Rising Middleweight finisher, Brendan Allen, will throw down opposite grappling savant, Paul Craig, this Saturday (Nov. 18, 2023) at UFC Vegas 82 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Allen doesn’t really get the respect he deserves. At just 27 years of age, he’s already built up an impressive 10-2 record inside the Octagon, submitting names like Kevin Holland and Andre Muniz along the way. He finishes roughly 80% of his opposition via strikes or strangle, yet fans don’t take him seriously because he lost to experienced bangers like Chris Curtis and Sean Strickland at like 25 years of age?
The man is very skilled. Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Allen has spent the last few years training under Henri Hooft at Sanford MMA, and it shows! His kickboxing has come a long way, and he was already pretty dangerous on the feet when he joined the UFC roster. Defensively, he still isn’t the hardest man to hit, which remains the biggest knock against him.
Allen does good work in doing damage at all ranges and mixes up his targets. Sounds simple, sure, but Allen is able to really break down opponents by hitting the legs, body, and head with fairly equal aplomb.
At distance, Allen is a rather strong kicker. In particular, he has a nice, chopping calf kick. Perhaps more than anyone else, he really torched Sean Strickland’s lead leg in their back-and-forth fight in 2020. He’ll often finish his short boxing combinations with an effective punt to the belly or lead leg.
Allen’s boxing isn’t overly complicated. He has a nice right hand, which he often will throw as a lead (GIF). His combinations are those typical to classic Thai boxing, like the right cross-left hook-right low/high kick. Allen has a decent jab, but he doesn’t really build combinations from it like a boxer.
Taking his strikes to different targets makes the difference. Against Sam Alvey, for instance, Allen took his right hand to the mid-section before bringing his left hook upstairs. That left hook snuck inside Alvey’s favorite check hook counter, and it knocked him senseless!
In general, Allen is a man who stands his ground in the pocket. If he gets hit — even by a slugger like Bruno Silva — he’s going to fire back. This has gotten him hurt in the past, certainly, but he’s grown to do better work in getting his head off the center line as he throws.
Allen is downright nasty in the clinch as well, which gives him another safe option to end combinations, as he can land directly into the double-collar tie when his foes try to fire back. Allen is a good-sized Middleweight, which certainly goes a long way in bringing knees up to the chin. However, he also does nice work in really digging his body knees, as well as folding over elbows upstairs. He’ll also play the uppercut-overhand double threat to good effect, making him a well-rounded and dangerous clinch striker.
One of the more interesting aspects of Allen’s stand up is that he tends to do very well against Southpaws (even admitting the short-notice KO loss to Chris Curtis). His lead right hand works a treat against lefties, and Allen really adjusts well by blasting his right kick to all targets. In particular, his battering of Punahele Soriano was fairly surprising and impressive.
Soriano isn’t a complicated striker, but he’s a great natural athlete with a ferocious left hand. That sounded like a possible recipe for disaster for a hittable grappler like Allen, but “All-in” picked him apart!
Aside from darting in off the lead right and hammering the body with his right round kick, Allen did really great work in firing right into clinch offense. He’d slap a hook and step towards the outside angle, then come forward with a hard right knee. Many times, he caught Soriano covering up and landed a free knee, which quickly wore his opponent down.
For a man who wins via submission so often, it can be frustrating that Allen often chooses not to use his rather effective wrestling.
Allen is a better chain wrestler than the average non-scholastic takedown artist. He can wrestle between the single leg and double well, using the former to press his foe into the fence before collecting the other leg. In addition, he’s done some nice work elevating from the single and tripping out the base leg, a tactic Khabib often used to great effect. On a couple occasions, he’s also shown off a very nice whizzer kick takedown from the clinch.
Defensively, the most significant test of Allen’s UFC career thus far came against Jacob Malkoun, and he actually struggled quite a bit despite the win. Malkoun is admittedly an underrated and fairly high-level wrestler, but the face that he was so consistently able to take down Allen via the single leg shot was concerning.
The reason Malkoun was so successful came down to a couple factors. For one, Allen often defaulted to wrapping the neck in more of a guillotine grip rather than applying downward pressure to the back of the head, which can often backfire. In addition, Allen simply doesn’t appear to have the best balance. Malkoun kept tripping out the base leg, and Allen really struggled to hop on his free leg without tumbling over — this is an issue larger fighters run into occasionally.
Allen is a jiu-jitsu black belt with 13 wins via submission, including FIVE rear naked chokes inside the Octagon.
What makes Allen’s rear naked choke more effective than most everyone else? His technique is no different, after all. For Allen, it comes down to opportunism and hunting submission over position. Allen delivers harder ground strikes than many submission aces, and this creates scrambles. Any time his opponent turns away, Allen prioritizes jumping on the neck more than controlling the position or putting in hooks. He finished Alvey without any hooks at all!
“All-in” is an appropriate moniker to be sure.
Against Andre Muniz, Allen didn’t snag the choke mid-transition, which is unusual for the Floridian. Instead, he utilized the high-percentage tactic of switching choke arms repeatedly. Each time Muniz pushed the would-be choke arm up his face and off his neck, Allen would quickly loop the other around the threat, progressively getting closer to sneaking under the chin.
Aside from the rear naked choke wins, Allen did stop Karl Roberson via straight foot lock. Funnily enough, Roberson initiated the leg lock exchange! As Roberson attempted to reap the knee and threaten a heel hook, Allen immediately engaged by looking to wrap up a twisting foot lock. The submission wasn’t there, but he used that control of the foot to get a good pinch on Roberson’s leg, forcing the kickboxer to remain in the leg entanglement.
All of a sudden, Roberson wanted out of the position he initiated! Allen didn’t let him escape, quickly switching off from a brief heel hook attempt into a straight foot lock. That’s a less devastating hold, sure, but Allen arched into it hard and still forced Roberson to scream out in pain.
There’s a reason leg lock battles are sometimes called “shootouts” in the jiu-jitsu scene. Whenever one fighter attacks a foot lock, they must be mindful of their own feet too!
At 27 years of age, Allen has finished top competition and accrued a fair bit of elite experience. He’s coming into his own already in the Top 10, so there’s a real chance everything clicks for him in a major way in the next year or two. He’s only a couple wins away from the title mix already!
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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