Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight grapplers Josh Burkman and Zak Ottow will battle this Saturday (Oct. 1, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 96 inside Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
Burkman’s second UFC stint hasn’t exactly been pretty. A trio of tough losses — though one was overturned — sent him down to the Lightweight division, but the longtime veteran has yet to really establish himself there either. He was supposed to face a seriously tough task in Bobby Green, but injuries scrapped that match up. Filling in for Green is Ottow, a newcomer to the UFC. He’s fought in a number of respected regional promotions against some decent competition, but this will undoubtedly be the biggest test of his career.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Record: 27-11 (1)
Key Wins: K.J. Noons (UFC Fight Night 82), Jon Fitch (WSOF 3), Aaron Simpson (WSOF 2)
Key Losses: Dong Hyun Kim (UFC 187), Steve Carl (WSOF 6)
Keys to Victory: Burkman has developed any interesting style of fighting. Though he used to rely heavily on his wrestling background early in his career — which still shows up reasonably often in his fights — Burkman largely looks to fight as a counter puncher.
Burkman's opponent may be unproven, but he's shown serious aggression in past fights. There's a reason 14 of his 16 fights have ended inside the distance.
"Barbarian" comes to scrap.
Luckily, that should play directly into Burkman's game. "People's Warrior" does a nice job of pestering his opponent with long, rangy kicks, forcing them to run into his counter left hand. If Burkman feels uncomfortable countering his foe's aggression with punches, the counter double leg is always an option. The last time Ottow faced a top control specialist in Jacob Volkmann, he wound up submitted in the first round.
Burkman could look to replicate that win.
Key Wins: Craig Eckelberg (Pure FC 4), Frank Schuman (KOTC: Total Devastation)
Key Losses: Jacob Volkmann (LFC 43), Zachary Mickelwright (Caged Aggression 12)
Keys to Victory: Ottow is an aggressive grappler with nasty chokes. While he does throw with some pop in his hands, Ottow definitely prefers to dominate his opponents on the mat.
Admittedly, that will be tough opposite a wrestler like Burkman.
In this match up, Ottow's biggest advantage is likely youth. Burkman has been around combat sports for a very high level, and he's lost a bit of durability and conditioning. Alongside his new, harsh weight cut to Lightweight, that leaves him a bit more vulnerable. To take advantage, Ottow needs to wrestle against the fence. He probably won't succeed, but that's truly exhausting work and will slow Burkman down.
Additionally, if Ottow is able to stay tight in the clinch or on his foe's hips, he'll be able to avoid the counter left on the way in. So long as Ottow mixes in some clinch strikes while looking for the takedown, there's a decent chance he'll be able to control the bout from that position as his foe fatigues.
Bottom Line: It’s an interesting test for both men.
Burkman needs to prove that he can win consistently in UFC. He’s 1-1 as a Lightweight, and he really needs to return to the win column. Overall, his performances doesn’t have to be pretty or over elite competition, but Burkman definitely needs his hand raised.
Basically, a win here could buy him some stability rather than a potential pink slip.
As for Ottow, it really depends on what type of shape he’s in. If he’s well-conditioned despite the short-notice, this could be a big moment for him. Burkman is a solid name, but he isn’t untouchable. By pulling off the upset, Ottow would add his list to the name of fighters to watch at 155 pounds.
If not, Burkman is still a respectable veteran. Ottow will receive another chance, though it will likely be a bit lower on the fight card.
At UFC Fight Night 96, Josh Burkman and Zak Ottow will go to war. Which fighter will leave the Octagon with a win?