Two BW's trying to forget their prior losses look to get back in the mix June 6, 2015 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Match Up
Bantamweight Joe Soto -170 vs. Anthony Birchak +150
3 Things You Should Know
1. Soto has nothing to be ashamed of for his fight with T.J. Dillashaw. But their bout doesn't represent laurels he should be resting on either.
Soto deserves a lot of credit for stepping up to face DJ at the last minute. But just to be cynical for a second, being the hero in defeat can be a boon for the weak minded. Soto stepped up, and didn't get embarrassed in a title fight he wasn't prepared for. But hopefully his ambitions go beyond that.
I mention all of this psychofreudiomacological crap because Soto is exactly the kind of fighter who can either return to being a contender, or will deteriorate in time against superior contenders. He's talented enough to be a mainstay in the division, but if his skill and will aren't aligned, he can end up like he did against Joe Warren; admiring his handywork and paying for it with his consciousness. Or Eddie Yagin. I think Soto has what it takes to be an upper echelon fighter, but he needs to work on consistency first and foremost.
2. Birchak is actually lightning in a bottle of Tecate. Fans just don't know it yet because he was heel hooked in a hair over 90 seconds in his last UFC bout.
The heel hook stuff could happen to anybody I guess. Before then the product of Luta Elite and Rise Combat had been making a name for himself as an action fighter cutting his teeth in RITC, and MFC. One of his biggest moments came against Ryan Benoit (who recently pulled off a heck of a win over Sergio Pettis), who engaged in a thrilling back and forth grappling war back in 2013. He's got wins over some solid circuit opposition; Matt Leyva and Roman Salazar, for example. This is a good fight for him on top of that, uphill battle or not.
3. This fight looks like a microcosm for the mediocrity of the main card, but it's actually just great matchmaking using limited resources. Maybe Zuffa hired Kurt Saxon as their emergency matchmaker.
Both guys have a solid foundation of skills. Soto's boxing is his preferred method of choice. While he doesn't have blazing speed, his power is evident, and complimented by his crackerjack timing. I'd also add that it's his arsenal that aids him too. He's not just a string of one-two combinations, but also owns a swift uppercut; a punch still heavily underutilized in MMA. His overhand right is chambered like a bullet though, so Birchak should be wary.
Birchak has some standup skills. While he's not a strong puncher, he's aggressive without ever really overstaying his welcome. He's fluid, but he'd prefer to be scrambling on the ground where his grappling is not polished or elite so much it is efficiently improvised, if that makes any sense.
This fight reminds me of Imada (Birchak) vs. Masvidal (Soto). I wouldn't be shocked to see Birchak pull off something atypical. It's happened to Soto before. But I think Soto's power will be too much for Birchak in the end.
Joe Soto by TKO, round 3.