Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Augusto Montano and Chris Heatherly will make their main card debuts this Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) at UFC 180 inside the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
Montano is one of the more established veterans on the Mexican fighting circuit. Training out of Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Montano has developed a solid mixed martial arts (MMA) game, which is highlighted by his boxing skills.
On the other hand, Heatherly is a less experienced American wrestler who is coming off a disappointing loss to Ben Saunders in which he was caught early with an omoplata. He'll look for a better result in his sophomore performance.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter.
Key Wins: None
Key Losses: Sam Alvey (Chihuahua Extremo)
Keys to Victory: Though Montano is not deficient in any area, he's very clearly a boxer. His head movement and footwork make that pretty clear, and it's supported by his eight knockout victories.
Montano needs to take full advantage of his footwork in order to defeat Heatherly. His opponent's striking is fairly loose at range, meaning that he's quite hittable. To capitalize on this trait, Montano should do his best to work his low kick and straight punches from a distance.
Then, when Heatherly looks to close the distance with punches, Montano can look for counter strikes or circle away. If Montano is frequently keeping his distance, circling off, and shutting down Heatherly's attempts to grapple, he'll be able to discourage the wrestler.
As Montano gets more comfortable with defending his opponent's shot and clinch attempts, he can extend his combinations and begin stepping in with power shots more frequently. Ultimately, Montano's goals in his debut should be to provide an entertaining finish, one that will make casual viewers remember his name.
Key Wins: Dakota Cochrane (Warriors for Heroes)
Key Losses: Ben Saunders (UFC Fight Night 49), Alex Garcia (Challenge MMA 2)
Keys to Victory: Heatherly is still a developing fighter who mostly looks to take advantage of his wrestling skills. With a background in scholastic and Greco-Roman wrestling, Heatherly is dangerous with both shots and clinch work.
In his last fight, Heatherly faced an extremely difficult style match up in Ben Saunders. Having the wrestling edge is huge, but not when his opponent is so far ahead in both kickboxing and submission grappling that staying in either area too long is a recipe for disaster.
In this case, Heatherly is only out-matched in one area -- striking -- and still not as badly as his last match up. In contrast to his scrap with Saunders, Heatherly is relatively safe on the ground and may even have the jiu-jitsu advantage.
Therefore, getting the takedown is an obvious game plan.
One way to score easy takedowns would be to catch Montano's low kick, which he throws without much set up fairly often. If Heatherly doesn't have to close the distance to land takedowns, then he shouldn't bother doing so.
However, if Montano holds back on his low kicks or disguises them well, Heatherly will be forced to get close. In that case, Heatherly should still be able to get a grip on Montano. By hiding a shot behind a combination of punches, Heatherly can use even a poor shot to transition into the clinch.
From there, he's in his wheelhouse and can look to grind out "Dodger" or even find a submission.
Bottom Line: This is another fight that doesn't really affect the division. It has been put on this card to give the Mexican crowd an opportunity to see a hometown fighter perform against a relatively inexperienced opponent.
Montano is one of the most experienced Mexican-born MMA fighters around, so there's a fair amount of pressure on him. Heatherly is not a bad fighter by any means, but he's clearly been brought in as a winnable fight. Were Montano to lose, it would spell bad things for his UFC future, particularly if he gets out-wrestled for the entire bout.
On the other hand, a victory would likely open up future opportunities to fight in Mexico for the UFC. At 30 years old, he's not likely to ever make a run at the strap, but there's no reason he cannot have continued success if matched up smartly.
Heatherly may be an underdog, but he's also been given a winnable bout. Prior to his loss to Saunders, Heatherly had built a solid record and was gaining some attention as a prospect. Were he to win impressively here, it would help erase the memory of his debut.
Sadly for "Stump," a loss here would likely mean a trip back to the regional scene. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Heatherly, as he'd be able to develop further while picking up cage time, but he definitely wants to stick with the world's premier MMA organization.
At UFC 180, Augusto Montano and Chris Heatherly will battle it out in Mexico City. Which man will take home the victory?