It's rough being a Sergio Moraes fan. There's something about his fighting style and personality that I find totally endearing, whether it's wiggling his butt in the air post fight, or hooking up devastating submissions on the ground with crazy speed and power, he's a fun fighter to watch. If only I could actually watch him fight. Moraes has only touched foot to cage 11 times in his 8.5 year career and only twice since 2012. The latest chapter in his injury Odyssey is an ongoing inability to fight Peter Sobotta. The two men were originally set to square off back in April during the UFC's first trip to Poland, but a Sobotta injury necessitated the signing of Mickael Lebout to fight Moraes. Joe Silva booked Moraes vs. Sobotta again for Germany, but it looks like Moraes is back on the IR and the UFC has calle dup Steve Kennedy to replace him. So...
Who is Steve Kennedy?
The 32-year old Aussie fights out of
Team AMMA (Academy of Mixed Martial Arts) Kickass MMA in Perth, Australia. He's the only notable talent on their books, with a fairly impressive 22-6 record to his name. The biggest recent name win in his career so far is a 2013 submission over TUF prospect Manuel Rodriguez, but he also has wins over solid regional competition in Callan Potter, Cole Davids, and Sam Brown among others. His only loss since early 2012 came at the hands of former UFC & Strikeforce vet Jesse Taylor. Kennedy is currently on a 7 fight win streak. Outside of MMA, Kennedy is a BJJ black belt and a national freestyle wrestling champion. He's even taken a few pro boxing and Muay Thai Fights.
What you should expect:
As you might expect out of a fighter with Kennedy's experience, he'll be coming to the UFC as a more or less finished product. Like a lot of fighters off the Australian scene, Kennedy seems to have a well rounded style that's not terribly well connected. He boxes pretty decently, with something of a traditional, low left hand boxing stance. Which allows him to throw decent combinations and a pretty quick jab, but leaves him somewhat open to takedowns, because of his straight up and down posture. As would be suggested by his background, he's got a decent top control grappling game, and does a good job striking with ground and pound to set up submission opportunities. He even seems to have some pretty decent takedowns when he can get in on the hips of his opponent. But, as is often the case with fighters who've spent most of their careers jumbling together different training styles a lot of the transition pieces don't seem to be there. He doesn't seem to have a great shot or clinch to takedown game and may have benefited quite a bit from the complete lack of wrestling on the Aussie circuit.
What that means for his debut:
It's tough to say against Sobotta. The Polish fighter's game has really been clicking lately, but that doesn't mean it's not still limited. Sobotta tends to rely on a high output kicking game to keep opponents at a distance and force them to attack him aggressively, thus setting up shot opportunities. Otherwise, he tends to shoot from distance, and while he's good at getting the fight to the ground, he's not exactly an ace wrestler. Neither man is particularly a cut above the athletic norm for the UFC, so this fight is really going to come down to specific matchups. Kennedy has better hands, is probably a bit bigger, and is generally a pretty well rounded fighter. Sobotta is probably the slicker grappler. If the fight goes to the ground, I think Sobotta should take it, but if it stays standing, Kennedy may have an edge.
To get us better acquainted, here's Kennedy's 2013 bout against Manuel Rodriguez: