goes. If he looks rusty or simply gets caught by a big shot, it’ll be easier to forget. If, however, Bektic looks noticeably slower, that would be a cause for concern.
Doane is in an interesting -- and dangerous -- position. He's done the UFC a serious favor by accepting a fight with a bruiser like Bektic on such short-notice, but he's also lost his last three fights. If his UFC record slips to 2-4, it's not certain whether the UFC will give him another bout.
All that said, a win would be huge for Doane. This is a major event, and handing a top prospect like Bektic his first career loss is more than significant. Doane would still have some work to do to break into the rankings, but it would be a tremendous start to a new win streak.
At UFC 204, Mirsad Bektic and Russell Doane will open the main card with a Featherweight war. Which man will have his hand raised?