Phil and David break down everything you need to know for Pettis vs. Moreno for UFN 114, and everything you don’t about
Sergio Pettis vs. Brandon Moreno headlines UFC Fight Night 114 this 5 August, 2017 at the Arena Ciudad de México in Mexico City, Mexico.
One sentence summary
Phil: Mexican McLovin’ takes on the worse-but-better Pettis.
David: The UFC’s premier scrambler faces off against the UFC’s premier Pettis.
Record: Sergio Pettis 15-2 Brandon Moreno 14-3
Odds: Sergio Pettis +145 Brandon Moreno -155
History / Introduction to the fighters
David: Pettis came in with your token lofty expectations. The brother of Anthony Pettis, former champion (had to check wikipedia), it seems we often assume that younger generations have an evolutionary mandate to outlive their predecessors in achievements. It became obvious early on that this wouldn’t be the case with Sergio, regardless of the similarities to Anthony. So he’s led a bastard’s journey of sorts – taking everything, and working for everything. Time will tell when it comes to Sergio’s ceiling. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for him, he’s got an opponent in front of him who will test all of his strengths, and all of his weaknesses.
Phil: Sergio Pettis has had a different path to the one walked by his brother. He came to the UFC with a little bit of hype, but it got quickly erased by losses to Ryan Benoit and Alex Caceres. Sergio simply is not the hyper-durable, ridiculously gifted athlete that his brother is. However, in some ways that very fact has made him a better fighter. Without being insulated by his brother’s gifts, Sergio has been compelled to painstakingly built a far more functional, meat and potatoes game which has a lot less inherent flaws, and has subsequently converted that into a solid three fight win streak.
David: We’ve reached that point where a TUF loss is no longer a complete indictment of a fighter. Before it was practically Medusa’s stare, but now it’s just a little scarlet letter – a function not of TUF’s improvement, but rather its sheer presence. Even awful lineups can beget excellent young fighters, and Moreno has turned into an excellent young fighter that Mexico will gladly adopt as their own.
Phil: The Louis Smolka win was one where a lot of people sat up and took notice of Brandon Moreno. A prohibitive underdog, he tapped out Smolka with the quickness, despite Smolka nominally being the submission grappler of the two. Add an adorable post-fight interview, and you had a fighter that people were ready to root for, if not quite sold on yet. It was his win over Dustin Ortiz, though, where he basically knocked out AND submitted the durable Rufousport product which cemented him as someone to watch.
What’s at stake?
David: Both fighters stand to gain in a big way with an impressive win. If Sergio wins, Rogan and crew will hype up Sergio is the better Pettis, but with words like “this is a different breed of Pettis! If Pettis were a raging animal with real gorilla strength this is the Pettis-” you get the point. A Moreno win means “new blood”, which makes both attractive contenders from a promoter AND viewer’s point of view.
Phil: Title shot. No-one else seems close (where ARE Cejudo and Joe B, anyway). Moreno seems like the first flyweight in a while to genuinely click with fans, as well, so that’s nice.
Where do they want it?
Phil: In many ways, Pettis has always reminded me more of a slightly more patient Benavidez than his brother. While he retains the ability to flick out rapid Tae Kwon Do kicks at a moment’s notice, he fights from a lower and more stable base than his more upright brother. While Pettis Senior is all about the jab, cross and headkick mixup, Sergio has a deeper well of combination boxing tricks, and fundamentally operates at a closer range. This closer operating space has gotten him hit badly a few times, but it’s also meant that he’s developed his footwork into something which works in much closer quarters. Thus, he’s far less vulnerable to getting corralled into spaces where his effectiveness is ruined, whether through open space footwork traps, or getting driven to the fence.
He’s also a good wrestler and top position player. Primarily, his weaknesses have been around lack of focus. He strikes me as disciplined and determined, but not a hugely natural fighter, so he gets a bit tired by the effort of keeping the pieces of his game in a functional array for minutes on end.
David: Sergio has only nominal similarities to his brother. Anthony is an opportunist. He waits patiently to setup strikes, reset, counter, or pressure with one-timers. Sergio strikes with a like-minded acumen; mechanically great, he picks his shots and fights with the mentality of precision over percussion. However, Sergio differs in the way he approaches his punch entries. He’s more aggressive, and willing to pressure. It’s calculated pressure, but still pressure. This style keeps him in close proximity with his opponent whereas Anthony prefers to stay at range, avoiding the firefight to his benefit (and detriment). Sergio’s money punch is his straight right. He owns a lot of weapons, and he knows how to setup that right hand, but he unleashes it with incredible calm and precision. There’s no wasted movement, no windup – just a straight line of knuckles moving at violent speed. He gets his legs up quickly, allowing him to threaten with both legs.
