Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight grapplers Kamaru Usman and Sergio Moraes will battle this Saturday (Sept. 16, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 116 inside PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I’ll just come out and say it: Usman is almost certainly going to fight for a UFC title at some point in the next couple years, and the odds are just as good that he’ll win it. The 29-year-old Nigerian has utterly dominated every minute of his five-fight UFC career, only looking better as the competition level rises. Meanwhile, Sergio Moraes is on perhaps the oddest win streak of all time. He’s inexplicably gone 6-0-1 in his previous seven fights, earning this step up despite the fact that no one really understands how he won all those fights.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Sean Strickland (UFC 210), Leon Edwards (UFC on FOX 17), Warlley Alves (UFC Fight Night 100)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Usman is a destroyer. An utterly fantastic athlete with a NCAA Division 2 national wrestling championship under his belt, Usman has picked up kickboxing remarkably fast and blends his striking and wrestling far better than most fighters just five years into their professional careers.
On paper, there’s no reason Usman should lose this fight. It’s really a showcase for him, a chance to add a knockout stoppage to his record, something he’s come close to but never quite achieved in UFC. The only — and I mean only — advantage Moraes has in this fight is his Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which is admittedly excellent. However, Moraes has struggled to score takedowns and implement that part of his game against pretty average Welterweights without real wrestling credentials.
Usman should have no problem keeping this bout standing, and on the feet, he’s simply far more fluid and powerful. The strategy of sprawl-and-brawl is a simple one, but it will very likely prove deadly for Usman in this match up.
Key Wins: Neil Magny (UFC 163), Omari Akhmedov (UFC Fight Night 80), Zak Ottow (UFC Fight Night 100)
Key Losses: Cezar Ferreira (UFC 147)
Keys to Victory: Moraes is one of the very best jiu-jitsu fighters on the roster, and that skill shines through whenever he’s able to get the fight to the mat. On his feet, Moraes’ offense is inconsistent, but somehow he also finds a way to land big shots that impact the fight.
If I sound dismissive of Moraes, it’s nothing personal. I like the Brazilian and his never-say-die attitude, it’s just that he’s extremely out-matched. On the bright side, Moraes finds a way to win with abnormal consistency, so it would be foolish to fully count him out.
To win this bout, Moraes has to finish. He won’t defeat Usman by out-wrestling or out-striking him across three rounds — “The Panther” must find his moment and take out the wrestler. Usman tends to stalk his opponent which actually helps Moraes. If his foe is moving forward, he only needs to time one left hand or high kick right to catch Usman clean and stun him. It’s something of a long shot, sure, but Moraes has landed multiple come-from-behind wins in his current streak already.
Bottom Line: Usman is on the rise, and Moraes has earned this chance at a top 15 foe.
Usman is one of the few young, fresh faces in the Welterweight Top 15. He’s part of the next generation of Welterweights that is going to take over the division before long, and Usman wants to be at the front of that pack. A dominant win moves him closer to that goal, makes it six UFC wins in a row, and sets him up for a big match next. Meanwhile, a loss erases much of his progress.
The stakes are high for Moraes as well. His win streak relied on a couple key comebacks and getting the nod in some toss up decisions — it won’t be easy to replicate. All that hard work and good fortune has resulted in this opportunity, and a win legitimizes him as a Top 15-ranked fighter. If he comes up short, however, he’ll likely return to the “Prelims” undercards opposite unproven up-and-comers once again.
At UFC Fight Night 116, Kamaru Usman and Sergio Moraes will meet in the Octagon. Which man will have his hand raised?