Gravely enters the Octagon as one of the most decorated regional fighters in MMA. Over his four-year professional career, the 27-year-old has captured bantamweight titles in four different organizations, including King of the Cage and CES MMA. The Virginia native flaunts an impressive 18-5 record, and none of his losses stick out, as they have come to Manny Bermudez, Merab Dvalishvili, Patrick Mix, Ricky Bandejas and current Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Pat Sabatini -- men who own a cumulative 55-9 mark. Gravely is not known for his striking, though he is often wiling to engage in a brawl. He has been tagged several times due to his lack of head movement. He likes to spring into the pocket and fire off hard flurries. The Virginia native is a strong wrestler, having competed collegiately at Appalachian State University. The 27-year-old gets his takedowns by relentlessly driving through his opponents’ hips on takedowns. He has made the mistake of holding on to their legs for too long while being sprawled on, leaving him susceptible to being hit with hammerfists and elbows. Once on top, Gravely does well at pinning his adversary’s shoulder to the mat. Despite many critics calling him a lay-and-pray artist, he does often sit up in his opponent’s guard and fire off ground-and-pound. Despite having some slick back takes, the rising prospect seems to be forced to fight off close submission attempts in almost every bout. Though he is a little undersized for the division, Gravely never seems to tire and his high-paced wrestling game wears down his opposition.
Rodriguez enters the Octagon surging. He owns a 15-5 record and has won 10 out of his last 11 bouts, with his only loss coming to current UFC bantamweight Chris Gutierrez. The Texas native is a well-rounded fighter. He is an aggressive striker who possesses fast hands and kicks. He likes to attack with combinations, with his body strikes being a major aspect of his game. Rodriguez throws hard kicks to the body and likes to bully his opponent in the clinch with knees and elbows. “The Judge” is not a strong wrestler, but the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt is a submission threat from the top and bottom positions. However, this can work to his detriment, as the Ultimate Submission Academy rep struggles to get off his back by looking to lock up a submission instead of scrambling to his feet. If he is on top, Rodriguez sets up his submission game from on top by peppering his opponent with ground-and-pound.
These two experienced fighters have been waiting on their call to the big leagues for a long time. Rodriguez is the more well-rounded fighter and has the better chance of finishing the fight due to his submission game, but he has a major hole in his wrestling -- a weakness which is tailormade for Gravely. Expect the CES MMA champion to take down Rodriguez repeatedly, consolidating his efforts by landing shots while sitting in the Texan’s guard. The play-it-safe approach will earn Gravely a decision but does not figure to curry favor from UFC President Dana White, leaving him on the outside looking in.
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