Two Hawaiian warriors face off in the first PFL event for 2019. Being cousins doesn’t seem to be a problem for them, as both men sound ready for war. Here are my thoughts on the fight from a betting perspective.
Known for his spectacular title run last season where he wiped out Jake Shields twice (as well as other contenders), Ray Cooper is a force to be reckoned with. A short welterweight at 5’7, Cooper is built like a tank and fights like one too.
A four-state champion wrestler, Cooper has some high amplitude slams as well as nice trips in the clinch. While he has a good top game and enjoys beating up opponents from the turtle position, Cooper’s most scary asset is his pocket boxing.
An insanely powerful puncher, his opponents are in danger any time Cooper works his way on the inside. Marching forward and hurling grenades is great for the fans, but Cooper looked vulnerable in his title bout against Magomed Magomedkerimov – who used nice long straight punches to keep the smaller Cooper at bay before eventually choking him out. Cooper’s interpretation of this loss seemed extremely off the mark, which should be considered a red flag.
Having mainly fought in his native Hawaii, not much is known about Zane Kamaka. He will enjoy a 6-inch height advantage and 6-inch reach advantage over his cousin – which could be significant given the way he fights.
A smooth kickboxer, Kamaka throws clean punches down the pipe as well as sharp leg kicks. He seems to have a good understanding of distance and is good at keeping opponents on the end of his strikes. He’s definitely the more technical striker and if he’s to win this fight, he’ll need to stuff takedowns, keep Cooper at bay and play the matador role.
The big question mark is Kamaka’s grappling. He trains at Gracie Technics with the likes of Max Holloway and Yancy Medeiros, so he should be getting plenty of good looks – but it’s guess work whether or not he’ll be able to stuff takedowns from a powerful, athletic wrestler like Cooper. He looks like a proficient grappler from top position, but weak off his back.
Cooper has defeated high level opponents in dominant fashion, so it’s easy to see why he’s the favorite. However, he’s currently sitting at -500 and I can’t see how you’d find any value in those odds. Cooper has a good chance to land a bomb in the pocket or take Kamaka down and smash him, but it’s not a certainty by any means.
Kamaka is the superior striker and if he’s able to dominate Cooper from the outside as Magomedkerimov did, he will win this fight. At +380 all the value is with the underdog and I don’t mind taking a small stab on the lesser known Hawaiian.
Pick: Zane Kamaka +380
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