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UFC on ABC 5 breakdown: How Josh Emmett can end Ilia Topuria'a undefeated run

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 38 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 70″

  • Last fight: Submission loss to Yair Rodriguez (Feb. 11, 2023)

  • Camp: Team Alpha Male (California)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info: + Regional MMA titles + NAIA collegiate wrestler (Menlo College) + Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt + 6 KO victories + 2 submission wins + 6 first-round finishes + KO power ^ 11 knockdowns in last 9 appearances + Heavy crosses and hooks ^ Coming forward and off the counter + Strong inside the clinch + Good takedown ability + Solid transitional grappler ^ Scrambles well/positionally aware

Ilia Topuria (13-0 MMA, 5-40UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 26 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 69″

  • Last fight: Submission win over Bryce Mitchell (Dec. 10, 2022)

  • Camp: Kill Cliff FC (Florida)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info: + Regional MMA title + Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt + Grappling and wrestling base + 4 KO victories + 8 submission wins + 9 first-round finishes + KO power + Aggressive pace and pressure + Accurate shot selection ^ Hard left hooks to the liver + Solid wrestling ability ^ Defensively and offensively + Excellent transitional grappling ^ Dangerous from front-headlock pos

The main event in Florida features a fun featherweight pairing between two fighters who aren’t afraid to hook in the pocket.

An aggressive fighter who is more bull than matador, Ilia Topuria is not a fighter who cowers from closing space.

Typically looking to cut off the cage, Topuria will initially display a lot of the right ideas you’d like to see from forward-moving fighters. From small feints that accompany Topuria’s pressure to the tight distances he likes to keep on the feet, the Georgian fighter’s style ensures high temperatures in his fights.

Although Topuria isn’t the tallest or longest fighter in his division, he has a knack for punching with his opponents in order to meet them in the middle. The 26-year-old is also good about flowing into left hooks, particularly to the liver side.

Nevertheless, Topuria will need to be mindful about hooking with a power puncher like Josh Emmett.

An athletic and explosive mover, Emmett displays similar stylistic nods to his Team Alpha Male stablemates to go along with an eye for technical detail.

Often circling along the outside, Emmett will offer an array of looks in an effort to create alternate angles of approach. Whether he is feinting heavily and shuffle-stepping his way into range with a right hand, or shifting to southpaw to enter off of kicks, Emmett has power in almost everything he throws.

The 12-year pro also carries some craft to his game, demonstrating slick head movement and an awareness of angles that speaks louder than one would expect from his resume.

A deceptive counterpuncher, Emmett does his best work when walking his opponents into his favored heavy right hand. That said, I’ll be curious to see if Emmett looks to lean more on his left-sided repertoire given Topuria’s past troubles with dipping into offense from that side.

Point of interest: Potential grappling threats

Dec 11, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Josh Emmett brings down Dan Ige during UFC 269 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Considering that both men come from grappling bases, no one should be shocked if this featherweight party touches the floor at some point this Saturday.

A dangerous submission grappler who grew up with jiu-jitsu, Topuria has proven to be a top-level black belt with his finishing prowess on the floor.

A demon from the front-headlock position, Topuria can seamlessly transition into his favored anaconda choke like it’s second nature. Topuria is also a solid wrestler and superb scrambler – an area where his athleticism particularly shines through.

Still, I’ll be curious to see how the Georgian’s entries stack up against the American’s defense.

A former NAIA collegiate wrestler, Emmett traditionally has had the edge when it comes to takedown traffic and positional play. Whether he is in the open or against the fence, Emmett has shown a serviceable array of options he can exercise (though most of his completions come against the cage).

Emmett also knows his way inside of a scramble, displaying passing and striking competency from topside in past performances.

From the bottom, Emmett is not afraid to attack what’s there – chaining chokes, leg locks and other submissions that he parlays into opportunities to scramble and stand. In fact, both men do fairly well with getting back to their feet, making me think that ground exchanges may be short and sweet while both are fresh.

That said, Topuria is undoubtedly the more dangerous grappler who should have a solid edge in these phases.

Point of interest: Odds and opinions

The oddsmakers and the public are siding with the younger man, listing Topuria -390 and Emmett +280 via FanDuel.

Despite not disagreeing with who is favored, I’m kind of surprised to see this line continue to get wider.

Topuria definitely has the higher ceiling between these two but MMA is a game of stylistic matchups and I see Emmett being a potentially tricky hurdle for the Georgian fighter.

Even though Topuria has more potential pathways to win this fight, those paths all involve entering the pocket on terms that Emmett is familiar with. Add in Topuria’s propensity to dip into left-sided strikes, and this could be the perfect recipe for a prospect loss.

Not only does Emmett have obvious fight-changing power, but the Menlo College rep has also improved his technical acumen and variety in the boxing realm – especially off of his left hand. In fact, I would not be shocked to see Emmett lean on his shifting southpaw combos considering the trouble that stance has traditionally caused Topuria throughout his career.

We saw Emmett utilize the southpaw stance to successfully create lanes for crosses and combinations when he fought superior boxing technicians Shane Burgos and Calvin Kattar, so don’t be shocked if Emmett is able to find success this Saturday.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been high on Topuria for some time and think he made a great choice in going to train with Henri Hooft and company at Kill Cliff FC. But aside from the first camp typically being an adjusting period for most fighters, I also believe that Topuria’s inherent aggression and propensity to throw himself out of position runs a high risk of costing him here.

I’ll take a flier on Emmett to upset the apple cart with a first-round knockout.


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