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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC on ESPN 6’s Dominick Reyes

Rising knockout artist, Dominick Reyes, looks to take out his first former champion, Chris Weidman, in a Light Heavyweight bout TONIGHT (Fri., Oct. 18, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 6 from inside TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

At 29 years of age, Reyes is a very much needed young contender at 205 pounds.

A bit of Reyes’ shine has disappeared recently, but it’s hardly his fault. After starting his UFC career with three straight finishes, his last two wins have come via decision, but that’s entirely expected as the level of competition rose. His last win was also a debatable decision, but hell, it was also his first time facing an elite contender. Lastly, Johnny Walker appeared out of nowhere to start knocking foes out in 11 seconds with crazy techniques, but that has little to do with Reyes himself.

Bottom line here is that Reyes remains an excellent prospect who will likely remain a very relevant Light Heavyweight for years to come. Let’s take a look at his skill set:


Dominick Reyes is the product of a great athlete working with an excellent camp — Elevation Fight Team in this case. Reyes has only been a pro since 2014 and did not fully commit to MMA until after college. Nevertheless, he already has a very composed and smart strategy that relies heavily on fundamentals.

Reyes’ kickboxing game is heavily reliant on his powerful left kick. It’s the base that he builds from, the powerful weapon that reportedly earned him his “Devastator” moniker. As we have talked about many, many times in analyzing fighter strategies, there are few weapons more game-changing than a hard Southpaw left kick against an Orthodox opponent.

Let’s briefly recap: a hard left kick is almost never a bad idea in open stance engagements. Even blocked, it hurts. Little setup is actually required, a small feint or quick hand-fight is more than enough. If thrown properly, a left power kick can knock an opponent out stance (leg), shut down liver (body), and knock an opponent completely senseless (head).

Reyes attacks all three targets well, and he switches it up. In addition, Reyes will commonly throw his left leg as a snap kick to the mid-section, muddying the waters a bit more. Against Oezdemir, Reyes did a lot of work to the legs and body, slowing down the offensive assault of the Swiss striker. In his UFC debut, Reyes melted Joachim Christensen by getting him to block the high kick and then sending a crisp left straight down the middle.

Speaking more on the Christensen bout, it was a great display of the Southpaw double threat. Not only did the left kick quickly set up the knockout by clearing a path for the punch, but Reyes actually hip feinted the kick to close distance and put himself in range to deliver the kill shot (GIF).

The left kick and left hand make up a bulk of Reyes offense (though he has a pretty nice right jab as well). He rarely needs much more. He’s long, athletic, and powerful — there is no easy solution to not getting blasted at range by his kicks and then clobbered in the punching range. Cannonier found some success by pressuring Reyes and fought smartly, but a single well-timed uppercut interrupted his forward pressure and hurt him, and one more sealed the deal (GIF).

Reyes’ footwork is a big key to his success. He likes to work from the outside, and he sets traps for opponents that look to pursue passed that distance. In this week’s technique highlight, we look at how Reyes takes angles with his punches and sets up even bigger shots.

Volkan Oezdemir definitely showed some weaknesses to Reyes’ kickboxing, which is not surprising given his professional kickboxing experience. Namely, Oezdemir found good success countering Reyes’ kicks. Sometimes, Reyes can throw the left kick without setup from a touch too close, which is a bad recipe. In addition, Oezdemir throws better offensive combinations than most, resulting in him clipping Reyes while the Californian tried to lean back.


Reyes wrestled a bit in high school but was more committed to football, which makes sense considering he did attract some attention from NFL teams. Nevertheless, Reyes’ wrestling background has definitely helped him inside the Octagon.

Reyes has scored a single takedown in his UFC career, an effortless single leg against Jeremy Kimball. Kimball forced a wrestling match early, but after switching position along the fence, Reyes immediately put his foe on the mat. The fight didn’t last much longer.

Defensively, Reyes has given up a few takedowns along the way, but it’s never particularly bothered him. He’s not the type of elite wrestler that can immediately deny all but the perfect shot, but Reyes has shown great scrambling and wall-walking. He has yet to truly be held down and punished, which is the most important thing when discussing counter wrestling.

Still, Chris Weidman should prove a formidable test to this part of his game.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

A pair of Reyes’ eight stoppage wins come via submission, including the aforementioned win over Kimball. In that victory, Reyes quickly took the back and locked in a body triangle. Reyes is 6’4”, and it was immediately apparent that Kimball suffered under that length. From the body triangle, Reyes showed impressive control by beating the hell out of Kimball with elbows. It’s not easy to land such damaging blows without giving up the position, but Reyes accomplished that task and then wrapped up the neck in short fashion (GIF).

As mentioned, Reyes has yet to really need to make use of jiu-jitsu defense. The few takedowns he’s given up have resulted mostly in wall-wrestling rather than guard play, and he’s quickly regained his footing. Again, this bout with Weidman may show more about that aspect of his skill set.


Reyes is quite athletic with a perfect frame for the division, and he’s already got a smart style. If he can continue to develop nuance and tricks, he’ll be ready for the division’s elite. This bout will help serve as a test for that development, as Weidman is the perfect opponent who is both very skilled and still vulnerable.

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional 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.

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