Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight sluggers Matt Frevola and Ottman Azaitar will collide this weekend (Sat., Jan. 23, 2021) at UFC 257 inside “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
How, exactly, has this fight found its way to the pay-per-view (PPV) main card? There are at least a couple of answers. First and foremost, it will be fun! Both Frevola and Azaitar come out swinging, putting on “Fight of the Night”-type performances and blistering knockouts respectively. The second reason would seem to be “The Bulldozer” himself, as his two big first-round knockout wins in two UFC appearances make him worthy of the additional exposure. UFC might just have something special on its hands, so he’s being given a nice opportunity.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jalin Turner (UFC 236), Luis Pena (UFC Fight Night 161), Jose Flores (DWTNCS 8)]
Key Losses: Polo Reyes (UFC Fight Night 124)
Keys to Victory: Frevola made a solid enough impression on “Contender Series” to pick up a contract, using his grappling skills to pick up a submission win. As a UFC veteran, however, Frevola has been plenty happy to mix it up, throwing big punches in bunches then ducking into the occasional takedown attempt.
“The Steamrolla” has one primary goal in this fight: do not get knocked the f—k out in the opening round. Four out of Azaitar’s last five victories came inside the opening frame, and while he has yet to taste defeat, he does not at all fight like an athlete who is concerned with how his gas tank will manage in the latter half of the fight.
As such, Frevola’s mission is to drag this fight into deep waters and exhaust his opponent. He will be forced to walk a narrow line: Frevola tends to do well in chaos with regards to timing takedowns — which would obviously be very helpful — but he also cannot afford to swallow an overhand right in all the madness.
Frevola’s best bet may be to bring the fight to Azaitar, who is used to chasing his foe’s down and timing them with big swings. If Frevola is instead punching forward, showing the level change, and actually driving for double legs, it may actually help keep him away from the potential kill shot.
Key Wins: Khama Worthy (UFC Fight Night 177), Teemu Packalen (UFC 242)
Key Losses: None
Keys To Victory: “Bulldozer” lives up to his nickname. He’s finished 12 of his 13 professional victories, a majority of them in the first round via knockout. Azaitar does not punch gently — every strike is taut and wound up with considerable power.
Frevola has been blown out of the water once before, in his sole loss to Polo Reyes. The precedent is there for Azaitar to storm the ring and decapitate his foe with a big swing, and there’s little strategic analysis needed for such an outcome.
If there is one adjustment to make, Azaitar would be wise to lower his level a touch and work the body with some of his punches. Body shots already help set up overhands — see Junior dos Santos! — but they also help interrupt takedown attempts before they begin. Frevola is likely the best wrestler Azaitar has faced yet, so taking the initiative in disrupting his takedowns would be a smart move.
One way or another, this fight will deliver.
It takes a lot to stand out at 155 pounds. Frevola somewhat unexpectedly managed to hand a talented prospect (Jalin Turner) and semi-known name (Luis Pena) losses, and that pair of consecutive victories has earned him a step up in competition and opportunity. If he’s able to capitalize on this main card slot with an entertaining victory, Frevola will have a decent bit of momentum moving up the crowded ladder.
While upset wins are definitely a positive for making one’s mark, stunning knockouts are better. Azaitar has brutalized his last two opponents, and that turns heads. If he can extend his UFC win streak to three in similar fashion and thus remain unbeaten after 14 professional fights, well, that’s pretty special. It might even be enough to see “Bulldozer” face a ranked foe next.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 257 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 257, Matt Frevola and Ottman Azaitar will go to war. Which man remains standing when the dust settles?