Welcome to the MMA News’ Sleeper Scrap! The relentless schedule of the MMA world means that some fans don’t have 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.
A Sleeper Scrap might highlight interesting style matchups, fighters with notable storylines, or bouts that simply have the chance to be a Fight of the Night contender.
On an event that features a vacant title, a matchup between undefeated fighters, and the debut of the youngest fighter in UFC history, it’s a featherweight bout between Alexander Hernandez and Billy Quarantillo that jumps out as this week’s Sleeper Scrap.
Alexander Hernandez arrived in the UFC with one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory, but “The Great Ape” has been unable to earn consecutive wins since his first two bouts in the promotion.
The 30-year-old famously debuted as a late-replacement against Beneil Dariush at UFC 222 and won via knockout in under a minute. Hernandez followed that up with a unanimous decision against Olivier Aubin-Mercier, but a stoppage loss at the hands of Donald Cerrone started the alternating trend of wins and losses he’s been unable to break since then.
Although he’s 2-1 in his UFC bouts that have gone the distance, Hernandez has somewhat established himself as a kill-or-be-killed fighter. He’s been stopped in the second round three times during his UFC career, but the fact that he also boasts three first round knockouts in the promotion speaks to how dangerous he can be in the opening few minutes of a fight.
Billy Quarantillo came up short in his second fight on Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2015, but a Contender Series opportunity in 2019 saw him stop Kamuela Kirk in the third round to earn a UFC contract.
The 34-year-old may not have arrived in the UFC with the same kind of statement win that Hernandez had, but Quarantillo did quickly string together three wins with a pair of stoppages before losing a unanimous decision to Gavin Tucker in 2020.
Quarantillo rebounded from that loss with an impressive performance against Gabriel Benítez where he showed off his full range of skills before earning a third-round TKO. He came up short on the scorecards in his most recent fight with Shane Burgos, but the 34-year-old controlled large portions of the bout and was never deterred by the big moments that ultimately won Burgos the fight.
Given the styles of the two men, it could be the first round of this fight that ends up deciding the winner.
As mentioned previously, Hernandez is capable of winning decisions but is at his most dangerous and explosive in the first round. Quarantillo has shown against opponents like Kyle Nelson that he’s capable of finishing things with one punch, but it’s his willingness to keep walking forward and constantly land volume as the fight goes on that has been his biggest asset in the UFC.
One thing to watch out for will be how Quarantillo deals with Hernandez’s leg kicks, as the 34-year-old nearly went down late in his fight with Burgos due to the damage his legs had sustained. Hernandez’s cardio likely won’t have improved by cutting an extra ten pounds in his return to featherweight, but his active low kicks could help to limit Quarantillo’s activity the longer the fight goes.
With relatively little room for error in a division as loaded as featherweight, both of these men will be looking to avoid dropping back-to-back fights for the first time in their respective careers.
Hernandez is the younger man but is likely under more pressure in this situation, especially considering he’s dropping down to featherweight for the first time since 2013. His debut against Dariush was a benefit in that it immediately established him as someone worth watching, but it also means that his losses have received that same level of attention.
The immediate impact “The Great Ape” had in the UFC has also resulted in him facing a fairly high level of competition. There’s certainly no such thing as an “easy fight” in a stacked division like lightweight, but Hernandez’s recent record includes losses to top fighters such as Drew Dober and Renato Moicano.
Quarantillo started his UFC tenure off well by winning three fights in a row, and the 34-year-old also has the added benefit of having established himself as an action fighter that fans look forward to watching. Even in the fights he’s lost, Quarantillo has given a good account of himself and never stopped walking forward in an effort to turn the tide in his favor.
The 34-year-old has already had a uniquely successful career considering his arrival in the UFC nearly four years after his appearance on TUF. That being said, this is an important moment to see if Quarantillo can really impact the division and work his way into the rankings rather than just be an action fighter that’s popular with fans.
Both of these men are well-rounded and there’s always the chance one of them decides to try and utilize their grappling, but on paper this fight looks like it could play out as an entertaining striking battle.
Quarantillo will need to survive the opening round from Hernandez in order to really establish his volume striking and likely cardio edge, but both men should be looking to knock the other out in one of the standout fights from UFC 282.
How do you think this bout between Hernandez and Quarantillo will turn out? Are there any other fights from UFC 282 that you feel deserve more attention?