Preview: UFC on ABC 2 ‘Vettori vs. Holland’ - Allen vs. Yusuff

By: Tom Feely
Apr 9, 2021


Featherweights
Arnold Allen (16-1) vs. Sodiq Yusuff (11-1)
Odds: Yusuff (-130), Allen (+110)


Two top featherweight prospects collide in an excellent bout. Allen's been on the UFC roster for nearly six years and held top prospect status for most of it, so it's impressive that the promotion has properly slow-played him up the ranks over that duration. It's paid off, as the Brit is in the peak form of his career and ready to make a run towards featherweight gold. For most of Allen's tenure he's been able to rely on his physical strength over any sort of form and function, but that approach also led to some close scrapes with a loss; his bout with Makwan Amirkhani was a split decision, while he needed a third-round submission to steal a win from Mads Burnell. But in his last few bouts, Allen has suddenly rounded into a patient and effective boxer, taking impressively clean victories over Gilbert Melendez and Nik Lentz. But while Allen looks ready for a charge up the ranks, that slow rise in competition over his UFC career means that "Almighty" has yet to face his toughest tests; he's faced surprisingly few power punchers, and there are some questions about how his newer approach will fare against younger athletes who can match his physicality. And as luck has it, that's exactly what this fight against Yusuff figures to answer.

Yusuff's had a much quicker ascent, to say the least. The Nigerian prospect was one of the highlights of the 2018 edition of Dana White’s Contender Series, winning an excellent fight over Mike Davis, and the UFC rushed him up the ladder pretty quickly. Within two fights, Yusuff was matched up against Sheymon Moraes in a bout that figured to be too much too soon - which made it all the more impressive when Yusuff was able to take another leap and score a clear decision win. Since then, Yusuff has continued to get stiff tests and pass them with flying colors; he overcame some early trouble against Gabriel Benitez to score a first-round knockout, and showed off some wrestling and grappling skills against Andre Fili in January. At just 27 years old, the sky appears to be the limit for Yusuff.

This is an absolutely fascinating fight, particularly given the current unknowns about Allen. Allen has shown a lot to like in his last handful of contests, staying patient and choosing a lot of the right strikes, but again, Yusuff brings a level of speed and power to his striking that Allen simply has yet to face. So for as excellent of a matchup as this appears to be on paper, there's a chance that Yusuff can shock Allen and end the fight quickly. Allen has looked durable and mentally sturdy enough that that doesn't figure to happen, however, though Yusuff still should get the better of things on the feet; he's the harder hitter and, while being most comfortable on the counter, seems to be the more willing to press the action if things turn into a staring contest. The interesting factor will be Allen's wrestling -- while he initially got by as a messy but naturally strong grinder, his recent focus on his striking has meant a nearly complete pivot away from that part of his game. If Allen starts pressing clinch exchanges and takedowns, that could be an avenue to a win -- or it could prove completely ineffective, as Andre Fili basically got nowhere on the mat with Yusuff despite repeated successful takedown attempts. If that Fili fight didn't exist and Yusuff's ground game was more of a question mark, that'd probably be enough to pick Allen here; but as it is, Yusuff's shown enough that between his ability to keep the fight standing and, even if a bit technically outgunned, cause much more damage on the feet, he's the pick here. It still won't be an easy fight; Allen figures to pick up the third round given how Yusuff tired in the later stretches of the Fili bout. The pick is for Yusuff to walk away with a decision win.

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