One of the most intriguing match-ups on the BRACE 42 lineup is a fight between young up-and-comers Theo Christakos and Sam Hayward.
Both fighters have only a single loss to their name, and a combined ten submission victories between them, in what will no doubt be a showcase of grappling skills on the night.
Christakos will be looking to continue his winning ways after his most recent victory saw him submit veteran Kevin Manderson at BRACE 39. Hayward, on the other hand, will be looking to bounce back after suffering his first loss to Callan Potter.
In the lead up to the bout we look at the advantages and disadvantages that each fighters techniques, tendencies and strategies bring to the cage.
The first thing that really jumps off the page in this fight is Christakos’ height. Standing at 6’3” tall, Christakos has a 3” height advantage over Hayward and a lanky frame to go with it. Whilst many would expect this to provide a striking advantages Christakos’ tendency is to utilise his long limbs and tall frame to implement his grappling techniques over his striking.
This is not to say that Christakos doesn’t apply his striking skills he just tends to use it from range to set up the clinch and complete a takedown.
If the fight gets to the ground Christakos really starts to excel. To put it simply, Christakos’ game is all about taking the back and locking in the rear-naked-choke, a move that has become somewhat of a signature finish for the Sydney-based fighter. Indeed even before the fight hits the ground he will be looking for opportunities to duck under his opponents arms and jump onto his back.
On the ground Christakos will put pressure on his opponent, landing strikes where he can, and passing where he can as well. As his opponent attempts to scramble back to his feet Christakos will look to take the back. Most often this will come as his opponents turn to turtle position on all fours and try to stand up. From there Christakos will sink in the hooks and fish for the rear-naked-choke.
The real weakness to this style of fighting was exploited by UFC veteran Ben Alloway. The first round of their fight was back-and-forth grappling wise, however Christakos hardly threw any strikes compared to multiple by Alloway. While he is still a developing fighter Christakos is still working on integrating his striking and grappling into a coherent whole. If Hayward is able able to negate his back takes and control, he will go a long way to winning the fight.
Looking at Hayward’s record you would think he was purely a grappling specialist as five of his six wins are by submission. Yet on closer inspection Hayward is quite a well rounded fighter. In fact the first part of Hayward’s game to take notice of is his striking.
Hayward’s striking is largely centred around his powerful right hand. He will look for it everywhere and anywhere. Hayward will come in with a looping right overhand or a wild right hook, throw out a jab and then throw a crunching right straight. He even triples up on the right hand in the Thai clinch, throwing powerful uppercuts and hooks over his opponents arms.
The biggest disadvantage in Hayward’s game is his propensity to get taken down off of the cage. He will often stuff the initial takedown attempt successfully, but will then look to throw elbows to his opponents head, in the process failing to properly defend a secondary takedown.
However this doesn’t generally seem to phase Hayward because of how comfortable he is off of his back. As soon as he is taken down Hayward will look to transition straight to the rubber guard and omoplata submission. The rubber guard requires a lot of hip flexibility, and Hayward seems to have it in abundance. The omoplata itself is a really hard submission to finish without the traditional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gin on so Hayward will instead use it to sweep his opponents and end up in side control. From here Hayward will look to land strikes and take any submission opportunities that come his way.
This fight is without a doubt one to watch on the BRACE 42 card in a match-up that will be as thrilling on the feet as it will be on the mat.
Fans can catch all the action live from AIS Arena in Canberra on August 13 from 2pm (AEST) or live on UFC Fight Pass. Tickets available through TickeTek.