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UFC Fight Island 6, The Morning After: Brian Ortega returns unrecognizable

Here’s what you may have missed last night!

UFC Fight Night: Ortega v The Korean Zombie Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Last night’s main event was shocking.

Brian Ortega is a known product. He’s the tough, opportunistic finisher with incredible jiu-jitsu and some kickboxing tricks. However, despite all the personal beef and buildup, the man who soundly defeated Chan Sung Jung could not possibly be the same athlete Max Holloway embarrassed less than two years ago.

“T-City” has undergone construction, and the results are unrecognizable.

Ortega shed his hair — listen closely, and you may still be able to hear my girlfriend (or your own) softly sobbing — and somehow picked up an entirely new skill set. Jung was prepared for the man known for walking opponents down with punches and relying on his shoulder and elbow as a shell to protect him in the process. He was ready for Ortega V1, who was typically willing to take a punch to land one.

Neither that technique nor that mentality was present on Fight Island.

Hailing from parts unknown, a Southpaw kickboxer stepped into the cage. He did not rely on his bare dome’s natural resilience to impact to keep him in the fight. Instead, this mystery man capitalized on his incredible build for 145 lbs. He dutifully circled the outside of the Octagon as Jung advanced, never allowing the counter puncher to comfortably set his feet. Whenever Jung tried, his lead leg was chewed up. Or, a lightning quick right jab shot into his nose, or a left stabbed into his chest, or even just a reach toward his lead leg upset his rhythm.

The shaved man showed further depth of skill. A gorgeously timed counter spinning elbow demonstrated his ability to learn from past fights game plan for a specific ability. He chained takedowns, level change feints, and strikes together like a lifelong MMA wrestler.

Brian Ortega doesn’t do any of that stuff. Or rather, he didn’t until last night. Little remained of the former title challenger other than piercing blue eyes.

Okay, jokey analogies between Ortega’s new look and new skill set aside, there are some traits that carried over. Most notably, Ortega’s opportunism remained on display. He may have taken the initiative to cause such exchanges more often, but big shots — and especially elbows — on the break were already an Ortega specialty.

He simply refined that skill further.

There was reason to believe this sudden jump in skill was possible. After all, it’s not uncommon to see a fighter lose a fight — whether it’s their first loss, fifth defeat, or first UFC loss — and decide to make changes as a result. Whether it’s a change in camps, nutrition, or strength and conditioning, adjustments can be made to produce huge results after flaws are illuminated by defeat.

The difference between Ortega and most everyone else is that “T-City” didn’t taste defeat until his first UFC title fight. Or, to explain the situation another way: Ortega was already really f*cking good before a level up became necessary. His base model made it to title contention, and that is exceptionally rare.

At 29 years of age, Ortega just put on the best performance of his career to likely secure a second title shot. Prior to last night’s performance, I was a bit hesitant at the idea of a title shot so quickly after the Holloway shellacking. There are other contenders, and well, it just cannot be overstated how poorly that “Blessed” fight went.

Fortunately, Holloway beat up someone else, someone with other strengths and weaknesses — someone clearly long gone. The new Ortega is a different contender, and I’ll gladly watch him fight any Featherweight on the roster.

For complete UFC Fight Island 6: “Jung vs. Ortega” results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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