Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight talents Kai Kara-France and Brandon Royval will square off this Saturday (Sept. 26, 2020) at UFC 253 from Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Kara-France showed off his talent and knockout power on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but he wasn’t picked up after the show. UFC rectified that mistake in 2018, and the New Zealander has picked up three wins in four trips to the Octagon, though the judges have been involved each time. On the other hand, Royval is a relative newcomer. The former LFA champion debuted on short-notice with a big win opposite former title challenger Tim Elliott back in May, and he’ll look to continue building that wave of momentum here.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 21-8 (1)
Key Victories: Raulian Paiva (UFC 234), Tyson Nam (UFC Fight Night 168), Mark de la Rosa (UFC Fight Night 157)
Key Losses: Brandon Moreno (UFC 245)
Keys to Victory: Kara-France is a long-time trainee of the City Kickboxing camp, and his style reflects that. He moves well, is quite active with feints, and throws smart combinations. He’s also pretty difficult to take down, which has allowed him to compete in largely kickboxing matches.
Truthfully, this match up seems pretty perfect for Kara-France. Royval is very likely the superior grappler, but he has yet to show the wrestling ability to actually drag an athlete like Kara-France down. Plus, the Kiwi seems quicker, which is obviously very helpful in avoiding wrestling exchanges.
Expect the usual Kara-France game plan. If he’s mobile on his feet, landing low kicks and jabs, his combinations and power shots are likely to land with good consistency as well. He may struggle a bit with the extra distance against his 5’9” foe, but a range disadvantaged is best managed with feints, an area where Kara-France excels.
Just don’t take that guy down and get armbarred.
Key Wins: Tim Elliott (UFC Vegas 1), Joby Sanchez (LFA 65), Nate Williams (LFA 79)
Key Losses: Casey Kenney (LFA 53), Nick Urso (LFA 10)
Keys to Victory: Royval is a tricky enough range striker, but he really does his best work on the mat. “Raw Dawg” has finished seven of his past opponents via submission, quite often from his back.
It’s difficult for me to see Royval defeating Kara-France in a kickboxing match. His opponent is too well-coached and too experienced in the stand up — barring a perfect connection or sneaky high kick, it just doesn’t seem likely.
Unfortunately, wrestling Kara-France along the fence does not seem likely to produce a takedown (though it’s absolutely worth an attempt).
Instead, Royval has to remain opportunistic. Every kick attempt from Kara-France is a potential catch-and-off-balance into top position. Similarly, any slipped punch could be an entrance on the waist or even a duck into back control. Kara-France fights a high-volume style, so if Royval is constantly looking for avenues to grapple, he just may find one that works.
Flyweight is the land of opportunity currently, and this is a fight between top 10-ranked opposition.
The winner here is not the No. 1 contender or even the second man in line — those positions are pretty firmly established in Cody Garbrandt and the victor of Alex Perez vs. Brandon Moreno. What comes after those contenders however? No one really knows, so any contender who can put together two or three wins in that timeframe will be considered.
The silver lining of a relatively empty division is that there really isn’t far to fall either. While momentum will certainly be lost in defeat, there are still relatively few up-and-comers on the roster, so neither fighter is likely to slide down the rankings terribly far.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 253 fight card this weekend, starting with the early ESPN 2/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance (also on ESPN 2/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 253, Kai Kara-France and Brandon Royval will scrap. Which man will earn the victory?