Sunday, December 4, 2022

MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap: UFC Vegas 61 Edition

Welcome the MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap! The relentless schedule of the MMA world means that some fans don’t get a full look at a fight card until days before the event, leaving the promoters to decide which bouts you should be paying the most 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 fights may include interesting style matchups, important storylines fighters, or just simply the chance that it turns out to be a Fight of the Night contender.

UFC Vegas 61 may not be the most stacked Fight Night card in recent memory, but it has the advantage of being scheduled in between a pair of rare off weeks on the UFC calendar. Events like this one typically have at least a couple of fights that are flying under the radar, but this week’s Sleeper Scrap highlights a lightweight bout between Mike Davis and Viacheslav Borshchev.

The Matchup

After Davis’ original opponent Uros Medic pulled out, the UFC likely booked this matchup to try and secure an action-packed bout to open up the UFC Vegas 61 main card.

There’s a good chance Borshchev is hoping things remain standing against Davis after he was soundly outwrestled by Marc Diakiese in his last bout. The 30-year-old originally earned a UFC contract with a second-round finish on Contender Series before stopping Dakota Bush in his UFC debut, and only one of his career victories has come via decision.

Davis’ own striking game has been on full display during his current 2-fight winning streak, but “Beast Boy” also showed against Mason Jones that he’s able to hit well-timed takedowns when needed.

Even if it may be an area he can exploit against Borshchev, it will be interesting to see if Davis uses any wrestling in this bout. The 29-year-old really only relied on takedowns against Jones when “The Dragon” came forward with strikes, whereas “Slava Claus” has mainly looked to counter strike in the UFC unless he senses a clear opportunity.

Davis defeated Mason Jones via unanimous decision in a bout that won Fight of the Night honors. (Zuffa LLC)

One trait shared by both of these lightweights is their willingness to work the body. Borshchev announced himself to the UFC when he stopped Bush with a vicious liver punch, while Davis loves to mix his targets up when battering opponents with combinations.

“Beast Boy” is also fond of putting a lot of power into his leg kicks, but Borshchev has been particularly adept at sliding out of range of those attempts in previous bouts.

Both of these men have the power necessary to score an early finish, but things could get interesting if the fight goes into the later rounds. Davis was able to do enough throughout his fight with Jones to take a unanimous decision, but the 29-year-old has been noticeably faster and more aggressive in the opening rounds of his bouts.

The Stakes

Borshchev only debuted in the UFC at the beginning of this year, and the fact that Davis missed out on all of 2020/2021 means both these men still have a lot of work to do to establish themselves in the promotion.

A loss could carry significant consequences for “Slava Claus,” as he certainly wouldn’t be the first fighter to have his time in the UFC cut short by a 1-2 start.

The hype around Borshchev’s debut finish was considerably dampened by how thoroughly Diakiese out grappled him in his last bout, and a win here would be significant in solidifying the 30-year-old’s place in the UFC. Should Davis choose to wrestle, it could also be a good chance to show off any improvements Borshchev has made working with Team Alpha Male to distance himself from that Diakiese performance.

Borshchev was overwhelmed by Marc Diakiese’s wrestling in his second UFC bout. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

On the other side, Davis has already shown impressive perseverance in making it to the UFC after losing a decision to Sodiq Yusuff on Contender Series 2018. A matchup with Gilbert Burns was a brutal way to be welcomed to the UFC, but “Beast Boy” has looked dangerous in his consecutive wins over Jones and Thomas Gifford.

Davis would likely be in a safer position than Borshchev in the event of a loss, as that would put him at 2-2 in the UFC overall. That being said, a 3-fight win streak following his debut against Burns would go a long way towards raising his stock in the lightweight division and continue to make up ground from those 2-years of inactivity.

There’s always a chance Davis could elect to follow Diakiese’s blueprint and try to outwrestle Borshchev, but this bout has all the makings of a stand-up battle that could be in contention for Fight of the Night at UFC Vegas 61.

How do you think this bout between Davis and Borshchev will turn out? Are there any other fights from UFC Vegas 61 that you feel deserve more attention?