Tough break for the Ultimate Fighter season 21 winner, Kamaru Usman. The Blackzilians fighter has been sidelined by injury just a couple weeks out from his May 14th bout against Sergio Moraes at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil. But, as is so often the case, one fighter's injury news, is another fighter's chance to jump into the UFC and try and make an instant impact. That's the opportunity that Luan Chagas is getting, as he replaces the "Nigerian Nightmare" against Moraes on just 12 days notice. The UFC announced the change via press release, so...
Who is Luan Chagas?
The 22-year-old Brazilian "Tarzan" is entering the UFC on a hell of a roll for such a young fighter. With a career that only stretches back to mid-2012, he's already 14-1 and currently riding a 9 fight win streak. He's coming off a win over fellow welterweight prospect Eduardo Garvon, and his resume is otherwise dotted with longtime veterans of the Brazilian regional scene. All of his wins come by way of stoppage, only one ending outside the second round. Chagas trains out of Gile Ribeiro Team which appears to be a pretty young camp, from which he looks like the first fighter to make the jump to the UFC. Reportedly he's also spent some time at Noguchi Muay Thai. Outside of MMA Chagas has black belts in Jiu Jitsu and Karate.
What you should expect:
With a background in Karate and some potential Muay Thai work under his belt, it's no surprise that Chagas is far more comfortable as a kicker than in any other part of the striking game. He throws sharp chopping low-kicks alongside the assortment of wheel and head kicks that are becoming more and more a staple of the MMA grab bag. His powerful frame makes him a competent enough wrestler and covers for some really really sloppy boxing. Functional for the circuit he fought on, but neither skill may translate well into the UFC. He tends to work his way into the clinch behind a flurry of lunging strikes, after which he'll drop for a single leg or try and throw quick knees from the plum.
Probably the most consistently technical and fluid part of Chagas game is his grappling. He's got solid back control and does well to create offense while holding positions. His guard looks dangerous and nicely reactive. He can be overly aggressive on the mat, but so far it hasn't cost him. In his only loss, it looks like Chagas gassed himself out before getting wrestled to the mat and choked. Considering his frame and flashy style that may still be a problem if he can't get the fight he wants.
What this means for his debut:
Short notice definitely won't up his chances, but I'm not sure they would have been all that great anyway. Moraes may have fewer fights to his name, but with nearly a decade of MMA experience and a decade older, he's almost certainly going to be the much savvier, craftier fighter. It also doesn't help that while Chagas has KO power, he doesn't have the kind of clean, consistent striking technique of a high level knockout artist. He could potentially catch Moraes, but Moraes has proved time and time again that he's tough. Eventually, if the path to Chagas winning is him taking Moraes down and out-working Moraes on the mat, the chances of him getting a win in his UFC debut look very very slim. If he can keep this a pure range striking battle then he could probably keep scores close and ugly. But his style isn't really made for maintaining range. I'd pick Moraes by submission.
To get us better acquainted, here's Chagas' 2015 fight against Julio Cesar Merenda: