Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight prospects Olivier Aubin Mercier and Thibault Gouti will battle this Saturday (June 18, 2016) at TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Canada.
Mercier is something of a fighter to watch at Lightweight. An athletic grappler out of one of the best camps in the world, Tristar, Mercier has already built up a 3-1 record at 155 pounds.
Meanwhile, Gouti's short-notice Octagon debut didn't exactly go as planned. Submitted in less than 30 seconds, the French fighter is looking for a more positive showing this time around.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Olivier Aubin Mercier
Key Wins: Tony Sims (UFC Fight Night 74), David Michaud (UFC 186)
Key Losses: Carlos Diego Ferrera (UFC on FOX 18), Chad Laprise (TUF Nations Finale)
Keys to Victory: Olivier is a dominant grappler with a deep Judo background. Though his striking has already come a long way, Olivier still relies pretty heavily on the strategy of taking his opponent down, finding the back mount and squeezing the life out of his opponent.
That should be a sound strategy opposite Gouti.
Though a majority of Gouti's finishes come via submission, he really fights like more of a boxer than anything else. Plus, most of his grappling success came against fighters on the regional scene in France, and the vast majority of those fighters cannot match up to "The Quebec Kid."
Stylistically, this should be something of a layup for Mercier. He's the superior grappler and has been a difficult fighter to finish on the feet, meaning his chances of getting stunned by a punch are reasonably slim.
With that in mind, Mercier should rely on his usual tactics to drag the fight to the mat. Once on top, he's pretty dominant and should be able to control his opponent while he hunts for the submission.
Key Wins: Anton Kuivanen (Cage 33)
Key Losses: Teemu Packalen (UFC Fight Night 84)
Keys to Victory: Gouti is a fairly well-rounded product representing France. He's a rather prolific finisher, having submitted six of his opponents and knocked out another three.
The above section should make it pretty clear that Gouti is facing an uphill battle. That said, Mercier is far from a finished product and definitely has holes in his stand up game.
Gouti's strategy here is pretty clearly sprawl-and-brawl. The Frenchman needs to keep his opponent on the end of his punches, avoiding the grappling and making his opponent uncomfortable.
If there's one pivotal element to this strategy, it's that Gouti keeps his back off the fence. As Mercier showed opposite Sims, he's completely willing to trap his opponent and make the fight ugly, even if it doesn't really result in any dominant takedowns.
Gouti cannot win this fight with his ass on the mat or back on the fence. If he's to have a chance, he needs to do his damnedest to ensure that he spends very little time in either position.
Bottom Line: This is intended to be a bounce back fight for Aubin Mercier.
Mercier is less than five full years into his professional career, and he's already in the UFC competing with tough fighters in the sport's deepest division. Unless he were a Jon Jones-level talent -- and he's not -- there were destined to be the occasional growing pain and loss.
Thus his losses to the more experienced Ferreira and Laprise.
This, however, is an opponent that Mercier should defeat. If the French Canadian wins, it's expected and continues him along the path of prospect. Alternatively, a loss would indicate that Mercier has to make some major changes in his approach if he's to become an elite fighter.
Gouti is a significant underdog in a must-win situation. Usually, there's less pressure on the man expected to lose, but there's a very real chance that Gouti is released with a second straight loss.
Alternatively, a win would be a major boost for Gouti and establish him inside the UFC> Mercier is a talented fighter, so for Gouti to dispatch him would certainly be the biggest moment in his career.
At UFC Fight Night 89, Olivier Aubin Mercier and Thibault Gouti will throw down. Which fighter will have his hand raised?