Submission ace, Ray Borg, will attempt to dethrone Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight roost-ruler, Demetrious Johnson, this Saturday (Oct. 7, 2017) at UFC 216 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Borg was not expected to face Johnson just yet. The talented 24-year-old is a solid 5-2 inside the Octagon against a high level of competition, but it was more about timing than anything else. No one else at the top of the division is on a serious win streak — with the exception of the injured Joseph Benavidez.
In full disclosure, this article was almost entirely written prior to UFC 215, before illness canceled the fight just days before it happened. I consulted the MMAmania higher-ups on whether we should just publish it now or wait until Borg is an official main event once more. Not to be rude to the “Taxmexican Devil,” but he is an 8-1 underdog so ... enjoy!
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
In Borg’s first four fights inside the Octagon, he was able to force a grappling match each and every time. That wasn’t the case when he faced Justin Scoggins, as the Flyweight karateka was able to pretty easily avoid his shots and punish him on the feet. In that fight, Borg looked really uncomfortable in the kickboxing, but he’s actually shown some remarkable improvement in his last two wins.
A great deal of that improvement can be attributed to comfort, as well as some clear work with Jackson-Winkeljohn boxing coach Brandon Gibson. Before any punches are even exchanged, Borg looks fluid, bouncing lightly on his feet and shifting his head position constantly.
Another reason for Borg’s fast improvement is that the style of kickboxing fits his overall MMA approach. He’s not trying to maintain the outside with a nice jab; Borg is trying to move inside, swing some power shots, then pick his opponent up and dump him.
Borg’s favored punch is the left hook. He throws it as a lead, often using his head movement to load the punch up. That extends to much of his pocket offense; if Borg is trading in the pocket, you can expected him to try to duck under a punch and come back with a hard left hook-right cross combo. Borg also creates openings for the left hook at the end of grappling exchanges. Occasionally, Borg will also use the left hook to land himself in the collar-tie, following up with knees.
A natural pairing of the left hook is the right low kick, which is the most consistent kicking attack of Borg’s game. He’ll throw flashy stuff like wheel kicks and jumping attempts, but that’s mostly just athleticism on show. Technically, his best work is getting his opponent to back away from the left hook/threat of grappling before ripping home the low kick.
Borg also does an admirable job of setting up his right hand by playing off double threats. His right usually comes with an arc, either looking to come around his foe’s guard with an overhand or straight up the middle for an uppercut. Those two punches set up the other well enough already, but Borg also mixes in takedown feints. He’ll reach for the lead leg with his left hand — enough to get his opponent pulling that leg back — then instead come in with a cracking punch.
Despite all the improvement, it’s unclear whether an outside striker like Scoggins would still trouble Borg. His footwork has improved, but otherwise he hasn’t proven that he would find more success in cutting off the cage and avoiding be trapped on the outside.
Without looking it up, most watching would expect that Borg was at least a successful high school wrestler. While he doesn’t have an official scholastic background, Borg began training MMA and wrestling at 14, so he very much looks the part.
Borg has a very powerful double leg that works in all areas of the cage. He’s fast, and once Borg is in on the hips, his opponent is usually going for a ride. Because of that speed, Borg tends to prefer shooting in the open, but he’ll also grind along the cage for a takedown as well.
Borg is a solid transitional wrestler as well. He’ll shoot single legs with the intent of switching direction into the double, and will go from the double into powerful body lock slams as well. Even when forced to wrestle from his knees, Borg does well to reshoot and get deep enough on the shot that he can drive back to his feet.
Defensively, Borg only truly struggled with Scoggins, but that is somewhat expected considering he was being picked apart. In his last fight with fellow jiu-jitsu expert Jussier Formiga, Scoggins stuffed the majority of his opponent’s takedowns despite some deep shots.
Though unranked in BJJ, Borg is clearly one of the division’s best grapplers. Like many athletic young fighters, Borg thrives in scrambles, but he’s also quite technical in pretty much every area of grappling.
Once Borg gets on top, he does a very nice job of blending his strikes with his movements. It’s common for him to stack the legs and punch at the same time, making it very difficult for his opponent to defend both the guard pass and punch to the face. In the first round of his bout with Louis Smolka, the two fighters scrambled a ton on the mat, but it was Smolka who walked back to his corner with multiple bleeding cuts for his foe’s elbows.
In this week’s technique highlight, we covered Borg’s approach to half guard, which allows him to simultaneously work to pass and submit.
Five of Borg’s professional wins came via rear naked choke (GIF), which is a pretty simple technique on its own. More interesting is how Borg finds his way to the back, which is a difficult feat against accomplished fighters.
Much of the time, it’s Borg’s front chokes that allow him to take the back. As his opponent tries to stand or scramble, Borg is quick to attack with the d’arce and guillotine. He’ll attempt to finish if the choke is tight, but more often than not he instead uses the choke to keep his foe pinned. As his foe fights the hands, Borg will release the choke and quickly spin to the back mount.
From both the mount and back mount, Borg looks to capitalize on his opponent’s explosive movements. Very often, that’s a hard bridge of the hips and frame in his armpit. Whenever that happens, Borg is quick to throw his leg over the face and attempt an armbar. Alternatively, Borg will swim past the arm and attempt an arm triangle choke, a technique he nearly finished Smolka with a couple of times.
Is Borg ready for “Mighty Mouse?” Probably not, but if that was the standard for fighting Johnson, the champion wouldn’t defend his belt all that often. Borg is a young, talented fighter from a great camp, and this is his opportunity to live up to the occasion.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an amateur champion who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.