Dually representing yesteryear's cherished promotion, WEC standouts Brad Pickett and Yves Jabouin square off at Saturday's show from Nottingham, England. The bantamweight bangers fill out the event's featured lineup, which is capped off by heavyweights 5 Stefan Struve vs. Stipe Miocic and airs bright and early on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Brad "One Punch" Pickett (21-6), who hails from London and will assume the role of crowd favorite, has pegged an impressive run in the big leagues. Since debuting in the WEC in 2009, he's gone 4-2 against stout competition: alpha-contender Renan Barao and burly wrestler Scott Jorgensen account for his losses while his body count includes newly minted flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and respectable veterans Ivan Menjivar and Damacio Page.
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Yves "Tiger" Jabouin (18-7) is a crushing kickboxer with a deceiving record. A longtime 145er who dropped 2 of his opening 3 fights, Jabouin's only losses since are to lightweight Sam Stout, talented featherweights Jonathan Brookins and Mark Hominick and an outrageous flying triangle courtesy of Pablo Garza. The latter spectacle steered Jabouin down to the bantamweight division where he's undefeated after 3 turns -- though it hasn't been easy. He eked out split-decision wins over Ian Loveland and Walel Watson but scored the unanimous nod against Jeff Hougland in his last.
Jabouin is a devastating striker who ejects technical Muay Thai combinations with speed, accuracy and clean technique. He can throw down with the best of 'em -- but so can Pickett, who also has a sturdy wrestling and submission game to fall back on, leaving Jabouin's footwork, strike selection and takedown defense as imperative factors.
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Though this might be one of the most entertaining slug-fests on the card, there's really not a lot of magic to the match up. It's Jabouin's furious Thai combinations and feisty takedown defense versus Pickett's triformed approach of boxing, wrestling and submission grappling. Their height and reach measurements are identical at 5'8" and 68" and neither has a noteworthy physical advantage in areas like strength or agility.
That makes this a direct skill vs. skill comparison, in which Pickett easily gets the better marks in a greater number of categories, mainly in past level of competition, overall diversity (striking, wrestling and submission grappling) and chin resistance. Even if this fight plays out as a striking shootout like Jabouin would prefer, Pickett is on the same level or pretty damn close.
Additionally, Jabouin's flash with spinning back kicks and spinning elbows is a substantial part of his game, but the extra mustard in those techniques can be perilous against an opponent who can ground the fight by insta-launching a double-leg takedown; a setting Jabouin will be desperate to eschew. Pickett has also augmented his wrestling game with serviceable submission skills and, in all grappling encounters, should handily out-match Jabouin, who's best -- and possibly only -- recourse is to frantically escape back to the feet.
The betting lines mirror this concept with Pickett emerging as a strong favorite in the -200 to -250 range. Jabouin is an exciting gamer with the type of high-level striking that poses a threat to anyone, but his so-so performances at 135 and Pickett's outstanding advantages don't offer many arguments for him to notch the upset.
My Prediction: Brad Pickett by submission.