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Welcome to the UFC: Ottow, Christensen, & Moreno

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Three newcomers are set for their UFC debuts in Portland this week, as the promotion brings in lightweight and flyweight fighters on short notice and the rare new light heavyweight talent.

Welcome to the UFC

UFC Portland is running up on us in a hurry. And it’s going to feature a whole bunch of new talent for the world’s largest MMA promotion. I already talked about Ketlen Vieira a few months ago when her signing was announced. But, since then the UFC has brought in light heavyweight talent Joachim Christensen, and injuries have seen the need to sign lightweight Zak Ottow and flyweight Brandon Moreno. Christensen will make his debut against recent acquisition Luis Henrique da Silva. Ottow fills in for Bobby Green against Josh Burkman, and Moreno will replace Sergio Pettis against Louis Smolka. So...

Who is Joachim Christensen?

The 37-year old Danish Fighter comes to the UFC training out of Arte Suave BJJ in Copenhagen, Denmark. The gym is home to Bellator’s Mikkel Parlo and rising prospect Mads Burnell. Christensen will be bringing a 13-3 record with him into the Octagon, having started his pro career way back in 2007. In that time he has wins over highly touted prospects like former M-1 champ Stephan Puetz, former BAMMA title challenger Max Nunes, and regional talent Jonas Billstein. Throw in a few seasoned vets and Christensen’s overall record is very strong. He hasn’t lost since 2013, and will hit the UFC on a 5 fight win streak. Outside of MMA, Christensen is a BJJ black belt and regional European grappling champ.

What you should expect:

Christensen is a very flat-footed, stalking striker. When he’s getting the fight he wants he tends to be walking his opponent down and throwing with power and volume. He’s not the tightest boxer, especially when trying to mix hooks into his combinations, but he throws a very good straight 1-2 with solid hand-speed. To back that up, Christensen relies on having a great chin and decent KO power. It makes him a much more dangerous fighter than he might otherwise be just based on technique, as he’s very willing to stand in the pocket and throw until his opponent goes down.

To back that up, Christensen has a nice bodylock trip and drag takedown game to get him to his BJJ base. Christensen isn’t a great wrestler overall, but has decent control given his focus on aggression once the fight hits the mat. The end result is that Christensen rarely seems to focus on submission offense as he doesn’t tend to hold positions long enough for it, putting his focus on landing ground and pound instead.

What that means for his debut:

This could get weird. Like Christensen, Luis Henrique da Silva is a very flat footed, heavy striker who depends on his chin and power to be able to outlast opponents. He’s not as savvy or solid an inside boxer as Christensen is (not that Christensen is amazing there, but LHDS is actively poor), but LHDS is a better range kicker and a better clinch striker. If Christensen can’t get him down, then he could find himself stuck in a position where he has to be right in front of LHDS hoping to land the bigger better shots first. I might have to pick LHDS in that fight, just because of his greater variety of striking options.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Christensen’s last fight, against Anthony Ruiz (yeah, that Anthony Ruiz) at Abu Dhabi Warriors 4:

Who is Zak Ottow?

The 29-year old “Barbarian” comes to the UFC out of Pura Vida BJJ & MMA (which he co-owns) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s the home of recently debuting UFC talent Rick Glenn, as well as rising women’s bantamweight prospect Leah Letson. Ottow will bring a 13-3 record with him into the UFC having beaten Roufusport prospect Craig Ekcelberg most recently. Ottow’s record is a mix of similarly experienced (and generally winning) prospects, along with .500 journeymen. He’s lost to the biggest name opponents hes faced, having dropped fights to UFC vets Jacob Volkmann and Mike Rhodes, as well as WEC vet Zach Micklewright. Outside of MMA, Ottow has a background in wrestling at the high school level and promotes MMA events under the Pure Fighting Championships banner, for which he himself has been a headliner.

What you should expect:

There’s not a lot of recent footage on Ottow to work with, just his most recent fight with Craig Eckleberg. From that bout, Ottow looks like a powerful, aggressive fighter who likes to press forward with strikes. He has fast hands in the pocket, but I’m not sure how comfortable he is in long stretches, standing. He’s got a powerful offensive wrestling game to work behind his strikes and is a decent grappler one he’s got an opponent on the ground.

Ottow’s got a lot of submission wins, and most coming from dominant control positions. But, I’m not 100% sold on his ground game being overwhelmingly dominant. He’s a physical, hulking fighter, but has given up control to lesser opposition while trying to create aggressive offense. Which is a bit surprising given his frame and power. In general, Ottow seems like a bit of an all offense, limited defense guy. If opponents let him lead, he can dominate, but he leaves gaps to be exploited.

What this means for his debut:

The thing with Josh Burkman fights at this point is that they really seem to be all about how Burkman shows up. Will he drift through a listless loss, will he press a wrestling advantage, will he work to strike? He’s much more experienced than Ottow, and shouldn’t have a technical deficiency anywhere. As long as Burkman takes the fight to Ottow he should take a win home with him. But if he doesn’t, Ottow may have enough power and aggression to make for an ugly, wild fight.

To get better acquainted, here’s Ottow’s latest win over Craig Eckleberg:

Who is Brandon Moreno?

The 22-year old out of Tijuana, Baja California is entering the UFC straight off the latest flyweight season of the Ultimate fighter. The former World Fighting Federation title holder lost via submission in the second round to RFA champ Alexander Pantoja, in what seemed to be a pretty back and forth battle. Moreno will enter the UFC with an 11-3 record and an 8-fight winning streak (outside of his exhibition loss), having gotten the finish in six of those 8 wins. That said, Moreno’s level of competition hasn’t been all that high. Wins over regional talents like Tyler Bialecki and Jason Carbajal are high points of a resume that includes a lot of inexperienced competition. He trains out of Entram Gym, home of UFC fighters Alejandro Perez and Enrique Briones, and former UFC fighter Akbarh Arreola.

What you should expect:

Moreno is an MMA-native, which is to say that his first combat sport is MMA, and it means that he tends to do a bit of everything. It also means that I’m not sure there’s anything he does exceptionally well. Moreno is a fast, scrappy athlete, he seems like he’s got a good gas tank and fights hard. But, for a guy that tends to get wins via submission, seeing him soundly out grappled for long stretches by a guy with one leg (his Matt Betzold fight) isn’t inspiring. He seems to be very easy to take down, and perhaps because of his scrappy aggression, puts himself in some bad submission spots.

As a striker, he’s willing and dynamic, but not hard to hit. He often throws combinations while standing tall with his head static and likes to go for low percentage moves like jumping knees with little set up. He’s the kind of guy who can make a lot of fights hard, even fights he should be winning handily.

What this means for his debut:

Louis Smolka should be able to just put a wrestle/grappling clinic on Moreno. Smolka has quietly turned into a dominating positional grappler and transitional wrestler in the flyweight divison. He uses his length as a great tool to snatch up advantageous positions in scrambles and has begun to show himself as being a class above fighters outside the top 10. Smolka’s biggest challenge comes in the way of striking consistency, but I just don’t see anything solid enough out of Moreno to think he makes Smolka pay for that.

To get us better acquainted, here’s Moreno’s recent bout against Tyler Bialecki: