Most mixed martial arts fans have been eagerly awaiting UFC 195 because of its fantastic main event. Not many other fights have been getting a lot of attention, including a well-booked fight on the main card between undefeated prospect Brian “T-City” Ortega and Diego Brandao. Ortega reminded fans of his potential during a thrilling back and forth fight with Thiago Tavares in June, which he won by third round technical knockout. Brandao, on the other hand, rebounded nicely in 2015 by earning consecutive wins over Jimmy Hettes and Katsunori Kikuno. Brian Ortega (9-0 (1 NC) MMA, 1-0 (1 NC) UFC, -230 favorite) Ortega entered the UFC in July of 2014 with a considerable amount of hype. At the time he was the reigning RFA Featherweight Champion and possessed an undefeated record. Ortega was actually scheduled to make his debut against Brandao, but Brandao withdrew from the fight and Ortega ended up getting Mike De La Torre as a replacement. That did not seem to bother “T-City”, as he quickly took De La Torre’s back and locked in a rear-naked choke. However, Ortega tested positive for an anabolic steroid in a post-fight screening, which resulted in him receiving a nine month suspension and his win being overturned and declared a no-contest. He returned triumphantly in June of 2015 and picked up the biggest win of his career over Tavares. The 24-year old is known primarily for his outstanding jiu-jitsu, which he has certainly showcased in his two fights in the UFC. The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt is fun to watch on the canvas, as he never stops working. His guard is a very dangerous place to be, even for longtime black belts such as Thiago Tavares. Ortega is constantly looking to go to his sneaky armbar/triangle/omoplata series and he does a great job of chaining submission attempts together one after another. Further, he possesses excellent sweeps and elbows from his back. While Ortega is obviously very dangerous off is back, he is a little too comfortable there at times and may be seen as losing by judges because of how much time he spends there. That is not a problem when he is able to get a finish, but it is something to consider when he faces someone that is capable of taking him down and neutralizing his guard game. That concern is only heightened because of Ortega’s shoddy takedown defense, which is one of his weakest areas. If he is going to become a top fighter in the division he is going to need to improve in that realm. Offensive wrestling is another area that I am sure Ortega is looking to improve upon, as is takedowns are not very effective. Another area that Ortega has been working hard to improve upon is his striking attack. Improvements were certainly noticeable in his last fight, as he did a much better job at putting his strikes together. He looked much more comfortable on his feet, which is certainly important. Ortega also showed some good pop in his hands, especially his right hand. Good conditioning and a high pace are also notable aspects of his game. Diego Brandao (20-10 MMA, 6-3 UFC, +190 underdog) Brandao has had his fair share of ups and downs since winning season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter. After winning four out of his first five fights in the UFC, he lost consecutive fights via first round knockout to Dustin Poirer and Conor McGregor. Obviously, losing to Poirer and McGregor is nothing to be ashamed about. However, the way those losses went down is concerning. For example, Brandao badly missed weight for his fight against Poirer and faded badly after a few minutes. Additionally, it seemed like he gave up in his fight against McGregor. Brandao’s motivation and commitment to the sport were questioned at that point. Brandao has talked openly about finding his motivation and desire to compete again. It seems like he was successful in finding it, as he proceeded to pick up consecutive victories against Hettes and Kikuno in 2015. The 28-year old is a well-rounded mixed martial artist that can do a bit of everything. On the feet he is very aggressive, almost to a fault. He throws big punches, especially with his right hand, flying knees, and heavy kicks. Out of Brandao’s 20 wins, 11 have come via knockout. His aggression can get him in trouble at times, especially against savvy counter strikers, but it usually pays off. Conditioning is a hot topic when discussing Brandao, as he is known to slow down after the first round, especially in fights that have a lot of grappling. It is essential that Brandao come into every fight in peak condition because of the fast pace he likes to set. It is not possible to maintain such a pace unless you are in great shape. Further, his chin is shaky, as he has been finished via strikes a whopping five times. While Brandao is known for his aggression and power, he is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The Brazilian has two submission wins in his UFC career, including a come from behind armbar victory against Dennis Bermudez. Brandao showed how skilled he is on the mat in that fight, as he locked up a tight armbar out of nowhere while he was badly hurt after getting dropped by a punch. Additionally, he has a decent arsenal of takedowns at his disposal; especially his body lock trips and throws. From top position Brandao is an effective passer, throws steady ground and pound, and is more than capable of finding the occasional submission. Thoughts There are a lot of factors at play in this matchup that make this fight a tough one to call. For example, Brandao has faced much better competition and has a lot more UFC experience. However, Brandao has a lot of issues of his own, which I already mentioned. It is hard to know which version of Brandao will show up come fight night and what his game plan will be. If he does show up in shape, will he try to test his jiu-jitsu against Ortega? I would not be surprised, though I would think that he would want to keep this fight on the feet. Ortega is very dangerous on the ground, but his wrestling and striking are still a work in progress. Those issues make this a hard fight to call, but I will side with Ortega because he has a higher ceiling, works at a very quick pace, and has not sustained as much damage as Brandao. I would not be surprised at all if Brandao comes out guns blazing and stops Ortega with strikes, but it is hard to have much faith in him in this fight. The Prediction: Brian Ortega defeats Diego Brandao by submission (armbar, round 3)
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