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.
Following a strong start to his time with the UFC, Andre Fialho has seen his record with the promotion dip to 2-3 thanks to losses in his last two fights.
Fialho joined Bellator in 2016 following a 7-0 run on the Portuguese regional scene and went 4-1 before making the jump to the PFL in 2019. A two-fight run in the PFL led into brief stops with LFA and XMMA, and after finishing three-straight opponents in the first round for UAE Warriors the welterweight debuted for the UFC at UFC 270.
The 29-year-old rebounded from his debut loss to Michel Pereira with another pair of first-round finishes, but he’s now lost back-to-back fights after Jake Matthews and Muslim Salikhov both stopped him with strikes.
After experiencing mixed results in the UFC’s middleweight division, Joaquin Buckley will make his welterweight debut when he steps into the cage with Fialho.
Buckley also had a five-fight run with Bellator after starting his career with Missouri-based Shamrock FC, and a pair of stoppage wins in LFA got him the UFC call up for a bout with Kevin Holland in 2020. The 29-year-old was stopped by Holland in his debut but scored one of the wildest knockouts in UFC history in his next fight with Impa Kasanganay, and after going 1-1 in his next two bouts he rattled off three-straight victories.
“New Mansa” saw his winning run snapped by Nassourdine Imavov last September, and just a few months later Buckley suffered a second-straight loss for the first time in his career when he was finished by Chris Curtis.
Rather than overwhelm his opponents with output, Fialho is content to work away with jabs and leg kicks until he creates an opening to throw big combinations.
The 29-year-old is good at controlling the center of the cage and keeping things along the fence even without using too much volume, and he also likes to time left hooks or straight rights as counters. Any indication that the opponent is hurt will encourage the Portuguese fighter to increase his output, and it’s in these moments were his rear uppercut also becomes quite effective.
Fialho is confident with his defensive head movement but sometimes abandons that when he’s trying to put his own offense together, and he also has a habit of swinging back wildly when opponents are able to hurt him with strikes.
A southpaw, Buckley moves around a lot when the fight stays standing and will regularly double up on his jab while also mixing it up to the body of his opponents.
“New Mansa” likes to throw in some dynamic kicks to punctuate the work he does with his hands, but the moments where he confidently bursts forward provide the biggest danger to his opposition. During these sequences Buckley will pour on combinations and put all of his weight into everything he throws, but he admittedly does leave himself open for counters if he gets too aggressive and isn’t connecting.
The 29-year-old may not be the most technically proficient wrestler in the UFC, but he’s had some success exploding forward to grab the hips of his opponents and secure occasional takedowns.
The major point of intrigue around this fight is Buckley’s move to welterweight, but it’s also a matchup between two fighters that want to avoid dropping three bouts in a row.
Buckley was one of the shorter fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division, but considering how big his frame is it will be interesting to see if he struggles at all with the cut to welterweight. Cardio is always going to be a concern for fighters that make a significant cut, but “New Mansa” will also have to hope that his considerable power still exists at 170 lbs.
Fialho had already put in a full career’s worth of work before even making it to the UFC, so no doubt the Portuguese fighter will want to avoid suffering three-straight losses and even out his record in the promotion. The 29-year-old also showed off his toughness before being finished in his last two bouts, but against someone like Buckley he’ll need to be careful in order to avoid getting caught again.
There’s a good chance this fight stays standing unless Buckley decides to test Fialho’s takedown defense, and both of these men have proven they’re capable of ending things with strikes. Buckley’s tendency to burst forward with huge combinations could make him an easy target for counters, but Fialho will also have to avoid falling behind in the fight if he isn’t able to match the output from the American.
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