UFC 46: Supernatural Preview

Jeff Curran vs. Matt Serra

Jan 27, 2004

Lightweight Bout: Jeff "The Big Frog" Curran vs. Matt "The Terror" Serra

JEFF CURRAN: American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, muay Thai fighter, also known as "Sapao", Chief instructor of Curran Martial Arts Academy and leader of Team Curran, Extreme Challenge veteran, HOOK'n'SHOOT veteran, WFA veteran, UCC veteran, Superbrawl veteran, BJJ black belt under Pedro Sauer, trains with Chuck Pilcher, Bart Palaszewski, Darby Haanpaa, Dr. Douglas Mango and members of Team Curran, Rickson Gracie black belt Pedro Sauer, and Pat Miletich, and members of Miletich Martial Arts and Team Extreme, with a 18-5-1-1 record in MMA making his first appearance in the UFC

Abbreviated Fight History: Jeff has a varied martial arts background including the study of karate, Jeet Kune Do, muay Thai, boxing, hapkido and of course Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In his late teens he realized the importance of putting it all together and began competing in MMA in 1998. Over the last 6 years Jeff has amassed an 18-5-1-1 record. Recently Jeff was kicked in the forearm in a MMA tag team match at the ZST show in Japan and needed a plate and six screws put into the arm but he has fully recovered. Below are some of Curran's more significant contests:

Curran/Anthony Hamlett: Quick fight. Curran comes out swinging and Hamlett shoots for the takedown. Jeff sprawls and grabs Anthony's head for a front headlock but is lifted into the air and dropped to the canvas. The impact causes Curran to slam his head into the mat and Hamlett goes to work, pounding Jeff with forearms to the face until the referee breaks the action.

Curran/Max Marin: Marin runs out at the bell ala Caol Uno and is quickly taken down by Curran. They fight from inside Curran's guard with Marin throwing punches to the body. Curran brings his legs up to sink a triangle but doesn't have it locked in and Marin throws strikes to the face in an attempt to release the hold. Jeff stays focused and when they hit the mat he transitions to an armbar and then back to a triangle choke. Max escapes the choke and passes the guard. He remains on top but cannot pass Jeff's guard. Curran is able to sweep and reverse Marin and takes Max's back when he gets to his feet. Marin tripods out but Curran's hooks are superior and he simply slides around and back to guard again to work for the choke. Max cannot pass Jeff's guard and the first round ends with Curran in control. Round two opens with strikes and a takedown from Marin. They fight from Curran's guard and Jeff attempts a few more sweeps but he cannot turn him. Marin throws punches and forearms to the face and even a leg lock. Jeff pushes away and Max jumps into Curran's guard with a flying left punch. Marin continues to escape triangle chokes from Curran's guard but doesn't get to his feet to force a stand-up battle. When Marin jumps back in, Curran was waiting for him and sinks a triangle Max could not escape.

Curran/Todd Lally: At WFA 3 Curran was able to stand with Lally early but when the opportunity to bring it down came, Jeff brought him the mat and applied a triangle choke for the win in the first round.

Also worthy of note: Curran battled Henry Matamoros (loss/submission), Phil Johns (loss/strikes,loss/KO), Tony DeDolph (win/decision), Bao Quach (win/decision), Baret Yoshida (win/KO) and Norifumi Yamamoto (loss/decision)

Strengths And Weaknesses: Curran is a balanced fighter but his ground game is what gets it done. With 10+ wins by submission, Jeff likes to bring people down and attack their limbs. Additionally, He has studied muay Thai for a number of years and his hands and elbows have been known to stop people in their tracks as well. As for a weakness, Curran can fall to solid striking but is by no means a walk in the park.

How He Can Beat Serra: Standing. Most of Serra's opponents can't keep Matt on his feet and wind up paying for it on the canvas. Din Thomas was the first to truly frustrate Serra and take away the takedowns. If Curran can make him stand and trade, Serra may become frustrated and tired and leave himself open to Jeff's muay Thai striking.

MATT SERRA: American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, Renzo Gracie black belt, 1999 Pan-American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament Champion, 1999 World Games Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gold Medallist, 8-man Abu Dhabi Qualifier Tournament Winner, 2001 Abu Dhabi Submission Fighting event "best match" award recipient, 1st American black belt under Renzo Gracie, trains boxing and cardio with Ray Longo and with Ricardo Almeida, Sean Alvares, Nick Serra, Renzo Gracie and the rest of Team Renzo, with a MMA record of 11-3, making his 6th appearance in the UFC (2-3)

Abbreviated Fight History: Like many of us in the arts, Matt was first attracted to martial arts by watching Bruce Lee as a child. He was something of a fighter in junior high and high school but it became clear how little he knew when shown a copy of the "Gracies in Action" tape. He began fighting MMA in the Vengeance at Vanderbilt events and has put together an 11-3 record in MMA. He has yet to realize his dream of winning a UFC title (lost a decision to B.J. Penn) and currently there is no title or champion in the lightweight division. Below are some of Serra's more significant contests:

Serra/Shonie Carter: After a minor exchange, Serra brings Carter to the mat and passes his guard. Carter gets to his feet but is dropped back down and must fight from Serra's guard. Matt figure four locks his arm and begins to turn it but Shonie stays with him and frees himself. They continue to roll and Serra takes Carter's back, securing an arm with his leg. Matt rolls forward to but again Carter gets out. On the feet Serra blasts Carter with a head kick and drops to the mat for a leg lock. Matt goes to full mount and then seizes Carter's back but cannot sink the choke. Back on the feet Serra nearly attempts a flying armbar and then jumps to guard, working for a triangle. To finish the round, Carter throws a right leg kick and pops him with a spinning elbow. The second round opens with an exchange on the feet and Carter bringing Serra to the canvas. They fight out of Serra's guard but are quickly back to the feet and trade in the clinch. Serra jumps to guard and works for a leg lock but Carter escapes and they are up and down for the rest of the round. Shonie tags Matt again just before the bell and appears to have evened up the fight. A weary Matt Serra jumps to guard to start the third round. Carter is able to stifle the submission attempts and negate most of Serra's offense. With under three minutes left Serra scores a double leg takedown and rides it until he has Carter's back. Shonie reverses and sits in Serra's guard. They stand but Serra looks tired and Carter seems relatively fresh. Shonie lands a high kick, stops a shoot and takes Matt to the canvas. With under a minute left Serra works for a submission he can't sink it. Serra's late activity seems like it might steal the win but with just second left they stand again. Carter hits Serra with the same low roundhouse-spinning back forearm he hit him with in the first but this time Serra doesn't know where he is. Shonie wins.

Serra/Yves Edwards: Matt took a decision from Yves Edwards at UFC 33. Obviously the ground was Serra's strength but Matt took some shots from Yves. He stood and engaged Edwards so he has confidence in his striking even when faced with a superior striker. What earned him the win was his constant pursuit of a submission.

Serra/Kelly Dullanty: At UFC 36: World's Collide, Matt tangled with Frank Shamrock student Kelly "Psycho" Dullanty. Matt was able to showcase his BJJ skills in one of the most exciting bouts of the night. Serra's transitions were most impressive. Although Dullanty was a very game opponent and escaped some serious trouble, he couldn't overcome the constant pressure applied by Serra and fell victim to a triangle choke. From one champion to the next, a title shot awaits the winner of this BJJ showdown.

Serra/B.J. Penn: Round 1 could only be described as a feeling out round. No significant time was spent on the mat and no serious damage was done by either fighter. Serra, having been told he lost the first round by his corner, comes out more aggressive in the second. Penn throws a high kick and Serra counters with a right hand. They grapple and Serra brings Penn to the mat but they are quickly back up. They exchange strikes standing but it is more of a chess match. Penn takes Serra down with less than two minutes left but they stand again. Serra heats up and lands a good strike to the head in the closing minute. Looking fairly even going into the third, Penn is the aggressor early with kicks to the head and exhibits good takedown defense. Looking all the more confident, B.J. will not go down and meets Serra's shoots with strikes. Serra continues to work for the takedown and almost has one by stopping a kick from Penn but B.J. remains standing. With a minute and a half left, Penn appears impossible to takedown and Serra looks a bit determined but discouraged. In the final minute, Serra looked tired but continued to work. However, Penn had the edge on the cards and took the unanimous decision victory.

Serra/Din Thomas: Fireworks early from both fighters leads to a clinch and battle for the takedown. They trade foot stomps and knees in the side of the cage and return to center. Matt works for the takedown seems to be having trouble with Din's significant height and reach advantage. With a little over a minute left in the first, Thomas begins to tee off and score to Serra's head with strikes but doesn't press him. Serra continued to shoot for the takedown but never gets it. In round two, it was all Thomas. He was even dropping his hands for much of the round. Din continued to get more confident, score punches to the head and avoid the takedown. Renzo Gracie gives Serra and earful in the corner prior to round three. Serra comes out aggressive but just cannot get Thomas to the mat. In the final thirty seconds Serra jumps to guard from the clinch but cannot reel him in. With just five seconds left, Matt gets his takedown and lands inside Din's guard. To Din's shock, Serra is named the winner. However, Dana White has the unenviable duty of informing Serra the tally of the score cards was incorrect and Thomas actually won the fight.

Strengths And Weaknesses: A Gracie black belt better be excellent on the ground. If not, they've likely wasted 10 years of their life. Matt is good on the floor with multiple submission wins but he's not afraid to stand and strike. He showed good striking abilities in the bout with Edwards. Matt's main weakness seems to be a mental one. He gets frustrated when his techniques are countered and he compromises his game. Stamina all seems to be a factor in past bouts as Serra's explosion often fades in the second and third rounds.

How He Can Beat Curran: On the ground. Serra has shown good ability to finish people and with Curran's muay Thai experience, the fight on the feet may not favor Serra. Matt will need to have solid takedowns and commit to bringing his opponent to the canvas. We've seen some impressive technique on the ground from Serra and he may be able to use his octagon experience to keep Curran off guard and score a submission.

MY PICK: I'm going with the upset and picking Curran. They are the same height so reach will not be a factor but Serra will be a few pounds heavier. Like Matt, Jeff is a BJJ black belt too and though Serra got his belt first, the two have been training about the same amount of time. In that respect, Curran presents a more dangerous opponent than Ivan Menjivar or Gerald Strebendt. What may have worked to bring them down may work not against Curran. Also, Curran is going to be a handful on the feet with his muay Thai experience. I feel it will Curran by decision after the third round.

DOWN THE ROAD:
Serra/Joachim Hansen: Back to back wins over , Rumina Sato and Takanori Gomi should be worth a shot in the UFC or Pride Bushido.

Serra/Rich Clementi: Rich has won a bout by KO and had a draw in Japan's ZST show. Before the loss to Yves Edwards he had won 7 in a row.

Curran/Kultar Gill: The Canadian has looked good in local shows and in the UCC. He should follow Loiseau's lead to the U.S. and get some much needed international exposure.

Curran/Rich Crunkilton: "Cleat" is supposed to be healthy and everyone remembers his performance against Hermes Fran,,, , c, , a. Time for a second shot in the cage.

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