Welcome to the first edition of the MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap! The MMA world’s relentless schedule means that some fans don’t look closely at a fight card until days before the event, leaving the promoters to decide which bouts you should be paying attention to.
Everyone wants to tune in for main events and fights that feature popular names, but that means meaningful or potentially action-packed matchups from elsewhere on fight cards sometimes get lost in the shuffle. These might include interesting style matchups, fighters with intriguing storylines, or just simply bouts that could turn out to be Fight of the Night contenders.
UFC Vegas 60 already boasts an excellent main event between top bantamweights Cory Sandhagen and Song Yadong, which is arguably better than any matchup from the entirety of last weekend’s UFC 279. The middleweight co-main event between Chidi Njokuani and Gregory Rodrigues also promises to be entertaining, but it’s the card’s featured prelim that stands out as the Sleeper Scrap for UFC Vegas 60.
Damon Jackson (21-4-1) vs. Pat Sabatini (17-3) features a pair of talented grapplers looking to extend their current winning streaks and move closer to being ranked in the UFC’s featherweight division.
Both men are at their most comfortable (and dangerous) on the ground, but of the two, Jackson is probably the more willing striker. Sabatini has his strengths on the feet, but the 31-year-old will frequently dive for takedowns in open space while Jackson tends to look for his own takedowns against the fence.
Size figures to play an interesting role in the bout, as both fighters most recently picked up unanimous decision victories against smaller opponents. “The Leech” will be the bigger man in this matchup, so it should be interesting to see how Sabatini handles trying to take down a larger opponent that’s also a skilled grappler.
If things do hit the ground, the scrambles could turn out to be the most entertaining part of the fight. Both men will constantly be on the hunt for submissions, whether that be from a controlling position or working from their back after being taken down. Sabatini has already picked up a heel hook victory in the UFC, and from top position, Jackson loves to set up an arm triangle choke.
Given the respective grappling skills of each fighter, establishing a striking advantage could be the difference in this matchup. Jackson will have to be wary of a well-timed takedown from Sabatani, but the 34-year-old has shown he’s willing to walk forward and pour on strikes in his previous UFC bouts.
Neither of these veterans is what you might consider a typical up-and-comer, and the time to try and make an impact in the UFC is right now.
Jackson is actually on his second UFC stint; he went 0-1-1 with a No Contest from 2015 to 2016, but that led to him joining the newly formed Legacy Fighting Alliance where he eventually became featherweight champion. He rejoined the UFC in 2020 with a submission win over former Top 15 featherweight Mirsad Bektić.
The slightly younger Sabatini is still a veteran of 20 pro bouts, and he’s a perfect 4-0 since joining the UFC in 2020. The former Cage Fury FC champion suffered an arm injury in under a minute against James Gonzalez in 2020, but you have to go back to a 2018 split decision against Jose Mariscal for the 31-year-old’s last “real” loss.
With their current winning streaks, both of these fighters could easily be making more significant waves in one of the UFC’s heavier divisions. As it stands, featherweight is arguably the UFC’s most talented weight class, and it’s easy for skilled fighters to get overshadowed. Both men have proven they belong in the UFC, but this is the chance to show that one of them also belongs at the top of the division.
This bout looks to be an excellent featured prelim for UFC Vegas 60, and whichever man comes out on top should find themselves facing a Top 15 opponent in their next fight.
How do you think this bout between Jackson and Sabatini will turn out? Are there any other fights from UFC Vegas 60 that you feel deserve more attention?