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.
Last week’s Sleeper Scrap from UFC Vegas 68 ended in a draw after Doo Ho Choi was docked a point for bumping heads with Kyle Nelson, and this week’s UFC 284 features a number of debuting fighters and interesting matchups that all probably deserve a bit more attention than they’re currently getting.
Having so many great fights to choose from is never a bad thing, and this week’s Sleeper Scrap is a lightweight bout between Jamie Mullarkey and Francisco Prado.
Jamie Mullarkey debuted for the UFC in his home country of Australia back at UFC 243, and after starting his run in the promotion with back-to-back losses he’s gone on to establish himself as an entertaining member of the lightweight division.
His initial losses to Brad Riddell and Fares Ziam were quickly forgotten after his third UFC bout, as Mullarkey took less than a minute to crack Khama Worthy with a left hook and finish the fight with follow-up punches. The 28-year-old carried that momentum into his next matchup when he also defeated Devonte Smith with a violent flurry of strikes, but in 2022 he was stopped by Jalin Turner in the second round.
Mullarkey returned with a Fight of the Night performance against Michael Johnson where he claimed a split decision victory, and a cancelled matchup with Magomed Mustaev at the end of last year left him waiting until 2023 for his next fight.
Francisco Prado will be stepping in for Nasrat Haqparast to face Mullarkey at UFC 284, and the Argentinian has already made quite a name for himself after only a few years of fighting.
The 20-year-old made his pro debut in 2019 but has kept an extremely active schedule that produced a perfect 11-0 record in less than four years of action, most notably while competing for Samurai Fight House.
The Argentina-based promotion has quickly established itself as a proving ground for South American talent, and a pair of finishes saw Prado capture the Samurai Fight House catchweight (165 lbs) and interim lightweight belts to open 2022.
The pressure of championship bouts apparently did nothing to dissuade the 20-year-old from his violent fighting style, as Prado went on to unify the lightweight titles against Adrian Perrone before most recently defending his belt against Jose Barrios Vargas with his eighth first-round finish.
Mullarkey had only gone the distance once in his career prior to joining the UFC, and so far it’s been the Australian’s striking that has helped him pick up two stoppage wins and three victories overall in the promotion.
In some ways the 28-year-old’s striking arsenal is a bit minimalist, but sometimes the most basic weapons are the most effective ones. He makes good use of his long frame by relying heavily on his jab, which he’ll also start to throw to the body of opponents once he gets a sense of their timing.
Mullarkey typically doesn’t wait too long once a fight begins to start throwing leg kicks, and he tends to put all of his weight behind them. This occasionally leaves him open to be countered, but if opponents disregard the strikes, they can quickly find their lead leg compromised.
The 28-year-old has occasionally been at a speed disadvantage against opponents like Johnson and Smith, but in both of those fights he used big shots to swing things in his favor. His knees from the clinch are particularly dangerous, and even though his output is sometimes a bit low at range he showed against Smith that he’ll pour on strikes if he feels that a finish is close.
Prado has stopped every opponent he’s faced in his eleven pro fights, and as might be expected from such a dangerous finisher he occasionally gets a little wild in his pursuit of a win.
The 20-year-old is a huge fan of throwing big left hooks and overhand rights, both of which are capable of knocking his opponents flat but aren’t always thrown with the prettiest technique. He also likes to mix in regular high kicks with his rear leg, and like many dynamic finishers he’ll occasional try some flashy kicks or spinning techniques as well.
Prado likes to control the pace but can be surprisingly patient when he has his opponents on the back foot, and if anything is sent his way he’ll often answer by ducking his head before answering with huge punches.
As effective as he is on the feet, Prado is also willing to mix in takedowns to try and batter opponents on the ground. He doesn’t always set up his takedown attempts all that well, but the 20-year-old is excellent at getting his opponents to the fence so he can bring them to the mat.
Prado likes to rain hammer fists and elbows to finish a fight with ground and pound, but even from his back the Argentinian is a threat to end things. The undefeated fighter actually has more submission victories than he does knockouts, and he even used a Von Flue choke to finish Mauricio Ariel Pare.
Mullarkey is also willing to mix in takedowns but doesn’t look for them as actively as Prado, and there’s a good chance that the Australian’s leg kicks and jab might be his two best weapons against the debuting fighter. Prado almost never jabs himself and hasn’t responded particularly well to leg kicks the few times opponents have been able to land them on him, but Mullarkey will need to avoid getting countered by the big punches that will be coming back his way.
In some ways the dynamic of this fight is similar to that of the Sleeper Scrap from UFC 283, which saw Gregory Rodrigues take on a dangerous finisher in the debuting Brunno Ferreira.
Ferreira ended up scoring a first-round knockout to extend his own perfect record and finishing streak, which is exactly the sort of upset debut that Prado will be looking for against Mullarkey. There’s plenty of time for the 20-year-old to develop if he ends up outmatched in this fight, but a win would immediately capture the attention of MMA fans and set him up as a fighter worth watching in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division.
It was mentioned for the Rodrigues vs. Ferreira matchup and remains true for basically any fight that includes a short-notice opponent making their debut, but most of the pressure in this bout will be on Mullarkey to handle Prado convincingly.
This fight will be even more significant for Mullarkey considering that UFC 284 is the promotion’s first event in Australia in more than three years, and the 28-year-old will certainly want to put on a show for the fans in his home country.
The Australian is currently 3-3 in the UFC, so a fight with the admittedly still-developing Prado is an opportunity to edge his promotional record onto the positive side. It would also put him on a two-fight winning streak, which isn’t a bad place to be in a division that is loaded with dangerous fighters from top to bottom.
Both of these lightweights are more than capable of finishing one another, but it might be in Mullarkey’s best interest to draw on his own experience a bit and test Prado’s gas tank in the later rounds. The Australian will also need be wary of a slow start that could result in getting blitzed early, but the promise that either of these men could produce a finish at any time makes this fight a clear highlight from the UFC 284 prelims.
How do you think this bout between Mullarkey and Prado will turn out? Are there any other fights from UFC 284 that you feel deserve more attention?