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Ollie Gadd
Ollie Gadd

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Brandon Moreno: Know Thy Enemy

Brandon Moreno rematched Kai Kara-France at UFC 277, this time for the Interim Flyweight Championship whilst current reigning champion Deiveson Figueiredo recovers from injuries. The pair's first fight saw Kara-France timing his right overhand over Moreno's left handed leads with success in round one whilst rounds 2 and 3 saw Moreno finding more success with left hooks and high kicks punishing the Kiwi for his tendency to dip to the right.

The Perfect Plan

The rematch saw both fighters utilise similar game plans to greater degrees of effectiveness. Moreno's coach, James Krause, acknowledged that Kai's game was built around leg kicks and the overhand right. Indeed, Kai Kara-France looked every part the City Kickboxing Alumni when he opened the fight with a step up lead low kick, a technique his teammate Alexander Volkanovski builds around to great effect. Whilst Kara-France threw leg kicks in the first fight, the rematch saw them utilised with a clear strategy in mind. Kai recognised Moreno's vulnerability to the low kicks due to his longer stance à la Volkanovski vs Holloway 1. The low kicks would likely have proved useful in impeding the speed and lurching footwork of Moreno, taking away one of his biggest assets.

Moreno did a good job of mitigating the low kicks by sliding his lead leg back out of danger, causing Kai to miss and lose footing several times. Indeed, Kai's best kicks came as a counter when Moreno relied on his planted footing to strike.
Moreno Kick Defence

Moreno's leg slides out of range of Kai's kick, causing him to miss

Brandon Moreno works with his lead hand brilliantly, popping out frequent jabs and hooks. Kara-France found himself particularly vulnerable to this due to his tendency to circle to his right, into Moreno's leading left hand. As a result the left hook landed all day, often at the end of combinations to catch Kai as he circled away from Moreno's right hand. Kai also has a notable tendency to dip to his right when slipping shots, something that makes those left hooks that much more impactful.
Moreno Lead Hook

Kai kicks and circles right, directly into the path of the Moreno counter hook

Moreno's best work came in shutting down Kai's biggest weapon: the right overhand. Throughout the fight Moreno would take advantage of the overhand to enter into a takedown or clinch. Moreno certainly has the superior submission game of the pair and many prior to the fight were calling this the difference maker in the rematch. However, Kai's superb grappling defence prevented Moreno from making this element so integral. In fact, the most valuable groundwork came from Kara-France when a nicely placed elbow caused a cut underneath Moreno's eye, a momentum-altering injury in my opinion. Despite the inability to work into a dominant position or threaten submissions, Moreno's takedown attempts still served the purpose of stigmatising the right overhand of Kara-France.
Moreno's ducking takedown

Moreno ducks the overhand and works to a single leg before bringing Kara-France to the fence

Moreno's lead kicks brought his game together completely. By flinging his left shin at Kara-France's head at every opportunity, Moreno was able to keep that problematic right hand firmly pinned to Kai's head to avoid taking the kick unguarded. This was utilised in the first fight effectively but with the addition of the body kick Moreno was able to turn it into an effective showstopper. Kai's dip to the right when slipping became that much more dangerous, feeding Moreno his head or body on a platter when the kicks came. Whenever Kara-France found himself out of position or otherwise flustered, Moreno finished his fast combinations with the left kick, frequently changing the target to keep Kai concerned about both areas. The finish came to him upon a clinch-break in which Kai ran back to reset, perhaps stunned somewhat by a spinning backfist. Moreno pounded in the fatal body kick and Kai shut down.

Moreno's low kick sets up his body kick from the same side

Moreno pelts Kara-France with a lead leg kick and Kai reacts with a high block. Kara-France enters an exchange hesitantly and as he attempts to circle out of range Moreno fires off another left kick, this time to the body

I'm not going to pretend as if Moreno's gameplan was to stop Kara-France with body kicks. We very rarely see fights stopped due to bodywork, but kicks were always money in the bank given Kai's tendency to circle right and his vulnerability to bodywork as exposed in the Raulian Paiva fight (which I thought Paiva clearly took). Dan Tom explores the Paiva fight in relation to Kai's vulnerabilities in greater detail on the Protect Ya Neck Podcast which I'd suggest listening to here. Despite the infrequency of bodywork KOs, Moreno and Krause's ability to recognise the hole in Kai's game is what landed Moreno with interim gold.

Moreno will now fight Deiveson Figueiredo for the fourth time, the first time two people have fought four times within the UFC. Whilst I would have preferred to see a new matchup for the champ, Moreno did what he had to do and looked a step ahead whilst doing it. Watching these two fight will always be compelling to me; they're so well matched for one another that there will always be a level of intrigue until one begins to seriously decline. I'd like to see Kara-France still remain in title conversation and a fight against Alexandre Pantoja would go to bolster that standing. Pantoja, of course, deserves the title shot after Moreno and Figueiredo settle their business but if he wishes to remain active during this time then the Kai fight is a no-brainer.

Top comments (8)

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lee profile image
Lee

Moreno's lead kicks brought his game together completely. By flinging his left shin at Kara-France's head at every opportunity, Moreno was able to keep that problematic right hand firmly pinned to Kai's head to avoid taking the kick unguarded.

I heard Din Thomas absolutely nail this point during the fight commentary 🔥

Brilliant post Olly. I'll be watching this back.

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ogaddmma profile image
Ollie Gadd Author

Yeah, I usually watch back the fights on mute so I don't get distracted from what's actually going on but whilst I was clipping for gifs I kept it on and heard Din make that point. Was a little gutted he'd seen it too to be honest haha, but also shows that it's a good point I suppose.

Thanks! Really appreciate people saying they watch back after I write a piece on a fight

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lee profile image
Lee

Great minds think alike mate… Din pops in with his vantage point and friggin nails it in every fight 😂

Listening to Moreno on The MMA Hour atm, love this guy.

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lee profile image
Lee

Figgy on straight after.

Loving the gif game you’ve got going on with your posts. Legit.

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anirbularee_571 profile image
Anir Bularee

Guess what.... Because of this post, I am going to watch this fight again. This is becoming a regular thing for me. Watch fight, read your analysis, watch back what I missed.

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ogaddmma profile image
Ollie Gadd Author

That's pretty high praise and really appreciated. What I love about this sport is the technicality and strategy behind everything, the reasons why one fighter wins over another. If I can help people see it from that perspective as well then it just reaffirms to me that what I'm doing is valuable. Thanks!

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lee profile image
Lee

Me too 😂

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hannahwoking1 profile image
hannahwoking

This is super read! Such an interesting analysis, love it!