Prospect in the Spotlight (Mar 1-2): Josh Culibao

Introduction

Friday, March 1st, Australian featherweight prospect Josh Culibao will be in action in the Land Down Under, where he will be looking to continue his undefeated streak (7-0) against local journeyman Josh Payne. He will be looking to score yet another win, as Culibao looks to inch closer to a UFC contract. Culibao represents Australian Top Team, one of the most respected camps of his homeland. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”

Strengths

Striker: Culibao is primarily a striker, especially striking on the feet. He has good movement and bounce in his step, as well as footwork that helps him set up angles. His strikes are precise and powerful, which helps him accumulate damage to earn stoppages. Because he has good footwork and quickness, he is able to get advantageous cage position on his opponents, putting their backs up against the fence. He has especially damaging kicks, which he whips with violent intention. He is coming off the biggest win of his career over veteran Rodolfo Marques, where he beat him up with good aggression before landing a devastating head kick. Some follow up strikes ensured that stoppage. That also shows he’s ready to keep moving up the talent ladder.

Ground-and-Pound: When the fight hits the ground, a place where Culibao is willing to engage, he has very powerful striking from top position. He doesn’t go for takedowns super often, but when he does, he makes it count. His striking from the top is nasty and he mixes in precision punches with very heavy elbows. He uses those elbows and punches to advance position and get to a more dominant spot, such as full mount. There, he can really open up with his ground-and-pound. He’s proven he can stop fights with said ground-and-pound.

Needs Improvement

Close Decisions: When Culibao is unable to finish fights, the judge’s scorecards tend to be too close for comfort. That includes a loss by decision as an amateur, as well as two of his three decision wins as a pro coming by split and majority decisions. Summed up, Culibao needs to finish fights or risk close losses by three judges not actually in the fight. That’s concerning, especially as he moves up in competition level.

Submission Offense: So far, there is very little evidence that Culibao has strong offensive submission abilities. He has no finishes as a pro or amateur via tapout. That doesn’t mean he’s not capable; it merely means there’s no evidence of high competence. As mentioned, Culibao is far more interested in scoring damage with his strikes, whether it’s on the feet or on the mat. Proving to be more well-rounded would instill more overall confidence.

Outlook

Regional UFC Fighter: The UFC likes having global fighters on their roster to fill out cards when they’re in the area. That’s especially the case in Australia. Outside of a few Aussie fighters who have broken through as top contenders and draws, most of the Aussie fighters employed by the UFC fight on the couple Australia cards the company has per year or fights in south and east Asia. Culibao will likely be one of those guys who occupies a spot on those regional cards, likely the prelims. He will have some exciting fights and possibly score a couple wins, but I don’t see him breaking on through to the other side. That said, he’s just 24 years old and has much room for improvement. So, per usual, he could exceed my expectations; it’s happened more than a few times to this writer and I welcome it.

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