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We’d all like to think we can spot a future great in the making, and this weekend at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, UFC Fight Night 114 could be a chance to notch up a sighting.
Two of the most exciting young fighters in MMA clash, as shooting star flyweights Brandon Moreno and Sergio Pettis eye a tilt at the 125lb crown.
Mark Sylvester puts this week’s UFC sizzling scrap under the spotlight.
The UFC doesn’t usually go out of its way to put flyweights centre stage – or centre Octagon – but when you’ve got a pair of action-packed powder kegs like Brandon Moreno and Sergio Pettis, it’s got ‘scorcher’ written through it like ‘Brighton’ in a stick of rock.
Obviously we all love grudge matches and pints of bad blood to spice things up in the cage.
But it’s just as fun when what’s on the trolley is simply two exceptionally fine fighters with the prospect of gold in their sights.
Brandon ‘The Assassin Baby’ Moreno, here fighting in his native Mexico, is the new kid on the big, bad and brutal UFC block. He cut his teeth by cutting a swathe through a bunch of MMA codes before exploding into UFC at The Ultimate Fighter 24.
And, intriguingly, the fellow he vanquished in the Tournament of Champions Finale was Ryan Benoit, the last fighter to beat Pettis, and the only smudge on what would have been a six-fight winning streak.
In that feisty affair Moreno was wobbled, got knocked down, shaken and stirred, but dug deeper than a Siberian salt miner, to inflict a series of take downs and, ultimately, snuff out the threat from the iron-fisted Benoit.
It was his sheer, pit bull-style aggression that swung that war of attrition in his favour, and allowed him to shave a split decision.
It also nailed the lie that his debut UFC victory over Louis Smolka was a fluke.
Smolka went down to a rear near-naked choke, a move that’s accounted for half of Moreno’s 10 submissions in his 14-3 MMA career.
It was also the weapon of choice in The Baby Assassin’s only other, and most recent, UFC throw-down, when he applied a particularly nasty one to rated 125lber Dustin Ortiz, having set it up with an eye-watering head kick.
Sergio ‘The Phenom’ Pettis is a stand-up guy – literally – with cutting-edge kick-boxing skills, but if Moreno can take him down (and believe me, he can) he’ll find himself in Moreno’s manor.
Moreno loves nothing more than getting down and dirty on the mat, dragging subtly-skilled opponents into his dark and stormy theatre of pain on the canvas.
Moreno to win by a submission is in the ‘definite possibility’ department, and you’ll get it at 2/1.
Compared to Moreno, fellow 23-year-old Pettis is an old hand at UFC, having made his way into the premier UFC theatre-of-pain eight times. And despite his only two losses in a 15-2 career coming in UFC, Pettis is easily one of the division’s standout marques.
Where Moreno is an exhausting, all-action dynamo, Pettis is the cool-headed, technician of violence.
His kickboxing kitbag gives him precision weapons in his hands and feet, and his surgical strikes land like cruise missiles.
He may have stumbled slightly in UFC, but he’s totally styled it out. His last three fights have been master classes in chipping away at opponents, wearing down their willpower and tossing them on the unanimous decision loss scrapheap like spent batteries.
His last Octagon outing saw him slicing and dicing John Morega early on and matching him takedown for takedown in the final stretch. He took some big shots and dished out some massive ones of his own.
Pettis is a warrior and he has all the ability to counter everything, including the kitchen sink, microwave and trunk freezer, Moreno will throw at him. Nine of his victories have gone to the scorecards, and a decision for Pettis here is 3/1. That’s a decent tickle.
You don’t get a landslide of KO’s at 125lbs, but both these guys are capable of dishing them out.
Pettis has three in his ‘Big Book of My Fights’ while Moreno’s flurry of punches earned him a TKO back in 2013.
If you want to be brave, go for Pettis finding the mark with some of those laser-guided fists and icing Moreno at 13/2.
Simply put, what we have here, for your enjoyment ladies and gents, is a first rate encounter between two of the sport’s thoroughbreds. In fights like this it’s the smallest things that separate victory from defeat, and a fighter from his senses.
If Pettis can exert his almost supernatural powers of controlling a fight, he wins one way or another. Pettis to win is 13/10.
But – and here it come – those ‘smallest things’ seem to stack up in Moreno’s favour.
The Tijuana lad is playing in his own back yard, and that’ll fire up those furnaces of aggression that put the finest of his foes on the back foot. One slip from Pettis and he’ll be all over him like a cheap suit.
The Baby Assassin hasn’t lost a fight since July 2012, and although a relative rookie in UFC, that’s a big stat. It’s so very close. But I think the unstoppable Moreno express speeds on towards Demetrious Johnson’s belt.
It’s a decision for Moreno, and there’s dancing in the streets of Mexico City. Have a flutter on that at 4/1!