#5 Luis Pena vs. Steven Peterson
Luis Pena – AKA ‘The Violent Bob Ross’ – rose to fame on last spring’s TUF 27, being pegged as the early favorite to win the Lightweight tournament before dropping out with an injury. Pena made good on his UFC debut, easily choking out Richie Smullen, but his flaws – questionable cardio and defense – were on full display against the season’s eventual winner Mike Trizano, who beat him via split decision.
Pena has chosen to drop to 145lbs for this fight with Steven Peterson – an interesting move given he was already a large 155lber with a huge frame at 6’3”. Whether he can even make 145lbs is a question mark to me, but I’m going to assume he’ll make it, although it’s clearly a massive risk for him. A botched weight cut could leave him completely drawn out come fight night, and a loss here could well cost him his place on the UFC roster.
Peterson debuted in the UFC in 2018, strangely off a loss on Dana White’s Contender Series and a subsequent win on the smaller circuit. He showed little more than raw toughness in his fight with Brandon Davis, almost being knocked out on a couple of occasions but managing to survive, and then he picked up his first UFC win in December, edging out Matt Bessette largely with his ground game after being lit up standing in the early going.
From what I’ve seen from Peterson, he’s a generally solid fighter offensively, but his big problem is that his defense, particularly on the feet, is pretty appalling. He’s very hittable and seems to rely on his chin to get him out of trouble, and while that’s all well and good, a strong chin can’t hold up forever and taking shots can always lead to a loss on the judges’ scorecards too.
Assuming Pena isn’t too drained from the weight cut this should be a winnable fight for him – his long reach means he should be able to abuse Peterson from the outside without taking too much damage in return, and he’s good enough on the ground to outscramble ‘Ocho’ there as well. Peterson is tough enough not to count out, particularly if Pena gasses out at any stage, but I think ‘Violent Bob Ross’ can build enough of an early lead to take a lopsided decision.
The Pick: Pena via unanimous decision