Cole Smith (+190) vs. Hunter Azure (-230)
Weight Class: Bantamweight (135 lbs)
Two prospects coming off losses will look to bounce back against each other when Hunter Azure and Cole Smith square off. A native of Canada, Smith last lost via decision against Miles Johns. Before that he defeated Mitch Gagnon via unanimous decision last May.
As for Hunter Azure, he last lost by way of knockout to Brian Kelleher. Things were proceeding smoothly for the MMA Lab’s Azure through the first round, but Kelleher ultimately came back and KO’d him in the second. Prior to the Kelleher loss, Azure defeated Chris Ocon on the Contender’s Series and Brad Katona in his UFC debut.
The Katona fight will have much relevance in reading this upcoming bout with Smith, as Brad Katona shares far more in common with Cole Smith than just nationality. Katona, like Smith, is a suffocating grappler. He’s really good at wearing on his opponents and managed to steal round one this way against Johns. Expect Smith to be looking to take the fight to the ground.
With that said, Hunter Azure is a well decorated ground fighter himself. He had a very well regarded wrestling career in Montana prior to making the jump to the UFC and has shown great scrambling ability. Though he has been taken down at times in his young UFC career, Azure has usually been able to explode up and avoid being smothered.
Expect the same to go down against Cole Smith should he try this strategy. Smith’s striking isn’t on the level of Hunter Azure, so he could be fishing for take downs. If Azure is able to stuff or otherwise negate his take downs, it could be a long night for Smith.
As for Hunter Azure, he has shown a propensity for striking thus far in the UFC. He didn’t attempt a take down against Brad Katona or Brian Kelleher despite landing several against Ocon. Azure will throw heavy shots from start to finish, though he did look a bit tired in the Kelleher fight.
Hunter Azure still has a ways to go to become a true top contender, but he looked solid against a game opponent in Brian Kelleher. If he can get it done against Kelleher, I doubt he’ll have problems with Cole Smith. If he needs to, he could mix in the take down to negate Smith’s wrestling. Miles Johns successfully implemented this strategy last go around.
For a method of victory, I like Hunter Azure by points. He is a heavy hitter, sometimes too much so, as he seems to get away from his jab at times. For these reasons, I expect Azure to win by unanimous decision.
Prediction and play: Hunter Azure by points (+115)