Benoit Saint Denis (Zuffa LLC)

The UFC returns to Paris this Saturday, headlined by French superstar and divisional dark horse Cyril Gane and Sergei Spivak.

However, before the heavyweights throw down, fans can look forward to a card of exciting fights across all divisions, including another hometown hero in the lightweight category – Benoit Saint-Denis. The Frenchman is on a three-fight win streak, having recently taken out Ismael Bonfim, Gabriel Miranda, and Nicklas Stolze all before the judges could get involved.

His opponent, Thiago Moises, is also riding a win streak with victories over Christos Giagos and Melquizael Costa. The Brazilian grappling ace has also fought the who’s who of 155, having competed with the champion Islam Makhachev, Beniel Dariush, Bobby Green and Alex Hernandez, amongst others. At just 28 and 27, both Moises and Saint-Denis have massive potential for the future in the division.

Betting Odds

Thiago Moises walks into enemy territory as a slight underdog against France’s Saint-Denis.

  • Benoit Saint-Denis: -155 (BetUS)
  • Thiago Moises: +125 (BetUS)

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Fight Breakdown

Both of these men are submission specialists, with Saint-Denis holding 9 submission victories in 11 wins and Moises 8 of 17. Moises, on paper, could be the superior black belt, having won IBJJ gold prior to his UFC career, but in the octagon both men pose a massive threat to one another. Yet, every fight starts on the feet and both men are almost as dangerous standing.

Saint-Denis is a southpaw fighter with a crouched bladed stance conducive to power strikes. His left body kick is among the best in the UFC today, and because it comes from a wide stance, it gathers quite a lot of momentum before impact. He is a bit predictable in its use but the ferocity with which he throws it forces his opponents to respect and block, then opening up the head or punches behind the kick entry. For example, Saint-Denis does a good job of firing the left kick when his opponent’s back is against the cage, into a frame on the shoulder and a slide-out right hook. He also has a nice left kick to step through left hook into a level change setup. Another consistency in his striking to watch out for is his spinning back fist which he throws to counter the right cross if thrown to regularly.

Thiago Moises is a conventional stance fighter, so expect that right hand to come at some point as well as the right body kick to match saint-Denis’ left. Both men favour the body kick from the open stance so there is going to be a battle here, although Saint-Denis probably has the power advantage. Thiago Moises uses the kick mores to setup the right reverse punch, which he throws karate style, squaring his shoulders and keeping posture, lunging into the attack rather than extending his body. However, between the two of them, expect the setups for the takedowns to be made carefully between striking exchanges.

Both men are primarily top-game grapplers, but Maoises has a better-versed guard and leg lock game on top of this. The caveat being, that because he is more comfortable he will more likely accept takedowns to roll for legs or submissions, or give up on his own level changes to roll on legs as well. Contrastingly, if Saint-Denis is taken down, he will look to wrestle up or reverse the takedown from a sprawl, which he is very good at.

Saint-Denis has superb timing on his duck under double leg entry, and great finishing ability for the takedown. If he is able he will immediately look to figure four the legs and work from there. However, if he is unable to trap the legs, expect him to tripod with his head in his opponent’s chest and hips high in order to drive his weight into them and the crevice of the cage and floor. This head pressure often forces opponents to give up the back, however it could be risky leaving that room for Moises to roll under or dig an undertook to the leg if he can work his way through. If Denis can trap the legs he has a beautiful back-take setup where he controls the far wrist and forces his opponent to turn into the leg which is hooking, and then moves said leg to the belly and directly to the body triangle on the back.

Moises will be looking for the snatch single leg with the two men in an open stance to one another, and with Saint-Denis so sideways. Most of the time, Moises uses the initial dive on the legs to push his opponents into the cage where he uses the single leg to turn and finish with an angle change or come up into a clinch and trip the legs out from over-under position. Moises is a master at controlling the upper body and using his legs to drag out and extend his opponent into off-balanced positions. If he can get to a waistlock on the back he is one of the best and tearing his opponent’s leg out from under them and exposing space to get his hooks in to take the back.


This is a very good and fun fight for the fans. Both men are extremely technical and dynamic. I expect a good exchange on the feet. Moises technically and tactically should hold his own but Saint-Denis definitely fires with more power usually, just in the way he sits down on shots and is able to tactically load up power.

On the ground, we should see some good sweeps, but both men are so dominant in certain positions, once they take the back or control the chest such as double undercooks or cross-face that I think whoever establishes control first probably snowballs forward. Moises is more likely to give up control positions to attack submissions, which think could be a major detriment if he cannot finish them, and I also think that because Saint-Denis throws with more and starts quicker, we see him take the center of the octagon first and leads the takedown sequences.

This leads me to lean towards Saint-Denis to win, as I think he controls the space and pace of the fight early on.

Pick: Benoit Saint-Denis to win (-155 odds at BetUS)

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