Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight hitters Cody Garbrandt and Kai Kara-France will duel this weekend (Sat., Dec. 11, 2021) at UFC 269 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It’s no secret that Garbrandt has struggled since losing his Bantamweight title, losing more often than not to the 135-pound elite in recent years. Looking for a fresh start, “No Love” has opted to drop down to Flyweight for the first time. Though he still has to officially make the weight and perform, it doesn’t appear the worst idea on paper, as Garbrandt has never been a particularly large Bantamweight. He’s certainly not been dealt a softball in his divisional debut. New Zealand’s Kara-France is a genuine knockout threat with a wealth of experience, and he’s only tasted defeat opposite top-notch talent.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Dominick Cruz (UFC 207), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 250), Thomas Almeida (UFC Fight Night 88), Takeya Mizugaki (UFC 202), Augusto Mendes (UFC Fight Night 83)
Key Losses: T.J. Dillashaw (UFC 227, UFC 217), Rob Font (UFC Vegas 27), Pedro Munhoz (UFC 235)
Keys to Victory: Perhaps the most interesting question ahead of Garbrandt’s Flyweight debut — outside of the BIG one — is how Garbrandt’s speed will transfer. At Bantamweight, he was likely the fastest man in the division, but now that advantage may be more equalized.
Will a subsequent bump in power make up for it?
Regardless, Garbrandt has to remain active at range. In his most recent loss to Rob Font, Garbrandt ran into trouble when he started relying too heavily on his head movement and counters. While Garbrandt was chasing the perfect punch, Font was finding his timing and doing damage.
Garbrandt has a fast, powerful jab and punishing kicks. He’d be well-advised to actively employ those weapons, as well as the occasional takedown or two. If Garbrandt can stay ahead on the points game, it forces Kara-France to start taking chances and swinging bigger on his own front foot.
From Cruz to Assuncao, that’s how Garbrandt lands his heaviest shots.
Record: 22-9 (1)
Key Victories: Rogerio Bontorin (UFC 259), Raulian Paiva (UFC 234), Tyson Nam (UFC Fight Night 168), Mark de la Rosa (UFC Fight Night 157)
Key Losses: Brandon Moreno (UFC 245), Brandon Royval (UFC 253)
Keys to Victory: Kara-France is a highly technical kickboxer. He plays the outside game very well, attacking with combinations, counters and long distance kicks. Like many of his City Kickboxing peers, Kara-France moves and feints with precision.
He’s scored 10 wins via knockout.
Out-pointing Cody Garbrandt is not really a path to victory. Font technically did so, but he wasn’t trying to win on slim margins — he was dropping his hammer of a right hand on every occasion. No, Kara-France should not plan to out-work Garbrandt with quick jabs and low kicks, not when Garbrandt’s lands are likely to be more impactful in the eyes of the judges.
Instead, Kara-France should be looking to replicate Font’s success. Even though Garbrandt is the man dropping weight classes, Kara-France has the edge in reach, and establishing the jab would really benefit him. Kara-France has a nasty right hand, and if he can start dinging Garbrandt from the edge of his range, he’ll be the one leading the dance.
Countering Garbrandt’s right hand is a definite must as well. “No Love” loves to throw it, so Kara-France should be looking for opportunities to block/slip and return fire whenever possible.
This is a huge fight for the division.
In particular, it cannot be overstated just how important this bout is for Cody Garbrandt. If he wins, “No Love” is suddenly in the Top 5 again in a division relatively devoid of stars. Hell, UFC might just opt to give him the shot off one win — this is the Endeavor era of matchmaking after all. At the same time, a loss makes it two-straight defeats for the former champion, and it leaves his next move unclear.
As for Kara-France, he’s searching for the biggest victory of his UFC career. Following up a tremendous knockout win by knocking off Garbrandt on a high-profile UFC card would surely help his momentum surge forward. The only other top contender at the moment is Alexandre Pantoja, so perhaps victory here could score a title eliminator vs. the Brazilian.
At UFC 269, Cody Garbrandt will make his Flyweight debut opposite Kai Kara-France. Which man will have his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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