As reported earlier on Bloody Elbow, the UFC has signed RFA featherweight champion Brian Ortega. Ortega is set to make his debut on May 31st against Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner Diego Brandao. Brandao was set to meet Will Chope at UFC Fight Night 38 on March 23, however Chope was released by the UFC only hours before the fight. But, the UFC has found Brandao a quick turnaround fight and a big opportunity for a debuting young fighter.
Who is Brian Ortega?
The 23-year-old California native will enter the octagon with an undefeated, 8-0 record. He carries a series of quality wins with him, having bested solid regional prospects Keoni Koch, Jordan Rinaldi, and Chris Mercado. He appears to be associated with a Black House affiliate, the Black Belt Surfing team. While Black Belt Surfing appears to be a pretty small show, I wouldn't be surprised if he's spending a lot of time training at the various other affiliate camps that make up the Black House network.
What you should expect:
There's not a lot of really useful footage of Ortega out there, but if my memory, and what I've been able to find, serves me correctly, he's very much a grapple first fighter. This is borne out by his four submission wins in 8 fights, but anyone can do that. When I say Ortega is submission first, I mean that he has a Imanari-esque desire to bring fights to the ground and get quick submission wins. He chains well from attack to attack, often linking triangles and armbars on unwilling opponents. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with grapple first fighters, the rest of his game lags behind.
Ortega throws his punches straight and uses leg kicks to some effect, but his standup game is a work in progress. He leaves his chin up when trading shots and while he can be elusive defensively it comes in fits. He also doesn't have a great takedown game and tends to default to bodly locks, where he can look for the trip and/or drag. He scrambles very well though and if he can initiate a ground fight, whether from the bottom or the top, he'll often get the better of it.
What this means for his debut:
Much like the Chope Fight, I'm still not entirely certain what the UFC is doing with Diego Brandao. If they just want to get him a win, feeding him fighters like Chope and Ortega is certainly one way to do it, but it seems like a waste of new talent. Ortega is slick on the ground, no question, but that's not where Brandao is weak... In fact, apart from his ability to mentally check out of a fight (and perhaps not prepare well for top level opposition) Brandao doesn't have a lot of glaring holes. Ortega doesn't have the consistency or the power to stop him with strikes and while he could find something on the ground, he's just as likely to get overaggressive, and leave himself open to a TKO or submission. Rough way to make your debut.
To get us better acquainted, here's Ortega's bout with Thomas Guimond from May of last year: