Two 23-year-old prospects of the UFC flyweight division battled in the main event of UFC Fight Night 114 to move closer to a dance with UFC flyweight champion DeMetrious Johnson. It’s a crazy situation that speaks volumes about the way that DeMetrious Johnson has cleaned out the division; his only fresh challenge is one of two guys who are relatively unproven in the grand scheme of things. In any other division, both Pettis and Moreno would be forced to work past many other opponents before even dreaming of a shot at the reigning champion.
It’s not very often a fight precisely shows us the true colours of both fighters, but this is exactly what happened in this matchup between Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno. We saw the entirety of Brandon Moreno; a brilliant opportunist who is lacking in particular fundamentals. And for Sergio Pettis, we saw a fighter with superb technical striking ability but is still short of being championship contender worthy.
Brandon Moreno’s moment
Brandon Moreno was relaxed. He’s always relaxed, but this was a whole new level for the 23-year-old Mexican. He came out waving his arms around in a Diaz-like way, completely calm with the fact that he was competing in front of thousands of passionate Mexican fans cheering him on.
After catching a carelessly attempted Sergio Pettis kick in the first minute of the fight, Brandon Moreno took Pettis down to the mat and controlled him for the remainder of the round. Moreno applied a body triangle and locked onto Pettis’ back while attempting submissions and striking at the head of Pettis. Pettis’ hand fighting kept him alive against the relentless attack from Brandon Moreno. Although Moreno never came close to a submission or inflicted significant damage on Pettis, the duration of Moreno’s control meant that it was a 10-8 round in the eyes of two of the judges.
Sergio Pettis’ masterful striking
Although Pettis couldn’t shake the body triangle of Brandon Moreno, the end of round one would do that for him. When both fighters met in the centre of the octagon at the beginning of round two, it would mark Sergio Pettis’ fight from this point onwards.
Pettis began stalking Moreno and landing flush combinations to the head and body of his opponent. When the Roufusport MMA prospect found his rhythm, Moreno started to look like he didn’t belong in the same cage as Sergio Pettis. It was a stark difference to what we had seen in the first five minutes.
Pettis now had Moreno exactly where he wanted him. He was dominating the boxing exchanges, and Moreno had no answer for Pettis’ technical striking. Pettis presented a problem that was too difficult for Moreno to solve. While Pettis was patient, precise and clean with all of his combinations, Moreno would instead charge in behind wild looping right hands.
An unintentional eye-poke in the fourth round threatened to be the shifting point of the fight. Moreno’s composure and relaxed expression quickly changed to one of anger and aggression. A shift in mentality was specifically what was required for Moreno to break through Pettis’ defence. Maybe he would be willing to eat a few hands on the way to a takedown. It wasn’t to be, though. Pettis quickly shut Moreno’s aggression down with well-timed heavy counter punches that made Moreno again sit back and reevaluate how to solve the Pettis puzzle.
By the end of the fifth round, we had called it precisely.
All three judges scored the bout in favour of Sergio Pettis (49-46, 48-46, 48-46), winner by unanimous decision.
What's next for Sergio Pettis?
Sergio Pettis has now racked up as many wins as the UFC as his older brother, Anthony Pettis. He's been competing in the UFC since 2013 and has only now started to show what he is capable of. His striking has improved significantly since his arrival in the UFC, and he has shown that he can overcome adversity in this contest with Brandon Moreno.
When asked what is next in line for him, he replied: "Obviously, I'd like a title shot. But there a lot of things I need to polish up to get there."
There was a touch of hesitance in Pettis' post-fight response. For someone who had all week been calling out for a title shot after he defeats Brandon Moreno, the tune had now started to change. Maybe, and rightfully so, Pettis has realised that after being threatened by the drastically less-skilled Moreno, that he would be no match for DeMetrious Johnson, for the moment.
Instead, Sergio Pettis wants his bout with Henry Cejudo to be rebooked. The two were originally supposed to battle at UFC 211 before Henry Cejudo was forced to withdraw due to a hand injury just three days before the event.
What's next for Brandon Moreno?
While Brandon Moreno is unquestionably capable of finishing opponent's at any given moment, his lack of fundamentals was brought to light against Pettis. In particular, Moreno lacked the capability or understanding of how to get Sergio Pettis to the mat. Moreno doesn't have strong takedown ability - his takedown in the first round came after catching a slow Pettis kick.
If Brandon Moreno had submitted Sergio Pettis in the first round, the UFC flyweight division would be in a very awkward position. He would have, again, defeated an opponent after making the most of a very brief opportunity. To many, he would have looked ready for a title shot because we wouldn't have seen the holes in his game that were only brought out in the final four rounds.
Brandon Moreno should be matched up with Ben Nguyen next. Nguyen recently picked up an imposing victory over Tim Elliott and is looking to climb further in the flyweight division. Nguyen's last defeat came at the hands of Louis Smolka at UFC Fight Night 91, an opponent that Moreno successfully debuted against on short notice. Moreno, an entertaining fighter, should continue to be matched with exciting fighters and a fight between him and Nguyen would be a 'Fight of the Night' contender on any card.
UFC Fight Night 114 Results
- Sergio Pettis def. Brandon Moreno via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47)
- Alexa Grasso def. Randa Markos via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Niko Price def. Alan Jouban via TKO (punches), 1:44 - Round 1
- Humberto Bandenay def. Martin Bravo via KO (head kick), 0:26 - Round 1
- Sam Alvey def. Rashad Evans via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Alejandro Perez def. Andre Soukhamthath via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Jack Hermansson def. Brad Scott via TKO (ground and pound), 3:50 - Round 1
- Dustin Ortiz def. Hector Sandoval via KO (punches), 0:15 - Round 1
- Rani Yahya def. Henry Briones via submission (kimura), 2:01 - Round 1
- Jose Quinonez def. Diego Rivas via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Fight Pass Prelims
- Joseph Morales def. Roberto Sanchez via submission (rear-naked choke), 3:56 - Round 1
- Jordan Rinaldi def. Alvaro Herrera via submission (Von Flue choke), 2:01 - Round 1
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