This is one of the most interesting fights on the card to us for a lot of reasons. Joaquin Buckley has catapulted himself into UFC stardom, finishing Impa Kasanganay with what will without a doubt be named the knockout of the year, and probably the century, less than one month ago.
Buckley will have his hands full in this matchup with Jordan Wright, a young and undefeated monster fighting out of Jackson Wink MMA. Wright made his UFC debut in August, going up a weight class to seize the opportunity and finish Ike Villanueva in just over a minute and a half. He is 11-0 and has finished each of his professional fights in the first round, or within a minute of the second round.
Buckley will be favored for the first time in his UFC career, fairly heavily at -270. Wright will have the height and reach advantage, measuring 6’2” and 77” in those departments respectively, Buckley stands 5’10” and possesses a 76” reach. It’s worth noting that Wright is taking this fight on short notice.
One of the things that stands out most about Buckley are his boxing fundamentals. He holds a very high guard and is very good at protecting his chin. He has excellent footwork, manages range effectively, even when moving forward, backing his opponents off with jabs and feints, and is patient and selective in his striking. He’s a constantly moving target, has great head movement and sets up his counters with positioning.
Buckley attacks in bursts and has very quick and powerful boxing combos. Often times, he’s looking finish his combinations with kicks to the body. He attacks the head and body equally once he gets inside but, because of his usual reach disadvantage, he has to be inside to do damage and struggles to land his shots against longer and more athletic strikers.
At times, Buckley’s movement can be a bit predictable, but only truly advanced strikers, like Kevin Holland, have shown the ability to take advantage of this tendency. Buckley hasn’t spent much time on the ground in his career, but what grappling he has shown doesn’t inspire much confidence. The last time he was forced to fight on the canvas, he lost a unanimous decision to Logan Storley.
Storley is an excellent wrestler, but in that fight, Buckley was taken down with ease and controlled for pretty much the entirety of all three rounds. He isn’t a highly educated wrestler or roller, and he relies on his leg strength to get back to his feet and has to give his back to get there. He’s not going to want to do that against Jordan Wright, who has 5 victories by submission in his career, four of them rear naked chokes.
Though Wright’s record is impressive, his strength of schedule most certainly isn’t. The records of his first eight opponents were as follows: 0-0, 0-0, 0-5, 0-0, 0-21, 0-10, 0-0, and 1-2. The lone time in his career he was truly challenged, Anthony Hernandez knocked him out cold in 40 seconds on DWCS, however the fight was called a no contest after Hernandez failed a drug test for marijuana (which is no longer prohibited by the UFC.)
Wright is a tall and long, karate-style striker with a lot of speed and power. He generally likes to stay on the outside and out of range until he has opportunities to land big shots. He has some mean spinning kicks and a variety of advanced strikes, but it’s tough to tell if any of those will land against defensively sound fighters like Buckley.
Wright is not very defensively sound himself, holding a low guard and relying on his athleticism to avoid his opponents attacks. That being said, he’s tough to catch up to because of his speed and length. He succeeds when he can catch his opponents rushing in and throw counters. He has a nasty right overhand, good hooks and powerful, sneaky knees.
When it comes to picking this fight, there are a number of plays we like, but this fight needs to be bet with caution. The under is a pretty safe play but is an expensive bet and needs to be hedged for the possibility that this goes the distance, with Buckley outclassing Wright for three rounds.
Both of these fighters clearly have the skills necessary to finish the other. However, Buckley is a more advanced and fluid striker than Wright, and has a much higher fight IQ. He really should win this fight, but there’s a fair chance that Wright could time up some nasty counters and finish Buckley.