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Welcome to the UFC, Alex Morono

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Looks like Kelvin Gastelum's desire to make a quick turnaround after his loss to Neil Magny isn't going to work out, as he's been pulled from UFC 195 with an injury and replaced by newcomer Alex Morono.

Maybe my knowledge of biology is a little shakey, but it really does seem like welterweights grow on trees. Anytime one gets injured, there's always somebody waiting in the wings, champing at the bit for their chance to step into the Octagon and make a run in the UFC. And despite the fact the the UFC has nearly a hundred welterweights on the roster, they always seem to need another one. This time around, the man to meet the need is Alex Morono. He'll be stepping in at UFC 195 on just over a week's notice for the injured Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum had been set to take on Kyle Noke at the event, before being forced of the card. The UFC announced the replacement on Tuesday. So...

Who is Alex Morono?

Fresh off his welterweight title clinching win over Derrick Krantz at Legacy FC 49 on December 4th, 25-year old Texan Alex Morono is on his way to the UFC. The Gracie Barra Woodlands fighter will bring a 11-3 record with him into the cage, as the most notable talent to come out of his camp to date. Alongside a few regional losses, Including a quick KO via regional Brazilian talent Diego Henrique da Silva, Morono has something of a middling record. His aformentioned victory over Krantz, and a KO of TUF 21 talent Valdir Araujo are definitely his best wins to date, with most of his other opposition vacillating between cans and .500 journeymen. His other losses are both via split decision and to very good competition, so there's no shame in them, but it's not the kind of career so far to turn a lot of heads. It is to Morono's credit, however, that in his 11 wins only 1 has come via decision, with 5 submissions, 4 KOs and a DQ, so fans can expect an action fighter. Outside of MMA, Morono has a background in amateur kickboxing and a BJJ brown belt.

What you should expect:

Morono is a surprisingly reasonable striker on his feet, likely owing to his long history as an amateur kickboxer. He moves well laterally, throws decent straight punches and can even reel off a few spinning back kicks to go with his more typical arsenal of leg kicks. He stays light on his feet and maintains range well, by not closing down distance as he throws. He does however have a bad habit of staying straight up and down and keeping his head online, while trying to counter, which can leave him open in extended exchanges. It's a better striking game in small bursts than it is in long standup battles and when he really tries to flurry he seems to overreach his feet a bit. He does some nice clinch work inside when he gets the chance, but can get muscled around there as well.

The big gap in Morono's game is his wrestling. Even just looking over his record, it's easy to see a guy who gets a lot of submissions working off his back. Armbars, a triangle, a guillotine... Watching him fight, he's pretty much been taken down by every decent fighter that has worked to get him there, and while he has a very active guard, it's also not a terribly hard one to cut through, with many fighters able to immediately get side control and keep it. The biggest part of this is that he may just not be that great an athlete. He can get pushed around in the clinch, and seems to get slammed around a lot in the cage. His striking technique isn't bad, but against Araujo, he definitely seemed a step slower on delivery. That could be a big problem going forward in the UFC.

What this means for his debut:

Noke was damned impressive last time out, more than he has been in a long time, but he's also been a notably inconsistent performer over the years. In some ways he reminds me a lot of Morono skill for skill, just bigger and more battle tested. Considering this is short notice, and assuming Noke stays to form, I have to give him the edge here. He's tough as nails, more proven, and an equally well rounded fighter. And guys coming in on short notice very rarely seem to be successful doing it.

To get us better acquainted, here's Morono's win over Valdir Araujo at Legacy FC 44 back in August of 2015: