The Film Room: Brian Ortega

By Kevin Wilson Dec 6, 2018

UFC 231 is now available on Amazon Prime.

Brian Ortega has his toughest test to date this weekend when he takes on featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 231.

The Pride of Torrance

With years of training with the Gracies, Ortega has developed arguably the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu in mixed martial arts. He can finish the fight from any position and will do anything to get it to the ground, even pulling guard at times. Once on the ground, Ortega has the natural grappling instincts like few we have ever seen and is always looking for submissions, sweeps or ground-and-pound.

We know Ortega has a prestigious grappling background, but what makes his BJJ so interesting is his ability to grab a submission from seemingly safe positions. Since he doesn't have the best takedowns, Ortega will often pull guard or lazily defend takedowns. In his last few fights, Ortega has shown another trick to get the fight on the ground. Instead of shooting for takedowns and looking for submissions, Ortega will grab a brabo choke or standing guillotine and easily drag the fight to the ground, while his opponent is focused on the choke.

Early in his career, before anybody knew just how good his grappling was, opponents willingly took Ortega to the ground and regretted it soon after. But when Ortega couldn’t submit his opponents, he showed some necessary skills off his back that are not showcased often. He has fantastic sweeps and transitional grappling and can rebound from bad positions quickly. He also possesses Carlos Condit-like striking off his back, always looking for elbows or up kicks from full guard to distract the opponent before fishing for a submission.

With such a dominant ground game Ortega is bound to lack in the striking department, but his creativity and always improving skills have gotten him by thus far. Early in his career, Ortega was known for spinning attacks, cage strikes and a variety of other uncommon techniques. This generally isn’t advised at the highest levels, but with his striking behind most in the top of the division, creative attacks like this can help him to cause opponents to become hesitant in fear of an unorthodox strike.

He has since abandoned most of these creative attacks and is slowly improving his striking. He has developed a varied and exceptionally quick lead which is now the base of his striking. He can use it to set up his rear hand, stifle his opponent’s aggression or get in range for a takedown.

In his fight with Frankie Edgar, most thought Ortega would have no chance on the feet but he silenced the critics with one of the best knockouts of 2018. He stunned Edgar with a counter elbow and a head kick, causing Edgar to grab the clinch where Ortega stepped back, found his range and landed this shattering uppercut.

But fans and pundits had good reason to believe he couldn’t handle Edgar’s striking. Although he has improved tremendously, he still shows flashes of incompetence with wild strikes, a low guard and overextending past his feet, which breaks his stance. Nobody has been able to exploit Ortega’s striking woes thus far, but Holloway might be the man to do it.

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