UFC Fight Night 203’s co-main event is a look at one of the UFC’s surging bantamweight prospects and a former title challenger looking to reinsert himself into the title picture.
After earning his way into the UFC in 2017, China’s Song Yadong proved a force to be reckoned with when he dispatched his first four opponents, three of which by devastating finish. Following this, a majority draw against Cody Stamann materialized, before Song resumed his winning ways against Marlon Vera, another top talent at 135lbs. A loss to Kyler Philips would serve as Song’s first and only UFC loss to date, but the step backward did not deter the man nicknamed “The Kung Fu Monkey”, and two following victories against Casey Kenney and Julio Arce brings Song’s record up to date. However, of all the names littering his record, none have the prestige of Moraes.
A former champion in the World Series of Fighting, Moraes may have been one of the most anticipated names to come over to the UFC in 2017. Although his debut did not go as planned, the Brazilian standout proved it did not define him, then going on to win four fights in a row including former 125lb title challenger John Dodson, future champion Aljamain Sterling, and two contenders Jimmie Rivera and Raphael Assuncao. In less than three years in the promotion, Moraes earned a title shot against Henry Cejudo, and after a competitive first two rounds, eventually fell in the third. Since then Moraes has struggled to regain his glory, earning an impressive win against future Hall of Famer Jose Aldo, an outlier surrounded by disappointing losses to other top fighters. However, in each fight Moraes demonstrated that he is as dangerous as ever, the most recent being, bringing Merab Dvalishvili to the brink of unconsciousness before evidently gassing himself out and losing in the next round. In front of him now, Song Yadong does not possess the name value of his most recent foes, but a solid win would put him back on the correct track, if he loses, Song Yadong may just emerge as the next generation of Bantamweight title challengers.
Although less experienced, the surging Song will ride his momentum into the fight as the -270 favorite against Moraes.
- Moraes: +220
- Song: -270
Song Yadong is dangerous everywhere but his preferred method of victory is striking. He is a scrappy young fighter with a lot of talent and being brought up in a good camp via Team Alpha Male. Subsequently, not only does he improve every time we see him in the octagon, but he often demonstrates totally new looks and changes to his style, sometimes coming out in a long spring stance, sometimes with a high posture and patient approach. Most recently, Song seems to utilize a wide stance but is fairly upright, which allows for much mobility. He will patiently walk down his opponents with leg and body kicks but explodes quickly when an opportunity presents itself. Often this takes the form of shifting from his upright position into a long step through and dipping movement which he can use to throw the overhand right and then the following stepping left hook. This is particularly used when he has forced his opponent into a distance from the cage where they will get caught and stuck in place for the hook. He also uses his forward pressure to draw out his opponent’s attack, at which point the faster Song can punch down the pipe to intercept them.
Moraes also tends to lean towards striking, although he will likely be the more well-rounded fighter in this match-up. Song likes to kick from the outside before bridging the gap and has become famous for the speed with which he delivers the left switch kick to the head. It is very likely the two men will engage in a battle of kicks early, as they both have confidence in this area, and both pose so much of a threat in the pocket if one were to enter carelessly.
However, inside the pocket, their defensive approaches differ. Song is great at both slipping and countering at the same time, it’s a common occurrence to see him slip the straight and counter as both men punch in unison. For Moraes, he looks to slip and weave and then return afterward, the upside to this is it allows him more control of his own balance when he strikes back, so his combinations tend to be a bit smoother and longer up close. The benefit to Song’s style is it often catches his opponents as they come in, doubling the force of the impact. The longer the two spend inside the pocket exchanging favors Moraes, but if Song can manage to move in and out and exchange in bursts, his style becomes more effective.
I do not see Song looking for many takedowns. Both men have an advantage on top as neither are specifically guard players, but Moraes is by far the more experienced jiu-jitsu artist. Should Song fail and end up reversed or swept, it’s far more detrimental on his side than should vice versa occur. The other aspect that plays a factor is that Song tends to look for scrambles in order to get back to his feet when taken down, whereas Moraes poses more of a threat in terms of submissions, more specifically he is known for his guillotines and other neck attacks which are most concerning as a takedown counter. If Song can knock Moraes down, that is probably the more likely reason we see him in top position, but don’t be surprised if Moraes looks to shoot on Song at some point, especially if he is hurt or finds himself losing exchanges.
In terms of skill level, I think this fight is extremely competitive. Song represents the next generation of fighters, he is as fast and strong as anyone and his technique is just as sharp. Moraes has a smoothness to his style that only comes with years of championship-level experience but one major factor also has to be considered outside of skill. Moraes has sustained tremendous damage over his career and in his most recent performances, he has failed to take some shots I believe wouldn’t have been as much of a problem a few years ago. Especially inside of the pocket, the sequences of these two men’s boxing combinations will be like a chess match, however, I see Song surviving more punches than Moraes can, and eventually as the two collide, Moraes drops first.
Prediction: Song Yadong to win via KO
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.