Kyler Phillips vs. Raulian Paiva – UFC Vegas 32 Preview

Kyler Phillips
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: Kyler Phillips reacts after his victory over Song Yadong of China in their bantamweight fight during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

A compelling collision of Kyler Phillips and Raulian Paiva lies amidst the stellar UFC Vegas 32 main card headlined by the returning T.J. Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen this Saturday. While Phillips looks to make it 4-0 in the UFC, Paiva will move up to bantamweight for the first time after a series of bad weight cuts. Here’s a preview of the fight and a technical breakdown of how they match up with each other.

Kyler “The Matrix” Phillips

Kyler Phillips is a fresh face among the top 15 UFC bantamweights. Eliminated in the first round of the Ultimate Fighter 27 tournament, Phillips quietly put together back-to-back wins on the prelims before earning a massive step up against Chinese mega-prospect Song Yadong last March.

Phillips scored an airtight decision win over Song, scoring on takedowns and a flush head kick in round one that Song oddly walked right through. “The Matrix” is the perfect nickname for Phillips, who seems to see the world around him in slow motion. He’s especially adept at barely slipping punches and timing takedown shots, navigating the chaos of the fight to apply a strategy.

Raulian Paiva

Raulian Paiva fights out of Academia Ronildo Nobre in Santana, Brazil, and stands at 2-2 in the UFC. He enters this fight on a two-fight win streak over Mark de la Rosa and Zhalgas Zhumagulov. Although just 25, this Saturday marks his 24th pro MMA fight, as he boasts a solid 20-3 record.

The story for Paiva here is the move up in weight, which comes after a faulty record of weight cuts in the past year. He missed weight by three pounds against Zhumagulov, and dropped out of a fight with David Dvorak last spring due to feeling ill from the cut the day of the fight. When he’s in a groove, Paiva uses his range to pop his opponents with jab-cross combos and chopping low kicks. 

The Breakdown

In a lot of ways, Kyler Phillips and Raulian Paiva are equal: both hold Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, both are 5’8″, and both are still in their mid-20s. In that regard, the fight should be fast-paced and technical should it hit the mat. At flyweight, Paiva grew accustomed to holding a size and reach advantage. Against Phillips at bantamweight, he won’t have that advantage. If Paiva struggles to find his range, the excellent timing of Phillips will definitely allow him to counter with low kicks, punches, and takedowns.

Raulian Paiva’s unknown weapon will be his rejuvenated physique from his move up to bantamweight. He’s likely to enjoy a little more heat on his punches and withstand heavier strikes as well. In that sense, Phillips will be fighting a renewed man that’s a bit of a mystery. Paiva will want to use feints to learn the head movement of Phillips and find his rhythm as the fight goes on. Paiva can try and wear Phillips down in the clinch, using Muay Thai knees and elbows to score with the judges.

The winner of this fight should move up the rankings at bantamweight, and although it’s a riskier fight for Phillips (Paiva’s never fought at bantamweight in the UFC), he should still slide up a number or two with a win. Paiva on the other hand could replace Phillips altogether in the rankings, as Phillips currently holds the number 14 spot. As young and talented as they are, both guys likely have a future as top contenders, meaning this is likely to become a fight that ages rather well.

UFC Vegas 32, with Kyler Phillips vs. Raulian Paiva on the main card, is set to go down Saturday, July 24, from the UFC APEX on ESPN.

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