Grappling specialist, Wilson Reis, will look to topple Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight kingpin, Demetrious Johnson, this Saturday (April 15, 2017) at UFC on FOX 24 inside Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Reis’ path to the title has been bizarre. At one point, Reis was scheduled to receive a title shot after just one victory, but an injury to the champion nixed that bout. Since then, Reis has scored a pair of wins over unranked opponents, which apparently has pushed him back into the title picture.
It’s pretty clear that UFC really does not want “Mighty Mouse” and Joseph Benavidez to fight a third time. At any rate, Reis will receive his shot on Saturday night, and he certainly has a chance — however small — to pull off the impossible. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Reis has never been an elite striker. He still isn’t, but the Brazilian has grown a fair amount, becoming much more aggressive on the feet. Because of that, he does a much better job of earning his opponent’s respect, which goes a long way in eventually scoring the takedown.
On his feet, Reis largely sticks to the classic Southpaw weapons of the left cross and kick. These strikes pair well together and land at a high percentage, making them a smart choice to focus on. Notably, Reis did stun Scott Jorgensen with a hard left kick to the body, which set up the eventual finish.
From the outside, Reis is very active with his feints and head movement. It’s far from perfect — his head movement often slows once actual exchanges begin — but Reis is able to disguise his attack reasonably well. That said, it’s usually some combination of the left kick and straight punches.
Lately, Reis has been more consistent about attack his foe’s lead leg. Against an Orthodox foe, punting the inside of the leg is always an option, but Reis will also do a quick switch kick to the outside of the leg. Sometimes, he’ll use the strike to trap his foe in place and follow up with a big left overhand.
Lastly, Reis has been working more with his lunging right hook as of late. It’s an occasional follow up to his cross, and Reis did a nice job of catching Ulka Sasuki off-guard with the punch in his last fight. In particular, Reis countered Sasuki’s uppercut attempts quite well with the punch. At the same time, Reis’ head does remain quite stationary as he bounces in, which is a really bad trait.
Reis has a reputation as a mediocre wrestler, but it’s really undeserved. In eight UFC fights, he’s scored a massive 35 takedowns, and he only really struggled to wrestle with fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Jussier Formiga.
Reis is a fairly short and well-muscled Flyweight. He’s also proven to be a quick athlete. Together, these traits work well in ensuring that Reis makes it to his opponent’s hips whenever he shoots, and Reis generally finds success from there.
Often, Reis will look for the inside single-leg takedown. From there, he has several transitions that aim at forcing his foe to the mat or sneaking Reis around to the back. That’s the series of techniques I chose to look at in this week’s technique highlight, which can be seen below.
Additionally, Reis has a pretty strong double-leg takedown. He’s at his best when shooting reactively, as Reis is able to lower his level a bit and burst forward with surprising speed. If his opponent is rushing forward, there’s a damn good chance that Reis can blast him off his feet.
Furthermore, Reis does a very nice job of turning the corner when he shots. If he’s not able to immediately knock his opponent from their feet, Reis is able to change directions quickly and work past their sprawl by driving him in a different direction.
Once Reis takes down his opponent, he’s very difficult to shake off. As his opponent attempts to stand, Reis will transition from the clinch into double leg takedowns or trips, constantly planting his foe right back on the mat. At any point, Reis will attempt to jump onto the back as well, which is very threatening.
Defensively, Reis has strong hips and is not necessarily easy to take down. That said, Reis is also willing to fight from his guard and work sweeps, so he’s proven willing to fall to his back in the past.
A jiu-jitsu black belt with 10 submission victories, Reis is a very dangerous grappler. Each of those tapouts came via either rear-naked choke or arm triangle (GIF), which makes sense considering Reis’ build and top pressure style.
Many of Reis’ takedowns finish with him in great position. Most of his clinch or single leg takedowns, for example, land him behind his opponent, where he can quickly leap into back control (GIF). Alternatively, Reis does an excellent job of triangling his opponent’s legs following the double-leg, pinning them to the mat and allowing Reis to pass.
Back mount is Reis’ specialty. From that position, Reis is quick to attack with the rear-naked choke, and he’s active in attempting to trap an arm with his legs as well. If at any point his foe attempts to scramble, Reis will constrict around his foe. Using the over-under grip, Reis will maintain pressure and look to come up into the aforementioned arm triangle choke. Once locked into either choke, Reis’ physical strength and squeeze come into play.
Reis does not often end up on his back, but he likes to attack from the deep half guard when there. There are not many submissions available from that position, as Reis will pull himself below his opponent’s leg and force him to balance on top of him. From this position, Reis can elevate the leg and stand, but he more commonly will spin quickly into a single-leg takedown and attempt to reverse position.
Long as the odds may be, Johnson has not faced a true jiu-jitsu specialist since his controversial win over Miguel Torres, so perhaps there’s something to the idea that Reis could catch him. However, it’s ultimately up to Reis to prove that he’s up to the task, as no previous performance has inspired such confidence. The stakes are high for the Brazilian, as he either cements his legacy with a single win or disappears back to the “Prelims” undercards.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter 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.