When we last left our heroes...Moraga is one of those fighters who came out of nowhere. There was never a terrible amount of hype surrounding him. He had a bit of trouble beating Maurice Senters for the RITC Batnamweight Championship; an achievement on par with winning a drunken Putt Putt contest (Senters is 0-3 in his pro career).
But he seemed to really continue and improve on his rhythm coming into the UFC, beating Ulysses Gomez and Chris Cariaso. All of this culminated in an impressive performance against Demetrious Johnson, who beat Moraga in the fifth round by armbar.
However, Moraga has yet to see what I would describe as real second tier competition (like a Matt Brown type as opposed to Matt Riddles). I'd like to see him against Tim Elliot, John Lineker (now there's a scrap), Josh Sampo, or Brad Pickett.
This isn't to necessarily sell Ortiz short. Ortiz showed real grit in hanging tough against Ian McCall when McCall was in beast mode. And he's won his last four fights.
I don't know that this is a battle to forward Moraga's status so much as it is to keep him warm, but Ortiz is still just 25 years of age. With enough improvement, it's possible he turns this into a real blood game.
What both men can do: One of the things that sticks out in Moraga's game is his blue collar dynamism. He's not a gifted athlete, but his fundamentals are rock solid. In particular, his boxing is what I find most impressive. Yes, most of his wins are by submission, but everything about his game is set by his ability to chain uppercut-to right cross-to left hook, and so forth.
He mixes his fluid strikes with crisp leg kicks, and does it all with a straight face. That sounds like a weird description, but it captures his way of battling; always moving, never breaking the character of stoic mixed martial artist. All of this is enabled by his wrestling pedigree (Pac-10 Conference experience at Arizona State University, 2 time All-American in Freestyle, etc.).
Ortiz is a little like a poor man's version of Moraga. He sort of does it all. A chopping, searing left hook and an imposing front kick to the body characterize his bouncy movement, but he's a well rounded fighter. Which is sort of the problem...
What both men can't do: Ortiz does a lot of things well. He's quick to sniff out the submission on the ground, and uses his boxing to set up takedowns and all that good stuff, but being well rounded in the Flyweight division just makes you the needle in the haystack.
Ortiz is not a plodding jack of all trades, master of none type fighter (he's quick and not just for a flyweight) like I make it sound, but he doesn't do any one thing better over Moraga. Moraga has only lost to John Dodson and Demetrious Johnson and didn't look lost against either man.
His uppercut and left hook will do work all day, and the takedowns will be there if he needs them. Like all flyweight fights, there will be a ton of movement early on, but I expect Moraga to make a statement: the statement that his title shot wasn't rushed or unjustified in retrospect.
X-Factor: Nothing. Judges could screw this one up I guess, but that's pretty much everytime.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Is there anybody out there?
Prediction: John Moraga by RNC, round 3.