At The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale, the lame-duck flyweight division soldiers on. Team Alpha Male‘s Joseph Benavidez (25-5 MMA, 12-3 UFC) defends his perennial contender status against a delightful challenger in Team Oyama‘s Alex Perez (21-4 MMA, 3-0 UFC).
The betting lines are still coming out, but many less-informed observers may be salivating at the sight of Joe Benavidez as only a slight favorite, or potentially even an underdog. Before anyone jumps the gun, let’s review the promising striking attack displayed by Alex Perez against Jose “Shorty” Torres.
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Alex Perez is an offensive tornado
Team Oyama fighters are consistently well-schooled, diverse strikers. The knock at times has been volume and consistency issues. Alex Perez may be the most consistently aggressive, high volume striker we’ve seen from them thus far. Keep in mind: he’s a wrestler, one with a solid, controlling top game and a gnarly front headlock choke series.
Jose Torres is an experienced combat sports athlete, honing his skills in judo, wrestling, and boxing. He is always at his worst in the early stages of a fight, and Perez swarmed him immediately.
Perez did a brilliant job mixing up his entries. His best work came from hooking aggressively to the body, while intermittently taking half-committed entries on takedowns. This caused Torres to question whether a level change was a body attack, or a shot.
Not only did this lead to reliable openings to the body, it gave Perez the option of faking the level change entirely and bursting with an uppercut, similar to Chad Mendes vs. Jose Aldo.
As long as Torres stayed in front of Perez, he was throwing relentless combinations, occasionally slapping on the double collar tie and driving knees up the middle.
Perez did great work with his jab from midrange. Torres was a bit plodding, and he was consistently there to be measured. Perhaps it was too predictable, as Perez went overboard leading with elbows on both sides to intercept any responding pressure from Torres, or perhaps to bring back the shell guard so the body would once again become available.
He did find himself in some trouble when he stood in front of Torres, throwing combinations a touch longer than he had earned at that point. Torres is still a sharp puncher at his best, and found Perez an open target when he did let loose.
But Perez proved he does have it in him to stick a jab and keep Torres on the end of his punches, making small adjustments with his feet to keep the shorter-armed Torres at bay.
The pressure and bodywork by Perez ultimately paid off. Verging on desperation (in the first round, no less) Torres was eager to fire back when he felt Perez swarming. Alex Perez timed the retaliative straight of Torres, slipped, and just unloaded.
It was a disgusting right hook to the body that truly folded Torres, leaving him defenseless against the cage for Perez to blitz.
vs. Joe Benavidez at TUF 28 Finale
Joe Benavidez isn’t Jose Torres, will similar tactics work?
We saw Henry Cejudo trouble Benavidez in the pocket with swarming combinations. We saw Sergio Pettis stifle his wrestling game, find gaps in his defense, and pick clean shots from midrange.
Alex Perez is a fighter of convictions, who is going to attack Joseph Benavidez. As strange as it sounds, Jose Torres is a better counter-fighting matchup against Perez than Benavidez. Joe throws wide shots, and is not quite comfortable off the back foot.
A confident wrestler, Perez is going to be free to throw whatever he wants, especially when they inevitably clash and end up in collar ties.
If Benavidez chooses to stifle pressure by shooting takedowns, he is putting himself in the most dangerous position of the fight, underneath Alex Perez with his neck exposed.
Stylistically, this is a horrific matchup for Joseph Benavidez. Don’t sleep on Alex Perez.
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