UFC on ESPN 46 Preview: Can Amir Albazi Create a Significant Impact?

After a week’s break, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is now set to enter a 12-week stretch, kicking off with a flyweight matchup at UFC Vegas 74. The event features former interim title challenger Kai Kara-France attempting to fend off surging contender Amir Albazi. This fight represents a significant step up in competition for Albazi, who faces a formidable opponent in Kara-France. Will Amir Albazi make his big splash by putting down City Kickboxing’s Kara-France? That is the question for today’s issue of Beforemath.

Are Quality Wins A Real Thing?

Since joining the UFC in 2018, Kara-France has only lost three times. He has been pure action from beginning to end, beating some of the best in the division, surviving the 2019 flyweight purge, and making his way to a shot at an interim title. His resume gets better as he fights, with each win more impressive than the last. His three losses have come at the hands of Brandon Moreno twice and Brandon Royval. Moreno is, of course, now the champion. These three fights show us some of the holes in Kara-France’s game, though exploiting those holes is easier said than done.

With Albazi being such a well-rounded fighter, he’s not truly exceptional at anything. However, he can hold his own in most situations in MMA. Kara-France can be exceptional on the feet, which is a place to thrive. Against Moreno, a striking monster in his own right, Kara-France had much success on the feet. With the mastermind game planners behind him at City Kickboxing, Kara-France will be prepared for an all-around fighter like Albazi. We’ve seen in his rematch with Moreno and in the Askarov fight that he is also great at implementing a game plan. This fight should see him come in with a well-crafted strategy.

Time to Shine

Contenders like Albazi don’t often get the type of opportunity he’s getting against Kara-France. Ranked seventh with Kara-France sitting at No. 3, Kara-France could have sat Albazi out of the conversation, but they gave him a shot. Now it’s his time to make a statement. While impressive, his wins over Alessandro Costa, Francisco Figueiredo, Zhalgas Zhumagulov, and Malcom Gordon aren’t of the caliber fighter that Albazi’s new opponent is. Albazi is well-rounded, but to win this fight he will need to be more than that. He will need to be exceptional.

To negate Kara-France’s low kicks, Albazi is going to have to make a habit of checking kicks. Making Kara-France miss will create an angle almost passively where Albazi can grab a leg or land something of his own to punish Kara-France. Albazi will also have to get some offense of his going as well. Where Askarov didn’t have the respect of Kara-France standing, Albazi has the ability to threaten Kara-France on the feet. This will open up takedowns if the opportunity arises.

Often, a young and upcoming fighter will have to rise to the occasion to make their name known. Sean O’Malley did so against Petr Yan, and Cain Velasquez did so against Brock Lesnar. This will be Albazi’s chance to follow their example for a shot at flyweight glory. Dive in, Albazi, it’s time to make a splash.

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