Two fast-rising contenders in the Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight division will put their talents on display when Sergio Pettis faces Brandon Moreno in the UFC Fight Night 114 main event on Saturday at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City. A women’s strawweight showdown between Randa Markos and blue-chip prospect Alexa Grasso serves as the co-anchor.
Further down the Fox Sports 1 main card, action fighters Alan Jouban and Niko Price square off in a potential barnburner at 170 pounds. Meanwhile, Martin Bravo takes on Humberto Bandenay, Sam Alvey battles Rashad Evans and Alejandro Perez tackles Andre Soukhamthath. A middleweight clash pitting Jack Hermansson against Bradley Scott anchors the prelims.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night “Pettis vs. Moreno” matchup, with analysis and picks:
FlyweightsSergio Pettis (15-2) vs. Brandon Moreno (14-3)
THE MATCHUP: Despite a rocky start in the UFC, Anthony Pettis’ younger brother has finally put himself in position to contend. His difficulties and eventual resurgence serve to remind us of two things: Prospects usually take a lot of time and trouble to develop, and he is still only 23 years old. Though inevitably compared to his brother, Pettis has also begun to develop some serious power as he gets older and grows into his body. In Pettis’ bout with John Moraga, Daniel Cormier pointed out that his back had grown broad and hard since his debut; not long after the comment, Pettis rocked Moraga with a heavy punch. He ate a few himself but proved also that the memorable knockout loss on his record was never the result of a faulty chin. Pettis stunned Moraga with a Golovkin-esque counter right, eating an overhand right on the chin and still managing to follow through with an even better one in reply. Pettis is turning into a pretty scary striker.
However, his problems have not gone away entirely. Chief among them is Pettis’ defense. He manages distance well, uses technical footwork to find angles and slips and pulls out of harm’s way pretty easily -- but only when he is not throwing punches. Everyone is more vulnerable when they are attacking, but when Pettis sits down on a combination, his head stops moving, his feet get out of position as he shifts from one stance to another and he focuses so heavily on placing his shots that his normally keen vision grows too narrow to avoid counters.
Despite this, Pettis will likely give Moreno problems on the feet, at least in the early portions of this match. How Moreno reacts and adapts will be the meat of the fight itself. Moreno is growing by leaps and bounds as a striker, but defense is still a weak spot. Offensively, Moreno is a dangerous kickboxer. He flashes a quick jab, throws punches in bunches and looses high kicks so comfortably that he must have been working with Duane Ludwig and T.J. Dillashaw during his time at Team Elevation. Moreno is also equipped with what I would call “athletic intangibles.” They include timing, proprioception and balance. Moreno adapts brilliantly to whatever is put in front of him and seems to do it with an abundance of ease and good humor.
Moreno is dynamic and clever enough to get the finish anywhere, but the standup will be exceedingly dangerous. Pettis will be far and away the most skilled striker he has ever faced. Fortunately, Moreno is a skilled and talented grappler, too. That may in fact be an understatement. Moreno is only a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he has taken 10 of his 14 wins via submission. He overcame five-to-one odds in his UFC debut, submitting grappling specialist Louis Smolka in about two minutes. More recently, Moreno handed powerful wrestler Dustin Ortiz his first ever submission loss, although admittedly that one was with a little help from a head kick. Moreno simply has a superb understanding of position on the ground. He is an able scrambler and not so cautious that he stalls out in supposedly neutral positions; he is also an airtight positional grappler who maintains some point of control even in the midst of wild scrambles on the ground.
THE ODDS: Moreno (-175), Pettis (+140)
THE PICK: The question here is whether Moreno can get Pettis to the ground -- without getting knocked out or sucked into a losing battle on the feet -- and keep him there long enough to submit him. Pettis is a capable grappler with three submission wins to his credit. At 71 percent, his defensive wrestling is solid but not great. Moreno might not look the part of a skilled wrestler, but he really has a knack for the grind, especially favoring the kind of clinging, entangling takedowns used by grapplers like Demian Maia and Neil Magny. He completes on average 3.4 takedowns per 15-minute fight. Pettis, on the other hand, often rushes things when grappling. In tie-ups, he tends to force positions; on the ground, he relies a little too much on speed and flexibility. Moreno should be able to see through these flashy moves and ply his more ruggedly technical grappling game in this fight, though he may need to walk through a few volleys on the feet first. Moreno by third-round submission is the pick.
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