Two bantamweights featuring completely different sets of skills stepped into the cage last night (Aug. 10, 2013) as Marlon Moraes took on Brandon Hempleman in the co-main event of World Series of Fighting 4 in Ontario, California.
Moraes had been hailed heading into the bout as perhaps the next big thing at 135 pounds, while Hempleman had been characterized as a gritty underdog with a strong athletic background and a chip on his shoulder.
Both proved themselves in their own way.
From early on, it was very obvious that Moraes was the better stand-up fighter. His motion wasn't wasted, his strikes came in at all sorts of angles and they were not only accurate but powerful. Moraes caught Hempleman with some heavy punches in the opening portion of the fight and surprisingly wound up in top position on the ground after landing a particularly nasty left and right hook.
Once inside Hempleman's guard, Moraes didn't let up, connecting with punches and elbows and further opening an already growing cut on the bridge of the former gymnist's nose.
As Hempleman got back to his feet, Moraes began to target his lead left leg with kicks, and that was the point this fight started getting ugly. By the end of the first round, Hempleman's leg was in rough shape.
Moraes didn't let up in round two, hammering Hempleman's lead leg with several more shots, occasionally mixing in some punches to the head to keep things flowing, and his opponent was now a dead in the water.
Unfortunately, Moraes' did not put him away, apparently breaking his foot in the same round and instead of seizing the moment and taking Hempleman out, he backed off, stopped throwing kicks and coasted until the fight was over. Hempleman refused to give up and kept walking forward, practically having to drag his dead left leg along with him, but he showed tremendous heart by sticking around in a fight he had no business even still participating in.
When it was all said and done, the judges obviously sided with Moraes, but this fight could have been so much more.
For Brandon Hempleman, he is the perfect symbol of the phrase "too tough for your own good." He never quit, despite having practically zero chance to win in the third round. It's an admirable trait to have as a fighter, but it's also foolhardy and it could get him in trouble against someone less merciful in the future. With how poorly he was able to even walk, dragging his legs across the cage, they should have called a stop to the fight before the third round even started.
Onto some of the actual analysis, while Hempleman is tough and aggressive, never giving up, he still is very flawed overall as a fighter. He drops his hands on both sides when he attacks, particularly his left, which Moraes was able to exploit pretty badly whenever he went on the offensive. For as great an athlete Hempleman is, his takedowns were pretty weak and Moraes was able to either reverse them or stuff them with relative ease. If he hadn't waited until his legs were made of linguine before shooting in, perhaps he'd have had a better chance. That being said, you can't teach heart, and he has that in spades. Once the rest of his skills catch up to his heart, he could be a pretty solid fighter one day.
For Marlon Moraes, his performance in the first half of this fight was absolutely breathtaking. He battered Hempleman with everything but the kitchen sink in the first seven or eight minutes, landing heavy punches, elbows and kicks, but whether he was conserving energy, his foot actually was broken or perhaps he showed too much sympathy for his injured opponent, he completely took his foot off the gas in the last six or seven minutes of the fight.
The third round in particular was a staring contest as Moraes refused to put away an opponent who could barely stand. Even with a broken foot, all it would take was a few leg kicks and Hempleman would have been toast. Even stepping inside and scoring with heavy punches could have finished the fight. Moraes has to remember that his opponent agreed to fight him, knew all the risks he was getting into and since he didn't quit on his stool, he deserved to be given an opportunity to take Moraes' best shot in the third round. He just didn't get it. Mercy is a good thing to have in life, but it's a pretty awful trait to have as a cagefighter. I really hope this doesn't come back to bite Moraes on the ass in a future bout should he have someone on the ropes and not turn on the afterburners.
Perhaps now is the time to test Moraes' skills against a grappler like Carson Beebe, or fellow WSOF 4 winner and UFC veteran Jared Papazian. Either that or WSOF needs to sign a top prospect at 135 to fight him. That likely won't be easy considering how talented he is. It might be time to go to UFC instead.