The featured preliminary bout at UFC 217 in New York on Saturday night pits two of the most dangerous unranked lightweights in the world against each other in a fascinating clash of strikers.

James "The Texecutioner" Vick and Joseph Duffy headline the preliminary portion of the card, with both men looking to break into the upper echelons of the UFC’s lightweight division.

Vick has as solid a record as you’ll find for a 155-pounder in the UFC. Under the UFC banner he’s 7-1, with three submissions, one TKO and three unanimous decisions (11-1 with seven stoppages overall). But despite looking good in flashes, he hasn’t yet been given the upwards push by the UFC’s matchmakers.

That changes on Saturday when he takes on Duffy, who arrived in the UFC with the tag of being the last man to defeat Conor McGregor pre-UFC.

Since Duffy arrived in the UFC, he’s built a 4-1 record, with two submissions, one TKO and one unanimous decision. Overall, he’s 17-2 with 15 stoppages.

The Irishman has been labeled one of the most dangerous rising prospects at 155lbs ever since his arrival in the UFC, but his unanimous decision loss to contender Dustin Poirier set him back a little.

Now, two wins later, he’s ready to make another statement against Vick as he looks to seek out ranked opposition on his way to the top.

Advantages and disadvantages

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© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Vick will go into the fight with all the usual advantages you’d expect from a James Vick fight.

Standing 6-foot-3 with a reach of 76 inches, Vick will be five inches taller than Duffy on fight night with a three-inch reach advantage.

But when it comes to all-around striking, Duffy may hold the edge. Both men have solid boxing, but Duffy’s pure boxing is much cleaner. The Irishman also mixes up his kicks, to the legs, body and head, excellently, which may give him the edge when he can get into striking range.

The problem with being the smaller man against a fighter who has used his jab excellently in his last couple of fights is how to get inside that jab and into the pocket.

But as a man with pro boxing experience and a high fight IQ, Duffy has the smarts to work his way in and do damage up close. Indeed, closing the distance will nullify Vick’s most potent dictatorial weapon, his jab.

How will it pan out?

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© Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Vick’s jab really is the crucial factor in this fight, as its success (or lack thereof) will play a major role in who gets his hand raised at the end of the fight.

If Vick can keep the fight at range and score consistently with jabs, mixed with leg kicks, he has the skill set to stick and move his way to a decision victory.

But Duffy’s all-around striking game and ability to throw shots from traditional and non-traditional angles should give him the edge if his footwork allows him to work inside Vick’s jab, or counter off it.

It’s a close contest on paper – a real pick’em fight – but overall, I believe Duffy is the more skilled all-around fighter with a higher propensity to finish his fights.

So I’m leaning toward the Irishman to get the W on Saturday night, most likely on the scorecards, but a stoppage isn’t out of the question.

SIMON’S PICK: Duffy via decision


Go ‘Embedded’ at UFC 217

It’s day one of fight week in New York, and the UFC’s roving "Embedded" cameras take fans behind the scenes with the fighters as they make their final preparations ahead of the big fights at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

We kick things off with Episode 1, as the fighters get set to make the trip to NYC for fight week. We’ll bring you these all week as we build up to UFC 217.

[Main image credit: © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports / Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports]


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