Kazuto Ioka and Aston Palicte square off this Wednesday in Japan with the vacant WBO super flyweight title on the line. UFC Fight Pass will stream the fight live for subscribers at 8 am ET on Wednesday.
Our staffers make their picks for the main event.
I think Palicte is more dangerous here than some may expect on paper. He’s naturally bigger, he can punch, and while he should have lost to Donnie Nietes last September (he got a gift draw), that fight may well have been a valuable learning experience for him. That said, he was also naturally bigger than Nietes, and it didn’t help him a lot. Ioka has looked good since his comeback last fall, where he beat McWilliams Arroyo, a good fighter, pretty comfortably, and I really think he deserved the nod against Nietes on Dec. 31, but that’s just me. Styles make fights, so I’m trying not to overly focus on their respective bouts with Nietes, but I just think Ioka will prove the better fighter here and win a world title in a fourth weight division. Ioka UD-12
This fight could turn out to be a sneaky good one. Ioka clearly enters this fight with more ring experience against good opposition, but is also coming off a split decision loss to Donnie Nietes last December. Meanwhile Palicte most recently scored a stoppage win over Jose Martinez in just two rounds. But going head-to-head Palicte is the noticeably larger fighter, who also packs the bigger punch. I expect Ioka to attempt to press his way into the inside but that could spell danger as Palicte likes to throw this chopping right hand that basically lands on the top the head. It’s not exactly a textbook punch, but it was certainly effective for Palicte against Martinez. I can see Ioka being open for that shot, and it could throw off his equilibrium before Palicte goes for the finish. I’m going to take Palicte by mid-to-late round stoppage. Palicte TKO-7
Patrick L. Stumberg
I’m trying to think of a clever, analyst-y way to say “Ioka is just better than Palicte” and failing. I mean, he is; Ioka’s held his own against much stronger competition, looks to be the faster of the two, and is more accurate with his punches. He certainly did a damn sight better against Donnie Nietes than Palicte did regardless of the respective official outcomes.
The only real concern for me is the power disparity, as Ioka is happy to rip the body in the pocket and could conceivably get chinned by the naturally larger man. Better fighters than Palicte have failed to put Ioka on his seat, though, and so long as Palicte didn’t bring along the judging crew from his Nietes fight, Ioka should outclass him for a comfortable decision win. Ioka UD-12
It’s the Donnie Nietes rebounders scrapping it out for the WBO strap in a fight that looks a true 50/50 match up. A straight comparison of their results against the Filipino four-weight world champion doesn’t tell the whole story: Ioka dropped a SD on New Year’s Eve whereas Palicte earned a draw in a fight that many thought Nietes dominated.
Palicte is a big puncher at the weight and will look to impose his size on the home fighter whose skill and experience level will be relied on to secure a world title at a fourth weight. Ioka’s timing and counter right hand still looks to be live, with his ring IQ crucial to negate the dangerous threat Palicte holds as the bigger man. I can’t see this one finishing early, with Ioka getting the nod on home soil. Ioka UD-12