This fight features two young and talented featherweights vying for a spot in the rankings. Dan “50K” Ige holds the number nine spot on the list of UFC featherweight contenders, while Gavin Tucker comes in unranked and looking to take Ige’s position.
Tucker is a winner of three straight, following his first career loss, at the hands of Rick Glenn. The 34-year-old Canadian now holds a professional record of 13-1, and is 4-1 in the UFC, following an ECC career which saw him obtain and defend the ECC featherweight title.
He has six submissions and four knockouts on his professional record, including rear naked chokes of Seung Woo Choi and Justin Jaynes. He holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and is a nightmare to deal with on the ground, as Billy Quarantillo learned in his unanimous decision loss to Tucker last December. Tucker is now looking to follow that win with a win over a top-ten ranked opponent, and insert himself into the featherweight contenders conversation.
Tucker is an athletic southpaw with excellent quickness and footwork. He offers a lot of movement and can give opponents different reads by shuffling his feet and parrying his hands. He has great timing to his strikes, and defends himself very well by moving in and out of the pocket. He also keeps opponents off of him by blasting rear teeps to the gut.
He offers an excellent variety of strikes, and shows a balance between his power shots and volume striking. He looks to dig kicks to the calf, and get his opponents moving forward so he can counter with combinations. His punching vocabulary is excellent and, coupled with his kicks to all three levels, keep his opponents guessing what’s coming next.
Tucker has spent time in Thailand training in traditional-style Muay Thai, and the improvement it has had on his striking is most apparent in his dominant win over Justin Jaynes. As he usually does, he was mixing up his striking and working all three levels, mixing in the occasional rear teep, and landing some nasty step-in knees. His rhythm and tempo was as good as it has ever been and that imrovement continued into his most recent win over Billy Quarantillo.
One of my favorite strikes in his arsenal is his switch uppercut. He develops a rhythm with his left kicks, then switches his feet and rips uppercuts while his opponents are defending the low right side of their bodies. He’s excellent at cutting angles to open up lanes, he throws multi-level combinations, and is an overall extremely intelligent and very effective striker.
A very well-rounded fighter, Tucker is also a very effective grappler. After developing a rhythm with his striking, he shoots in for outside single legs and has great, technical skills to finish takedowns. He has great scrambling and chain wrestling ability and strong inside trips. He takes his opponents’ backs and looks to establish leg hooks and control position. From there, his rear naked choke is just one of a variety of submissions he has attempted and succeeded with.
What is impressive about his jiu jitsu is his ability to adjust. He actively switches hands on his RNC, he steps off to the correct side and gets his hips down on his arm triangles, and when he’s on the bottom, he transitions smoothly through leg hooks.
Tucker has really only struggled in one fight in his career, his loss to Rick Glenn. Glenn, holding a four-and-a-half-inch reach advantage, managed to give Tucker fits with his volume striking. Tucker’s defense is reliant on his athleticism, and he can be exposed to damage when he isn’t able to easily slide out of range.
Tucker also got a bit frustrated after getting knocked down in the first round of that fight, and fought frantically in the second and third, gassing himself out, exposing himself to damage, getting controlled in the clinch, and giving up takedowns that just seemed too easy. As I mention earlier, he was undefeated heading into that fight, and he didn’t handle the adversity of being behind on the cards well at all.
Tucker will likely face at least some adversity at some point in this fight, as Dan Ige is clearly the toughest test of his young career so far. Ige is 14-3 as a professional, and is 6-2 in the UFC since defeating Luis Gomez by submission on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017. Those six wins came consecutively, following his UFC debut loss to Julio Arce.
Ige is looking to right the ship after losing to Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision in their five-round main event last July. Ige has three career knockouts and five submissions, including a first-round knockout of Mike Santiago and a first-round submission of Danny Henry.
Ige is an athletic and very well-rounded mixed martial artist. A very well-credentialed grappler, he holds a black belt in jiu jitsu, a brown belt in judo and was part of a division III national champion wrestling team at Wartburg College. He’s as dangerous on his feet as he is on the ground.
He looks to utilize his athleticism in his striking, moving around the outside and popping in and out of the pocket. He has good footwork, changes levels quickly, and has very good head movement. He makes a concerted effort to attack the body, and follows with solid hooks up top. He throws some nice low kicks, but his hands are much more dangerous than his legs.
Ige works a lot of two and three-strike combinations, sometimes using the same hand to double up with a jab, followed by a lead hook. He isn’t used to holding a reach advantage, but he he will have a significant edge there in this fight. Ige’s reach is 71” while Tucker’s is just 66” and it will be interesting to see how Ige’s approach changes, if it does at all.
For as good as his head movement is, Ige sometimes hangs out in the pocket for too long, and can take a lot of damage that way. He’s tough as hell, and has never been finished, despite having been knocked down by some of the heavier hitters in the featherweight division. Like Tucker, Ige has a tendency to get desperate and throw caution to the wind when he feels himself falling behind.
Despite his extensive grappling background, Ige is predominantly a striker in MMA, but he is a good wrestler, who can execute solid single leg takedowns. He can dominate position in the clinch with underhooks, and lands nasty shots on the break. One the ground, he can do damage from his opponents guard, and works the body and the chin. He throws nice elbows on the ground and can do damage on top.
He also has a well-noted and proven submission game. He looks to take opponents’ backs immediately off of his takedowns, and starts looking for rear naked chokes at the first opportunity. Ige has found himself on his back and defending submissions against advanced grapplers. It will be interesting to see if this fight goes to the ground, because these fighters are very evenly matched in that facet of the sport.
Where these fighters don’t appear to be evenly matched is on their feet. Tucker is clearly a more advanced striker and, though he is going to have to overcome a significant disadvantage in reach, I do expect him to do more damage standing. I think he’s a bit stronger on the ground, and I lean his way here.
I was concerned about Ige’s IQ taking over the fight when Tucker meets some adversity, but Tucker has walked through tough moments and maintained his compsure in recent fights. His striking pace and variety will be too much for Ige, and Ige is too content fighting off of his back for me to trust him here. I’ll be taking Tucker at +105, a fun value play is for this to end inside the distance at +170.