Jafel Filho hopes to mirror Diego Lopes’ UFC rise, wants future rematch with Muhammad Mokaev

Jafel Filho believes he can become the Diego Lopes of the flyweight division.

Lopes made his first walk to the UFC cage in May 2023 for a short-notice fight against top-ranked Movsar Evloev. He came close to giving Evloev his first loss in the sport, but ultimately lost a decision. Lopes went on to capture more bonuses in his subsequent UFC appearances with first-round finishes over Gavin Tucker and Pat Sabatini.

A former Shooto Brasil champion who, unlike Lopes, had success competing on the UFC’s Contender Series, Filho was paired up against highly-touted 125-pound prospect Muhammad Mokaev for his UFC debut. He came close to submitting the undefeated Russian, but ultimately allowed Mokaev to rally back to win via tapout.

Filho needed less than four minutes to choke out Daniel Barez in his following bout this past July, and now he’s looking for another finish over eight-fight octagon veteran Ode Osbourne on Saturday at UFC Vegas 88 to continue his rise up the 125-pound class.

“Not only can I [be like Diego Lopes], but I’m sure I will,” Filho said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “If you look at my record, most of my victories are by stoppage. I don’t like to leave it to the judges. I go in there to either knock out or submit [my opponent], or to get knocked out or submitted. But that’s not the case now. We’re going there to finish him and keep doing like Diego is doing, so we can make history in the flyweight division.”

Filho said he hopes a big victory in Las Vegas leads to a clash with a ranked opponent next, which would all be part of a plan culminating in a Mokaev rematch down the line. Mokaev submitted Tim Elliott and won a decision over Alex Perez since his victory over Filho.

“We ended up taking that fight with Mokaev, a fight not many people wanted it,” Filho said. “I always like challenges. I love it because it generates hype around us. I went back to England and won, and now I’ve trained three times more to secure another victory because we know it’s a crowded place and no one wants to stay behind. I’m only hungrier and hungrier, walking my path to maybe fighting Mokaev again at the top and put on another great fight.”

Osbourne has won four of eight under the UFC banner and sports a 2-2 UFC record in bouts that have ended in knockouts. Filho is confident that his hands can give “The Jamaican Sensation” another defeat, but he plans on following a different game plan.

“He has good experience and has fought tough guys, but doesn’t take anything away from the fighters I’ve fought,” Filho said. “He’s fast and explosive, but my wrestling and grappling game of control and domination is way better than his, and it will break his will, so I have the control of the fight then.

“As [coach Andre Pederneiras] told me, ‘Jafel, any hand you land will drop this guy because you have the heaviest hands of the division.’ That’s true. [But] we’ll look to play tight and solid against him with my grappling. We’ll have more advantage doing that. Why walk a more difficult road if there’s an easier one, right?”

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