Paul Craig vs. Kennedy Nzechukwu
|Date & Time||Saturday March 30, 2019, 7:30 PM (EDT)|
Wells Fargo Center
The Line: Nzechukwu -219 / Craig +191 -- Over/Under:
Paul Craig and Kennedy Nzechukwu fight Saturday during UFC on ESPN 2 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Paul Craig enters this fight with a 10-3 record and has won 90 percent of his fights by submission. Craig has split his last six fights and is coming off a December loss to Jim Crute. Craig is averaging 1.96 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy percentage of 52 percent. Craig is averaging 1.96 takedowns with an accuracy percentage of 30 percent. Craig is kind of in a must-win situation given that he’s lost three of his last four fights and all three of those losses were finishes. A lot of the hype surrounding Craig has died given that he’s 2-3 under the UFC banner and hasn’t looked great in some of those bouts. The good news for Craig is that the potential is still there given his grappling and wrestling skills. Craig does just enough accurate striking to set up his takedowns and nine of his 10 career wins have come by submission, so once he gets a fight on the canvas, it’s all but finished. Craig has very good guard, is comfortable fighting from his back and has finished four of his wins via the triangle choke. Craig has never seen a fight end in a decision. This will be Craig’s third career fight in the United States.
Kennedy Nzechukwu enters this fight with a 6-0 record and has won 67 percent of his fights by knockout. This will be Nzechukwu’s fourth fight since 2018 and is coming off a August win over Dennis Bryant. Nzechukwu will make his UFC debut after participating twice in the contender series and putting together an impressive knockout win that included a leg kick in his last bout. Nzechukwu simply oozes with potential, as he’s 6’5” with an 83-inch reach, thick build, powerful strikes and above-average athleticism. Nzechukwu has the raw tools and is massive for the light heavyweight division, so there’s no excuse not to make some serious noise with this opportunity. The concern with Nzechukwu is that he can be a bit too passive with his stand up and has to do a better job of being the aggressor and putting those tools to use. I also haven’t seen much from Nzechukwu and his ground game, so that’s an issue entering this bout as well. Nzechukwu was effective in the clinch the few fights I saw, as he mixes in knees nicely and uses his size to control his opponent against the cage. This will be Nzechukwu’s first career fight in Pennsylvania.
Getting Craig as this big of an underdog is hard to pass up given that he’s the more experienced and probably the more polished fighter at this stage. Nzechukwu is all potential, and while he has the raw tools to quickly move up in the UFC, he also can hold back at times and lacks that finishing instinct to be great. Even in his win over Bryant, Nzechukwu was a bit hesitant to drop down the hammer fists and really put his opponent away. I need to see that dog come out of Nzechukwu before I’m ready to put him in that class of the other athletic freaks with crazy builds who are dominating the sport lately.
I would not be surprised if Craig somehow gets this fight to the canvas and gives Nzechukwu a hard way to go. However, I’m still picking Nzechukwu simply because the tools are there for him to win a stand up fight against a fighter who is very limited on his feet. I just need to see that aggressiveness come out.