Written By Dylan Knostman
On May 20th, 2023 at the UFC Apex, we will see two exciting welterweights clash as Portuguese prospect Andre Fialho takes on former middleweight Joaquin “New Mansa” Buckley. Both of these fighters possess the ability to finish fights in a moment's notice, whether it is Fialho finding the chin with his crisp boxing, or Buckley overwhelming his adversary with explosive kicks and punches. While both of these men have found success in their UFC careers, they are each coming off of 2-fight losing streaks. Fialho has suffered back to back knockout losses to Muslim Salikhov and Jake Matthews, and Buckley dropped a decision to Nassourdine Imavov and was knocked out by Chris Curtis on December 10, 2022. Despite the tough recent outings for these fighters, both have reason to believe this bout is their chance to right the ship. Fialho has taken some necessary time off after fighting five times in 2022, and he has shown through his social media exceptional effort to improve his wrestling. Buckley, as previously mentioned, is making his first cut down to 170 pounds, which should serve him well, as at 5 '10 he has always been short for the middleweight division. This is shaping up to be an explosive matchup, so expect to see fireworks on May 20th, 2023.
Andre Fialho, born April 7th, 1994, is the only active portuguese born fighter in the UFC. A veteran of UAE Warriors, the PFL, LFA, and Bellator, Fialho has faced notable fighters such as Chris Curtis, James Vick, and Chidi Njokuani. Receiving his UFC opportunity on short notice, he faced welterweight contender Michel Periera, and lost a hard fought decision despite nearly finishing Pereira in the first round. He went on to put together back-to-back knockout wins versus Miguel Baeza and Cameron VanCamp, showcasing the concrete fists he carries. Attempting to remain incredibly active, he fought Jake Matthews at UFC 275 where Matthews put together the best performance of his career and won via finish. In his most recent bout, he was dismantled by Muslim Salikhov, which showed his impressive chin but also how much he struggles to recover when he is hurt. Salikhov is a feint heavy sanda-style striker, therefore it will be a much different stylistic matchup from Buckley. Fialho’s path to success in this fight is leaning on the tools he is best at. Forward pressure, counter striking, and going to the body of Buckley. Fialho has tremendous hooks from both sides, and utilizes fast and hard calf kicks, and in his best fights he will never stop with forward pressure, walking down his opponents with short but powerful strikes. He also has displayed some of the heavier hands in the welterweight division. His clinch game on the fence is quite good, despite not coming from any sort of grappling background, and this was showcased with his knockout against the fence in his last fight under the UAE Warriors banner. Regardless of the outcome, expect Fialho to go to war on the feet and hunt for the finish with his explosive boxing.
Owner of perhaps the most incredible knockout in MMA history versus Impa Kasanganay, Joaquin Buckley is finally making the drop down to welterweight, which many people have argued is his proper weight class for a long time. Buckley has wins over other such notable fighters as Albert Duraev and Jordan Wright. Never lacking muscle or width, Buckley was almost always shorter than his opponents at middleweight which caused him to overreach on many of his strikes, resulting in him being out of position and easy to defend against with the right tools, as seen in his bout with Nassourdine Imavov in September 2022. Buckley throws in forward combinations, generally a wild mix of punches and kicks, forcing his opponent to deal with the barrage coming their way. Buckley does move on a straight line almost all the time, meaning lateral movement is key in avoiding his power. Defensive counter strikers seem to be the weakness of “New Mansa”, as evidenced in his most recent fight with Chris Curtis as he was knocked out cold with a counter hook. Buckley does have excellent pop in his punches, and loves to throw high kicks as well. It will be interesting to see how his speed and power translates to a lower weight class, and we could be in for a new style completely as he’ll no longer be undersized. To beat Fialho, Buckley needs to change levels, mix in his wrestling, and aggressively high kick to keep Fialho’s hands at home defensively. From there, pressure and keeping Fialho off of offense will result in long term success over the three rounds. Built like a tank and hitting like a train, Buckley is far from the ideal matchup for any fighter but to get the win, he will have to limit his chaotic style, stay measured, and use his natural tools to win his upcoming welterweight debut.
Fialho and Buckley, with 24 knockouts between the two, will always bring the action regardless of opponent, and expect nothing less here. Both of these athletes have stellar power, Buckley more with his wild long shots and Fialho with his tight crisp boxing. The keys to victory are similar for the two, as forward pressure and accuracy is key. Neither of these fighters are particularly good on defense, leaving their chins and bodies open on many occasions throughout their careers. A fight of this nature is once again the prime argument against events in the UFC apex, as the crowd would be absolutely alive for these two explosive finishers. Expect for this fight not to reach the third round, with Fialho getting it done here in the second round via TKO. Tune in to UFC Fight Night: Dern vs Hill on May 20th to witness these two fighters along with several other exciting matchups on the card.