Quickfire Analysis: How Dustin Ortiz headkicked Matheus Nicolau
In the year 2018, UFC President Dana White began his axing of the 125-pound division in a complete disregard of talent, action and history, forcing numerous names to look elsewhere for work in spite of their winning records or vast potential. As we know, the weight class would remain intact, with Brandon Moreno now leading the way for its new wave of talent.
While flyweight is certainly an enjoyable weight class to watch in the current climate, it suffered a dent during its short-lived execution phase as many ranked fighters and prospects had their promotional careers cut short. One victim of this purge was talented wrestler Dustin Ortiz, a ranked 125-pounder with the division’s elite. After years of repping the UFC banner, he was released in early 2019 as part of the second wave of cuts.
Ortiz shouldn’t have been put out of work. It really is as simple as that.
In this article, we’ll take a look at his last UFC victory which displays a number of his deep skills.
Making his professional debut over a decade ago, Tennesee’s Dustin Ortiz (19-8) tore through the regional ranks, accumulating a record of 12-2 before receiving his call to the big show. Although he had only been competing for three years, he was more than ready to make his mark on the flyweight division.
Following a successful debut in November of that year, Ortiz returned in January, fighting an incredible four times throughout the course of the calendar year. Its all the more impressive when you factor in his competition: John Moraga (L), Ray Borg (W), Justin Scoggins (W) and Joseph Benavidez (L), all highly skilled athletes; three of which being title contenders. He finished the year sitting #13 in the rankings.
For the remainder of his UFC tenure, Ortiz would claim five victories and four defeats, but as usual, context is necessary when listing facts such as this one as like the previous paragraph, three of the four men to best him were former or future title contenders. Losses to only top-ranked opposition speaks volumes in MMA: Ortiz was a consistent top #10 flyweight and his wins, especially the 15-second KO of Hector Sandoval, would be celebrated more if he belonged to a heavier division. Because unfortunately, the truth is, many don’t give a damn about the ‘small boys.’
In terms of skillset, it’s safe to call Ortiz a well-rounded fighter. While he isn’t the most elite striker or wrestler, he’s able to hang with some of the best in those departments, with his thrilling 2019 rematch with Joseph Benavidez proving so. When running through his wins within the UFC, it’s standard to initially bring up his split decision encounter with Ray Borg or 2018 triumph over Alexandre Pantoja as both have aged well over the course of time. Rather than discussing these pair of wins, today’s focus will be on Dustin’s model performance against newly re-signed UFC competitor Matheus Nicolau.
July 28, 2018 – Dustin Ortiz vs Matheus Nicolau – UFC on Fox 30
To put it lightly, UFC on Fox 30 was an incredibly stacked card full of action and exciting martial artists, with a rematch between Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier taking precedence on the podium. On top of a former lightweight champ making an appearance, divisional GOATs (Greatest of All Time) Jose Aldo and Joanna Jedrzejczyk came out victorious on the main card. Further on down the billing, an explosive flyweight fight between ranked contenders Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau was locked in, with the winner likely receiving a top-6 opponent next.
Nicolau entered as a -200 favorite, showing just how highly he was rated by oddsmakers leading into his fourth UFC bout. Ortiz was determined to earn some respect and prove why he was one of the sports more under-appreciated flyweights, and he would do just that in more dramatic fashion than before.
Ortiz began the fight with his typical wide stance, switching stances and changing levels to give his opponent different looks. This kept Nicolau guessing, taking him longer to find his groove and get comfortable.
Nicolau was forced to fight on the outside due to Dustin’s pressure and constant feints, not wanting to be caught rushing in. Despite looking like he had free space, he was routinely being cut off by Ortiz, who would change stance according to wherever the Brazilian was moving.
The two would handfight to get a feel for range and force openings, with this playing a big part in the eventual finish.
After getting a read, Ortiz switches to southpaw, knowing that Nicolau will move away from his power side and circle left. A nicely timed cross lands, but the hook that follows – the punch intended to do the most harm in this exchange – is swiftly ducked by Nicolau. Nicolau is in the process of throwing the exact same combination and narrowly misses a lead hook of his own.
Ortiz was doing a good job not biting on the feints of Nicolau, who was aiming to create some space and decrease the pressure.
As Nicolau moves backwards and cuts an angle to get space, Ortiz continues to cut the cage around him. A throwaway punch is used to mask the switching of stances, which in itself is used to throw the headkick. His aim (aside from connecting) was to force Nicolau backwards in a straight line, thus pinning him against the cage and in a vulnerable position. Bantamweight Randy Costa executed this maneuver over Journey Newson as he disguised the kick with a punch, pushing him directly backwards. Matheus Nicolau, on the other hand, has fairly good ring awareness, meaning he knew precisely where he was and what to do at that moment.
Following this, Ortiz, who had shown the high kick a couple of times that evening, met his foe in the center of the Octagon, not wanting to be put on the outside himself. He aligned another kick to the head, this time not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
Using his left hand to gauge the distance, Dustin took a step backwards to find the correct range to kick from. Another feel for distance was followed by him stepping forwards and pivoting off his lead foot, maximizing power as he threw the headkick.
Nicolau was quick to block the shot but would still endure its power, finding a new home in the canvas. Accurate ground and pound strikes would force referee Keith Peterson to intervene, waving off the bout 3 minutes and 49 seconds into the first round.
This win extended Dustin Ortiz’s win streak to three, and as mentioned prior, a date with a top-ranked flyweight would be on the cards next. He would go on to drop another decision to Joseph Benavidez and was then subsequently cut by the promotion in a move that baffled the industries hardcore fanbase.
Since his release from the UFC, Ortiz has signed with Bahrain-based promotion BRAVE CF, where he holds a record of 0-1. At the age of 31, he still has plenty more to offer top-flight organizations, the UFC included; Kai Kara-France and Rogerio Bontorin are only two potential matchups that’d provide fans with countless moments of entertainment.
Flyweight is and will continue to be one of MMA’s greatest weight classes. The unwarranted slander projected by those unfit to recognize talent never fails to both amuse and startle the educated. But sadly, it will continue. Nevertheless, we must see fighters such as Dustin Ortiz make their way, or return to the UFC. Tremendous skill at such a high-level should not go ignored.