Phil: Moreno is one of those scary propositions who seems able to finish opponents in multiple different phases at a moment’s notice. Perhaps this is recency bias, but he does remind me a little of Bryan Ortega, in that he’s fine with attempting to be technical, but the moment that he feels he’s behind he’ll simply turn up the pace until he’s not any more. For example, when Dustin Ortiz took him down, once he returned to the feet he started flashing long throwaway combinations of jabs, crosses and uppercuts, laced with body shots and eventually the head kick which finished the fight (to all intents and purposes anyway).
He seems to be a preternaturally gifted scrambler, as well. Tapping out Ortiz was impressive, but it could be argued that Ortiz was basically out of the fight, but it’s worth remembering that Moreno mounted him off a scramble in the first round as well. Tapping out Louis Smolka, who went three hard rounds with Ray Borg, shows just what a transitional threat Moreno can be.
David: The Ortega comparison is scary. But one of the things that makes Moreno stand out more than any other fighter – for better or worse mind you – is a distinct ability to introduce pace and tempo within the scramble. Scrambles are often hectic, if not completely arbitrary (I’m not looking at you Tony Ferguson I swear). Good fighters use it to their advantage, but winning a scramble is often an athletic exercise. When I watch a fighter win a scramble, I think “good thing he has those Tyron Woodley legs Mike!” But Moreno is fascinating for the way he slows each scramble down. It’s wonderful counter movement that you only see in high level jiu jitsu tournaments. Moreno may not be an ADCC champ or anything, but he has that philosopher’s stone.
He’s faced a variety of grapplers too – whether Smolka’s rangy sinewy movement, Benoit’s raw strength and explosiveness, or Ortiz’ thorough craft. His game is still a little ugly. He has a bipolar approach to striking, sometimes throwing with too much distance between himself and his opponent, or throwing too wildly inside the pocket. He has a funny dipping left hook, and in general, quality strength to back opponents up who think he’s easy pickings on the feet. However, this is a good test for him. Sergio is much better than his previous opponents in this regard which makes this a can’t miss contest.
Insight from Past Fights
David: Any insight from past fights comes more from what’s not there than what is. Sergio has shown in several fights that he can be taken down, and shares some of his brother’s deficiencies – defensively slow to react, and uncomfortable when not given space to reset. Conversely, Moreno still has trouble making sense of his boxing. He has good speed, and even some pop, but the kind of wide looping combos he was throwing against Benoit are the kind of combos Sergio will readily take advantage of.
Phil: Sergio beat Ryan Benoit relatively easily until he didn’t and got KOd, and Moreno had a competitive but clear decision win. Which one is worth more? This, to me, is the story of the fight. Better technique with lapses in focus, or grit and dynamism?
David: Late rounds. Both guys have games that, at least right now, aren’t suited for attrition. Will Moreno have the grip strength in round 4 and 5 to execute a submission? Will Sergio have the power to pull ahead on scorecards if he’s down? This could look like flyweight’s version of a heavyweight blubberfest going into round five.
Phil: New Mexico air? Neither man has been a DJ-esque cardio machine in their fights. Pettis in particular lost some steam against Chris Cariaso in the last round of Cariaso’s career.
David: I just don’t see Sergio as having a game fit to stop Moreno. His takedown defense is a lot like his brother’s – supported more by strength than savvy. One mistep or scramble, and it’s Moreno’s ballgame. I do feel like both fighters will have their flaws laid bare. There should be some quality back and forth. But I like Moreno’s style in this one. Sergio’s power isn’t sudden and he’s gonna need sudden to avoid Moreno’s sustained pressure. Brandon Moreno by rear naked choke, round 4.
Phil: I went back and forth a few times on this one. I do think Sergio is the “better fighter”, but Moreno is more talented and has more room to develop. In all honesty, I’d like to see Pettis pull out the win, as it’d be a victory for consistency, and sticking with an approach and building on it despite setbacks. However, I can’t be sure that he’s going to make it through five rounds with a talent like Moreno without making a critical error at some point. Brandon Moreno by submission, round 3.