For Upright Odoemena, Jan. 27 promised an epic champion vs. champion battle for the vacant lightweight title, pairing the 6-2 Odoemena agains the undefeated Drew Pais — who claimed the featherweight strap with a win over Gavin Thomas at Fight For It XVII.
But when Pais dropped out due to injury, a very different bout took shape. Instead of Drew Pais entering the cage, it will be his older brother Jacob stepping in to challenge Odoemena for the belt.
Odoemena is a clear favorite in this match-up. On the way to amassing his 6-2 record, he claimed the 155-pound title for the promotion Ultimate Battle Grounds in early 2023. His experience includes 22 rounds of competition, compared to Jacob Pais’ seven. And Odoemena’s 6-2 record dwarfs Pais’ 2-1 ledger. However, it is the physical size, record and strength in opposition that makes Odoemena the favorite in this fight.
But despite what’s on paper, Pais is no stranger to the championship rounds. His only defeat came via split decision in a championship bout in November 2023 at Ultimate Battle Grounds 17.
And there’s more st stake than just the hardware in this bout. Pais represents Greensboro’s Matrix MMA while Odoemena fights out of the Charlotte-based Carolina Combat Sports and Fitness. A controversial win for Matrix over CCSF has caused a bit of a spark to kindle a budding rivalry between the two camps.
Odoemena has all the right attributes and experience to claim a dominant victory. But the Pais brothers are known for being audacious in their predictions and have managed to achieve more than most would expect in such a short period. As he looks to reverse the momentum of his only loss and claim a belt for himself, Pais could well be a dark horse success here.
Either way, this fight is guaranteed to throw sparks.
Fight For It XVIII kicks off 2024 with a powerful card of kickboxing and MMA action at Charlotte’s Grady Cole Center on Saturday, Jan. 27. Catch every moment live or streaming via pay-per-view. Kickboxing prelims start at 3 p.m., and the MMA card ignites at 7 p.m. Tickets for the live event and pay-per-view stream are available now via fightforitcompany.com.
And be sure to download the Fight For It app on on The App Store or Google Play to pick your fantasy winners at Fight For It XIV. The pool is free to play and will award the top three scorers with their share of a $500 cash prize.