Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight sluggers Song Yadong and Marlon Moraes will collide this weekend (Sat., March 12, 2022) at UFC Vegas 50 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
There aren’t many up-and-comers quite like Yadong. At 24 years of age, he’s about to make the UFC walk for the 10th time and already holds a spot in the rankings. It would seem that’s what happens when an incredible athlete starts fighting grown adults in pro fights at the age of 13 — Yadong is already an experienced and dangerous contender.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t all that long ago that Marlon Moraes seemed the heir apparent at 135 lbs. Henry Cejudo stopped the Brazilian from claiming gold, and since then, he’s been in a free fall. Moraes may remain No. 10 in the rankings, but he’s lost his last three bouts via stoppage, and his back is certainly to the wall here.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 18-5-1 (1)
Key Wins: Marlon Vera (UFC on ESPN 8), Casey Kenney (UFC 265), Julio Arce (UFC Vegas 42), Alejandro Perez (UFC 239), Felipe Arantes (UFC Fight Night 132)
Key Losses: Kyler Phillips (UFC 259)
Keys To Victory: Yadong is an incredibly fast and powerful athlete, and he makes use of those attributes primarily in the stand up. He’s an excellent boxer, capable of putting together punishing combinations or timing sharp counter shots.
The strategy here is fairly clear. Moraes has struggled in recent fights with pace, and the quickest way to exhaust an opponent is pressure, volume and body work. Yadong has the tools to employ an effective pressure kickboxing attack, and he doesn’t have to abandon his technique to do so.
Moraes likes to strike from the kicking range, whereas Yadong is more of a pocket boxer. Already, that style match up incentives him to push forward and close distance. Tactically marching forward will start to apply pressure to Moraes’ gas tank and potentially start to wreak havoc on his confidence, too.
Letting Moraes get confident in there would be dangerous, so trying to put the pain on the Brazilian before he gets flowing would be a good choice.
Key Wins: Jose Aldo (UFC 245), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 144), Jimmie Rivera (UFC Fight Night 131), Aljamain Sterling (UFC Fight Night 123), John Dodson (UFC Fight Night 120), Josh Hill (WSOF 32, WSOF 18)
Key Losses: Cory Sandhagen (UFC Fight Island 5), Rob Font (UFC Vegas 17), Merab Dvalishvili (UFC 266), Henry Cejudo (UFC 238)
Keys to Victory: It’s hard to point to why the wheels have fallen off so harshly for “The Magician.” Sure, his cardio has failed him in a couple of these defeats, but why is that such a problem all of a sudden? What happened to the Moraes who terrorized opponents with lightning kicks?
I don’t have the answer.
For whatever it’s worth, Moraes really did look great versus Dvalishvili. He basically knocked him out cold, but “The Machine” somehow kept on ticking to pull off an all-time great comeback win. That sucks for Moraes, but it’s definitive proof that there’s still something left in the tank.
Against a fellow striker in Yadong, Moraes has to get back to basics. He’s still arguably the most powerful kicker at 135 pounds, and he’d be well-advised to use those kicks to start taking away from Yadong’s explosiveness. A few digs to the thigh and heavy shins to the arms can really take the steam off the punches coming his way, setting up Moraes for further success.
In addition, Moraes has to earn his opponent’s respect with some counter shots. If he can settle Yadong down and force him off the pressure, he’s more likely to be able to maintain the pace for the full 15 minutes.
This is an excellent co-main event.
Yadong has an opportunity to break into the Top 10 with a victory this weekend. Another win here — his third straight over quality competition — surely puts him in the title mix too. Bantamweight is insanely talent-rich, but even so, there’s no one else at 135 pounds with Yadong’s combination of talent and high-level experience at such a young age.
Moraes, meanwhile, has his back to the wall. There are plenty of Bantamweights that Moraes could still chew up, but a fourth consecutive loss could still see him released. He’s not being given a softball foe to bounce back against either — Moraes has to defend his spot on the roster and in the Top 10 in one fell swoop.
At UFC Vegas 50, Song Yadong and Marlon Moraes will throw down in the co-main event. Which man will earn the victory?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 50 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.
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