This weekend, the UFC returns to Las Vegas for UFC Fight Night 173. Headlined by Derek Brunson and Edmen Shahbazyan’s enticing matchup, the card boasts a collection of hotly underrated fights. One such bout is the potential war lined up between Vicente Luque and Randy Brown.
Both being confident and powerful strikers, this fight is set to be a hotly-contested stand-up battle. And although Luque is billed as a heavy favourite, Brown’s technique is constantly improving. Combine this with his reach and power, and Brown stands a real chance of upsetting Luque, as well as announcing himself as a top-15 fighter in the Welterweight division.
Paths to Victory – Vicente Luque
Luque comes into this fight having won 11 of his last 13. And after emerging victorious from his 3-round war against Niko Price, the Brazilian has every reason to be confident. A slick boxer, Luque’s strategy is always to strike. “The Silent Assassin” combines crisp technique, forward pressure, and an iron chin to overcome his opponents. And against Brown, he will need to double down on this high-pressure strategy.
So many fights come down to distance, and this one is no different. Brown is 4 inches taller than Luque, and boasts a two-and-a-half inch reach advantage over the Brazilian. As a result, Luque will need to get inside the pocket if he is to land his best shots, and potentially finish the fight.
Most often, Luque closes the distance by pressuring forward with a high guard. He walks his opponents down, blocks their shots, and fires dangerous counters when the opportunity presents itself. But Luque does get hit. He’s found himself in absolute wars against fighters like Niko Price and is never afraid to stand his ground.
Of course, this is in part a result of Luque’s style. However, Brown has some exceptionally heavy hands and Luque will need to be on high-alert if he is to avoid his opponent’s power. He will need to stay defensively sound and look to close the distance with jabs and counters as much as possible.
Luque would also do well to use his kicks in this fight. The Brazilian has shown a great leg kicks in the past. And against Brown, these could not only sap his explosive power but the athleticism that will help him escape Luque’s pressure. Brown will not want to get trapped against the cage. And we can expect him to explode forward and circle back into space when his back is against the fence.
But the more Luque can chop away at his legs, the harder Brown will find it to move quickly around the Octagon. And the harder it is for Brown to move, the easier it will be for Luque to pressure him against the cage, and work towards the finish.
Paths to Victory – Randy Brown
Thus far, Brown’s UFC career has been a bit up and down. The Looking for a Fight graduate is 3-2 in his last five fights. But since losing to Belal Muhammad and Niko Price, Brown looks to be on the up. Another boxer, “Rudeboy”, has been improving every time he steps into the Octagon. He now boasts a two-fight win-streak, after notching impressive wins over Bryan Barberena and Warlley Alves. If he can get the win over Luque, he will be announcing himself as one of the top competitors in the Welterweight division.
“Styles make fights” is one of the oldest clichés in the MMA handbook. But in this case, the old adage rings true. Whilst Luque likes to break his opponent with his pressure, Brown adopts a much rangier approach. In particular, “Rudeboy’s” game is more about landing that perfect shot/combo and swarming his opponents once they’re hurt.
Taking this into consideration, controlling the range will be key to his success. Brown will need to stay out of the pocket if he is to capitalise on his power, catch Luque on the end of his shots and put together dangerous combinations. Being the taller fighter, Brown will want to use his reach to keep Luque at a distance.
There are a few ways Brown could do this. Particularly important will be the jab. If Brown can get his timing early and pepper Luque as he tries to close the distance, he could stop Luque’s forward pressure in its tracks, forcing the Brazilian into more desperate attempts to get inside the pocket. This, in turn, would only open up gaps for Brown to exploit.
But equally important is his footwork. If Brown gets into the habit of moving back in a straight line it will only make it easier for Luque to apply his forward pressure. Instead, Brown will need to use a lot of lateral movement to circle away from the cage and out of the corners Luque wants to trap him in. This will not be easy. But the more Brown moves, the fewer chances Luque will have to corner him, and apply his dangerous pressure.
Brown could even look to take Luque down early. Although he is predominately a boxer, Brown’s wrestling is not to be scoffed at. Alongside his undeniable athleticism, Brown boasts good technique, and he could find some success as Luque pressures forward.
This is not to say that he should look to win the fight on the ground. On the contrary, Luque’s ground game is dangerous in and of itself. But if Brown can score a takedown early in the fight, he can get the Brazilian thinking about the threat. This will only make it easier for Brown to land his own strikes. And if he can start scoring takedowns as Luque tries to close the distance, it could also earn him some valuable space on the feet.
Luque simply has to be the favourite going into this fight. Having fought much higher-level fighters than Brown, he should have both the experience and the tools he needs to win the fight. But Brown is no can. Luque loves a brawl, and Brown has the power to make him pay for any mistakes. Combine this with his reach, and the fact that Luque will need to walk through the fire to pressure him against the cage, and this fight is a real fight-of-the-night contender.
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