Two must-watch lightweights return to the octagon at UFC 281. Submission specialist Renato Moicano and Muay Thai veteran Brad Riddell will fight on the main card before Adesanya and Pereira make the walk.
Renato Moicano last fought in March when he stepped in as a last minute replacement to fight former champion Rafael Dos Anjos, a major risk as he was riding a two fight win streak and had not prepared for five rounds. Regardless, Moicano put on a show, endearing himself to fans by demonstrating a blood-and-guts spirit and bringing Dos Anjos to the final bell despite having to constantly rally from difficult situations. He will now get a shot to get back in the win column with a full camp against Riddell.
Brad Riddell originally started his combat sports career as a kickboxer, earning a 69-10 record over that 10 year portion of his career. Most notably under his belt is a win over the famed John Wayne Parr at the Boonchu Cup in Caged Muay Thai. Since making the move to MMA he has built himself a respectable record with wins over Magomed Mustafaev and Drew Dober but will be returning on the back of two losses. Most recently Jalin Turner and before that Rafael Fiziev, the man who Moicano replaced against Dos Anjos.
Brad Riddell will come in as the slightest of underdogs at +102, meaning that a $100 bet will earn $102 back as prize.
Renato Moicano is an especially dangerous fighter due to a combination of his particular skills and tenacity. He isn’t the most agile or creative striker but he has quick hands and string on every shot, meaning he could easily be losing on the scorecards but put the lights out in a second. This also means that while Riddell may have dominant success working on the outside, if at any point he extends himself too far inwards, Moicano is like running into a buzz saw if he’s not careful. The most dangerous shot to look out for is his left hook as well. However, what’s more dangerous than running into his strikes is running into his takedowns, Moicano is very good at slipping punches and getting to the single-leg takedown. Even if he cannot fully penetrate with the shot, this does often allow him to drive to the cage and finish the takedown with his clinch work, where he can initiate some kind of tangled position and try to drag his opponent down to the mat with him. He is extremely calm and patient with his groundwork, as he transitions smoothly and usually finds his way to the back, attacking with his signature rear naked choke. However, position over submission is a consistent factor and he never rushes to a finish that isn’t there.
It’s no secret that while Moicano has the advantage on the floor, Riddell needs to keep it standing. He fights with a high guard and explosive footwork. Against Moicano who primarily works with his hands, watch for Riddell to chip away at his lead leg with fast low kicks and body shots. Riddell often hand-fights the lead guard just to slip back and land a kick or whip out his jab; because of these two alternating looks he is difficult to get a read on in the first round. Ideally, long shots like his jab and kicks are the best weapons against Moicano who will be looking to bridge the gap in any way possible.
Riddell will have to weigh the risk and reward of being the aggressor or keeping near the cage, as Moicano gets most of his takedowns on the fence, but Riddell also has a far better chance of neutralizing Moicano’s jiu-jitsu on the cage. What we have seen from Riddell is an ability to use the fence to wall walk back to his feet and even reverse position, but he has improved greatly in his anti-wrestling and offensive wrestling in recent fights. The biggest thing for him will be discipline, as good as he has gotten with his wrestling there’s no need to take that risk against Moicano if he can avoid it, and emphasizing footwork, patience, and long strikes is important in this one.
I do think the physicality of Riddell will be an issue for Moicano if he can’t get the initial takedown. Riddell has gotten very good at rallying back if he is against the cage with his counter-wrestling, and as long as he can stay true to the game plan and disengage afterward, I think the differential in striking skills from the outside makes the biggest difference.
Prediction: Brad Riddell to win (bet now at MyBookie)