This weekend in the co-main event of UFC 222, the featherweight division’s brightest prospect Brian Ortega (13-0-1) will face off against 22-time UFC veteran and #1 contender Frankie Edgar (22-5-1), in a match that will determine the next challenger for the 145 lbs belt.
Watch the neck
Perhaps the most anticipated fight on the card, Brian Ortega vs. Frankie Edgar is a pivotal match-up for the featherweight division which will see the winner likely challenge for the belt in the near future. Competing for a title is what every professional fighter dreams of, but the road to glory can often snatch those dreams away from you. However, for Brian Ortega, everything has gone as expected.
With an undefeated record of 13-0-1, “T-City” has shot through the rankings, dispatching all opposition the UFC has thrown at him. With all five of his UFC wins coming via finish, Ortega is no easy task.
If you have ever watched the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt fight, you’ll know that he boasts the best submission game in the featherweight division, and has what Joe Rogan describes as “one of the best squeezes” he has ever seen. He has a rare ability to seize his opponent’s neck in an instant and force the tap, which has been the case in his last two fights.
In his last fight against highly ranked and respected Cub Swanson, Ortega was able to lock up a standing guillotine. While carrying out the submission, he also readjusted his grip in mid-air; an action that only extremely high level, distinguished jiu-jitsu practitioners can carry out.
On the other hand, he does have slick boxing and good wrestling to accompany his world class ground game. His opponent, Frankie Edgar, has exceptional boxing and combinations to match his uncompromising wrestling, and we can expect this fight to go to ground.
Better late than never
In four of his five UFC victories, Brian Ortega has finished the fight in the third round. Expect no different in this fight.
The jiu-jitsu black belt likes to spend the first two rounds figuring out his opponent whilst tiring them out. This game plan is perfect for a fighter like “T-City”, who has never had a problem with his cardio in a fight. However, the fighter most likely to expose this potential weakness is Frankie Edgar, who likes to set the pace high by using his unforgiving, high caliber wrestling. Edgar has also spent more time in the octagon than any other fighter, with his 22 UFC fights leading to an astonishing 6:27:49.
With the third round being his strong point, Ortega will be looking to pick up his sixth consecutive finish inside the Octagon.
Keys to victory
Unlike other fighters, Brian Ortega’s keys to victory are not straightforward at all. Yes, he may have the best submission skills in the division, but he is up against one of the most dominant wrestlers in the whole of the UFC.
If both fighters choose to keep the fight standing, it will be intriguing to see who gets the better of the exchanges and if “T-City” can use the slight reach advantage he has over the former lightweight champion.
What is your prediction?
Steven is a Mixed Martial Arts journalist and analyst from the United Kingdom.