Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight talents Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell will collide this weekend (Sat., March 20, 2021) at UFC Vegas 22 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Man, what has “The Gift” been up to? The ultra-decorated wrestler racked up six impressive wins to start his UFC career, but a big step up in competition opposite Kevin Lee prove too much, too soon. It’s been well over a year since that loss, and now Gillespie is ready to jump back into the mix. UFC is not lobbing Gillespie a softball for his attempted rebound. Riddell has 10 years of professional kickboxing under his belt, and he’s undefeated in three trips to the Octagon. The New Zealand native looks like a serious threat to the title already, and he’s just 29 years old despite his experience.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Yancy Medeiros (UFC Fight Night 143), Vinc Pichel (UFC Fight Night 131), Jason Gonzalez (UFC Fight Night 116), Glaico Franca (UFC Fight Night 95)
Key Losses: Kevin Lee (UFC 244)
Keys to Victory: Gillespie might just be the most decorated wrestler on UFC’s roster right now. A four-time All-American and collegiate national champion, Gillespie fights at an incredible pace, throwing combinations with solid power and hunting for chokes from top position.
He’s simply relentless.
At the same time, constant activity bears risk. Gillespie may land a lot, but he’s also in range to get cracked quite a bit. His lack of defensive focus didn’t cost him until he ran into a top-tier Lightweight in Lee, who took advantage with a perfectly setup high kick. Riddell has both the smarts and explosive power to capitalize in similar fashion, so we’ll see if Gillespie has learned his lesson.
Employing the takedown right away is the smart move here. Riddell is a serious athlete, one who will prove difficult to hold down early. Fortunately, that’s where Gillespie’s conditioning can really come into play. It’s exhausting to explode from bottom position, and Gillespie has the technique to keep him trapped in that type of exchange.
After five minutes of wrestling with “The Gift,” Riddell should prove far less dangerous.
Key Wins: Magomed Mustafaev (UFC Fight Night 168), Alex da Silva (UFC 253), Jamie Malarkey (UFC 243)
Key Losses: Abel Brites (Hex Fight Series 15)
Keys To Victory: Riddell is a scary athlete. He throws his combinations with serious power, which tends to convince opponents that wrestling is a good idea. They quickly realize, however, that the Kiwi has both the strength and technique to make that a very difficult strategy.
Matching Mustafaev’s athleticism is a serious feat.
The way Gillespie fights, it’s almost mandatory to knock him out (or at least severely damage him) to win. Otherwise, he just throws too many punches, works for too many takedowns. If Riddell tries to win on small margins, he’s likely to fall behind. The knockout is the way. Gillespie throws himself into the fire at every opportunity, and Riddell has the experience and power to capitalize on such opportunities.
Of course, that won’t matter if Riddell is consistently put on his back. In order to help alleviate the takedown threat, Riddell would be wise to rip body shots and avoid the fence. That’s basic enough counter wrestling, but every extra second that Riddell spends trading with Gillespie on the feet is an opportunity to land a fight-changing shot.
It’s a fight over a Top 15 spot at 155 pounds.
Lightweight is one of those tricky divisions where anyone in the top-half of the division could give elite talent a scrap, which makes advancing up the ladder rather difficult. For Gillespie, this bout is a necessary defense of his current position after being sidelined since Nov. 2019. Meanwhile, Riddell has impressed in his first three UFC wins, so he’s earned an opportunity to make his own title run more official.
Despite this being a ranked vs. unranked match up, the stakes are similar for either man. The victorious fighter should hopefully be able to look ahead in the rankings and continue climbing the ladder. Unfortunately for the defeated man, he’s back in the crowded Lightweight mix, the unofficial 16-25 area that is ultra talent-rich.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 22 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+/ESPN2 “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 22, Gregor Gillespie and Brad Riddell will go to war. Which man earns the victory?