Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight sluggers Abdul Razak Alhassan and Niko Price will throw down this Saturday (Sept. 8, 2018) at UFC 228 inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
I don’t claim to have any insider UFC source or deep understanding of what exactly goes through the minds of its matchmakers. In this case, though, the logic was easy to see: Alhassan and Price are responsible for two of the very best knockouts of 2018, so let’s lock ‘em in a cage and see what happens. Often enough, the opening bout of a pay-per-view (PPV) main card is designed to showcase up-and-comers and end in violence, and this bout is very likely to succeed on both accounts.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Abdul Razak Alhassan
Key Wins: Sabah Homasi (UFC 218, UFC 220), Charlie Ward (UFC Fight Night 99)
Key Losses: Omari Akhmedov (UFC Fight Night 109)
Keys to Victory: Rumor is that “Judo Thunder” has a black belt in Judo, but I’ve yet to see that background inside the Octagon. More telling is Alhassan’s nine first-round knockout victories against nine professional wins, which should give a better idea as to the Ghanian athlete’s intentions.
The man is violent.
On the whole, Alhassan just tries to destroy opponents with brutal right hands and physicality. That’s about all he does, which makes writing a gameplan for him both difficult and a bit pointless. For better or worse, Alhassan is going to try to score his tenth first round knockout win. Realistically, going hard early may be Alhassan’s best bet. Price is hittable early, which is great for Alhassan’s style. The negative side is that Price tends to open up the more relaxed he becomes deeper in the fight, whereas Alhassan fatigues rather quickly, which is a very bad combination for “Judo Thunder.”
Alhassan’s usually all-offense approach is probably his best chance at victory.
Record: 12-1 (1)
Key Wins: Randy Brown (UFC Fight Night 133), Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 114), Brandon Thatch (UFC 207)
Key Losses: Vicente Luque (UFC Fight Night 119)
Keys To Victory: Alhassan is a man of straight forward violence — aggression and overhands. Price, meanwhile, is a more unique mixture of equally potent offense, someone who relies more on strange timing and shifting punches to deliver the hurt.
While Price may be the more opportunistic of the two, don’t get me wrong, he’ll also mix in sudden bursts of immense violence.
Price has several huge advantages here. First and foremost, he has a lot more options: Price can do damage at range or in close, he can score takedowns and work top position, and he is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt as well. That’s a lot compared to Alhassan’s right hand and occasional hip toss (after which he generally throws more right hands). In addition, Price is the better conditioned man. Between those two advantages, Price would be best advised to pressure Alhassan with both strikes and takedowns, mixing it all together and looking for opportunities to create offense. If nothing significant lands early, that’s okay, as Alhassan slows down very noticeably.
Bottom Line: This fight going the full 15 minutes would be surprising.
Weird rematch with Homasi aside, Alhassan is 3-1 inside the Octagon with a 100 percent knockout rate. His level of competition has been pretty mediocre, but at 33 years old, Alhassan has earned this opportunity to step up against a tougher foe on a more high-profile card. This is a very important moment for his career, one that decides whether he has a chance at climbing the ranks or will be stuck as an action fighter.
The stakes are somewhat similar for Price, but he’s already established himself as a current action fighter with a high ceiling. He’s younger than Alhassan and has more time to develop into a top contender, but Price is also deeper into his UFC career and already fought tougher foes. In short, the risk for Alhassan is being relegated to action fighter, whereas the risk for Price is losing the momentum he’s already built up.
Price has looked sharp lately, so it may only take one more win to see him face off with a ranked foe.
At UFC 228, Abdul Razak Alhassan and Niko Price will open the main card. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?