Brian Ortega, on the other hand, is someone who we haven’t really had a chance to examine at all. He is undefeated in MMA, spare a No Contest that resulted from a failed drug test. Sadly this was for an actual steroid, drostanolone, and not for a cheeky puff on the wrong kind of cigarette. This was also in the pre-USADA era, when everyone was walking around with capped deltoids and failing a drug test was more an indication of simplemindedness, but to let that distract you from Ortega’s very obvious talents would be a mistake.
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Ortega arrived in the UFC by merit of his grappling. In his first eight fights he scored three triangle choke victories, and the triangle became something of a calling card. Since arriving in the UFC in July of 2014, none of Ortega’s fights have gone the distance and perhaps that is for the best. Ortega’s striking has gone from spasmodic flailing to what you could probably call serviceable, but it is still full of glaring deficiencies and bad habits.
Ortega seems to want to fight like an old-school cutie from the golden age of boxing, jabbing and dropping his lead hand low to shoulder-roll off the returns. The part he can’t actually do consistently is the shoulder-rolling. From Clay Guida to Renato Moicano to Cub Swanson, anyone who has pressed in on him with combinations after his jab has caught him clean, often multiple times in a row.
Ortega’s loading up his right uppercut from behind him is another constant cause of grief. A long right uppercut is an invitation for counters, but there are fighters who can get away with it like the rangy and mobile Alexander Gustafsson. Ortega, however, throws it from directly in front of his opponent and often gets cracked while he does so.
Ortega’s ability to take a shot and his jab have carried him through the striking exchanges with decent scrappers, though, and his bodywork against Moicano in the last round of that fight was definitely an eye-opener to how smart he can be, even if he doesn’t have the technical nuts and bolts tightened up yet. Furthermore, by punching straight the majority of the time, Ortega’s height and reach can protect him a bit when the blows come back—he tends to be on the end of his opponent’s counter swings even when he is out of position.
But Ortega’s game isn’t about boxing opponents up beautifully, it is about walking them down and convincing them to go after his hips. Time after time Ortega has snatched up a guillotine or punched through to an anaconda choke and finished a fight in an instant off a poor shot.
Ortega often can force the same opportunity by getting an over-under clinch and waiting for the opponent to throw his hips back, then snap the guillotine on over the top.