Iuri Alcantara sports 25 finishes among his 31 victories. | Photo: Sherdog.com
BANTAMWEIGHTSIuri Alcantara (31-5, 6-2 UFC) vs. Frankie Saenz (9-2, 1-0 UFC)
Alcantara is a well-rounded and dangerous fighter. A crafty veteran with more than 11 years of professional experience, “Marajo” has plus skills in every category. He can crack at range with sharp punch-kick combinations from both stances and is particularly fond of the left kick to the body and a looping right hand. He is dangerous in the clinch, as well, with a nice arsenal of trips and hip tosses. Although takedown defense has been a consistent problem -- he conceded six takedowns to Russell Doane, four to Urijah Faber and three to Wilson Reis -- Alcantara makes up for it with an active bottom game. Sweeps from the deep half guard and leg lock-sweep sequences give him opportunities to either scramble back to his feet or get on top and work his excellent passes and submissions.
Saenz is the lesser-known fighter here, but he is aggressive, tough and offers a stiff challenge to Alcantara. A deceptively skilled striker, Saenz consistently moves his head off the centerline, mixes up his punches to the head and body and throws consistent low kicks to cut off his opponent’s movement. His strength makes him an intimidating clinch fighter, as well, and he can land hard knees. Saenz, an Arizona State University wrestler, likes to work his singles and doubles against the cage and is difficult to take down in his own right. From top position, Saenz’s game is basic but effective. He has good posture and throws hard ground strikes, and that is essentially it.
THE PICK: While Alcantara is the rightful favorite, Saenz is an effective and durable action fighter, which should make this a fairly entertaining matchup. Skilled takedown artists have given Alcantara fits before, but I do not think Saenz’s top control is good enough to hold down the crafty Brazilian. If the fight turns into a scramble-fest, then Alcantara will have a good chance of making his way to Saenz’s back, a “Marajo” specialty. Moreover, the range striking matchup favors Alcantara, though not by as much as it might appear on paper. In sum, there are too many factors pointing in the Brazilian’s direction. The pick is Alcantara by rear-naked choke submission in the second round.
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