UFC 266 – Brian Ortega Breakdown: T-City 2.0
A Rener Gracie prodigy, Brian Ortega earned his nickname âT-Cityâ at age 15, by which time he had developed a love for triangular bigger workout partners in the gym. Four years later, he would make it to the cage for his first professional fight, smothering John Sassone in the Gladiator Challenge with his namesake submission. The victory would start a 15-fight unbeaten streak before meeting undisputed UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway in a belt bid and tasting defeat for the first time.
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Considered the future of MMA before this fight, many believed Ortega had the potential to smother or knock out any featherweight on the planet, but after Holloway’s fight, questions about the young hopeful LA began to float in the air. Speculation about what we would see in the comeback was only amplified by the nearly two-year absence taken by Ortega before returning to the Octagon.
However, Ortega would come back better than ever, giving a career performance against one of the division’s most feared fighters in the Korean Zombie. Light on his feet and elusive with spinning techniques and flair, Ortega had grown in leaps and bounds during his two-year layoff. We had witnessed T-City 2.0, but what changes have been made to the new and improved fighter?
In his UFC debut, Ortega was already billed as one of the most dangerous submission artists out there. Specifically known for his squeeze, he had a knack for pulling black belts and hitting them quickly, only syncing into the choke barely a moment before submission. What makes him so special is that with such a great understanding of jiu jitsu, Ortega has the ability to cut chunks of grappling footage while still remaining in control.
Most good grappling experts forgo the mantra ‘position before submission’ because staying safe on the way to the finish is clearly the most logical and dominant mindset, even if it means playing along. game. Ortega has however found a way to have consistent success, jumping from positions such as the front headlock into triangles and other submissions where traditionally one more step would have to be taken. This is not only because of Ortega’s technical control skills, but also because of his ability to maintain submission while adjusting in awkward positions, as well as the confidence that if he loses his position, he has the ability to adapt.
The Ortega before the Korean zombie fight already had a good strike. He was hard to hurt and he could lean on his chin when needed. He also had good boxing and kicking, and decent power to back him up, but Out of Grain often did his best job breaking down opponents with consistency. That being said, his choice of movement was very step-based, and he got his opponents down and often pulled to come back strong, although he has good variety and can time knees and elbows well inside. his boxing.
The Ortega who returned after two years of absence was different in the sense that he was now dynamic on his feet. It now changes angles and dictates the distance itself while remaining light and floating. He’s able to stay so light without worrying that the fight will drift away from him if he’s knocked out, as very few would want to challenge him in that department.
It also now mixes the entire arsenal of mixed martial arts. One of the most interesting tactics he used against Chan Sung Jung was a simple slap on the legs. Ortega will slip a shot and strike the front knee with his fist, causing his opponent to stop and explode the hips back anticipating the takedown. In doing so, they leave an opening for strikes that Ortega takes advantage of, even mixing in body straights as they react for the tap.
This also works in reverse, if he reads his opponents reacting to the level change due to the strike than Ortega does on a single or double leg. He doesn’t have the cleanest wrestling entrances, often bringing them back to the fence in a stooped position instead in order to seek a trip or suck their legs against the fence. For the most part, however, Ortega doesn’t have the smooth indents in the middle that some others do.
His ability to let opponents guess on their feet can reduce their combinations halfway, when he forces them to react to a false out or a fake strike they have to reset and are unable to create their own momentum. It is the greatest strength of the new Ortega that has improved its diversity of looks. He will cut from different angles or float back and counter and is not afraid to change positions now.
Although left-handed, Ortega likes to prick the hand ahead of orthodox opponents in order to create and disrupt the rhythm with his jab as well as maintain his reach. In the end, it makes it extremely difficult for his opponent to settle into a comfortable game plan because it overloads his mind with possibilities.
It’s been a year since T-City 2.0 appeared, so further developments since then are yet to be seen. He appears to be one of the most compelling contenders in a landscape that has changed dramatically since his first title fight, but he’s certainly one to watch as he prepares for his second.
Brian Ortega vs. Alexander Volkanovski takes place on Saturday, September 25 and will air only on ESPN + PPV in the United States. Order UFC 266 PPV here.