The UFC’s featherweight division officially has one lone undefeated prospect and that man goes by the name of Brian Ortega who is now 12-0, four being UFC victories. The Blackhouse MMA product would’ve had five had his UFC debut against Mike De La Torre in 2014 not been overturned after Ortega tested positive for drostanolone. Despite the setback, Ortega has managed to put it behind him and score an impressive KO win over Clay Guida last June at UFC 199 and a come-from-behind submission victory over the dangerous and previously undefeated, Renato Moicano at UFC 214. The win boosted him up the rankings as he finds himself sitting in the #6 spot behind the likes of Chan Sung Jung, Cub Swanson and Ricardo Lamas. His next fight is unlikely to come anytime soon considering the damage he took last Saturday, but it’s always fun to explore his options.
Chan Sung Jung or rather, “The Korean Zombie” was originally expected to fight Ricardo Lamas at UFC 214, but was forced out after rupturing his ACL and MCL on his knee in June. His return is likely to occur in the 9-12 month span and while Ortega is likely to return sooner than Jung, his activity rate hasn’t exactly been astounding. Last Saturday’s win was more than a year since his previous win over Guida. Ortega’s tendency of falling behind in fights is when the damage is usually done, which could be the reason for the long layoffs, but the end result is what matters the most and his formula of coming from behind has worked for him thus far. “The Korean Zombie” also has a knack for doing the same, which could make for a nice display somewhere down the line.
Ortega’s submission game is highly renowned and he put it on full display against Moicano with his back up against the wall. “T-City” has shown that he can strike as well as grapple, which is likely why he is now one spot ahead of Yair Rodriguez in the rankings. Rodriguez was given a huge opportunity against Frankie Edgar his last time out, so what does that mean for Ortega?
Ortega’s options ahead of him are not plenty at the moment, but what those options lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Cub Swanson is currently being courted by Jose Aldo for a potential rematch at UFC 217, but if plans fall through, Ortega would make for quite the replacement. Swanson is hoping for a title shot in the near future and his odds are better with a win over Aldo so it hurts Ortega’s chances of getting the fight, however there was another featherweight who put on quite the performance on the UFC 214 prelims.
Ricard Lamas blasted Jason Knight via 1st round TKO and Ortega would be a step up for Lamas in terms of rankings. Lamas is ranked third in the division and has suffered all his three UFC losses against Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes and Max Holloway. Those three names have either fought for the title or held the title at some point meaning Lamas is the optimal stepping stone for a guy like Ortega. The fight has the potential for a barn burner and would answer the question of whether the title picture will continue to revolve around the same names or instead be replaced by some new blood.
Another name that has been making waves in the UFC without even being ranked in the top 10 is Doo Ho Choi who also fell out of his scheduled bout at UFC 214 against Andre Fili. The legend of the “Korean Super Boy” has grown in such a short amount of time and while fighting the #12th ranked featherweight sounds like a step down for Ortega, it could land him a few fight bonuses. Sometimes performances outweigh rankings and Choi is one of those guys who carries an aura of skill that would make anyone who beats him seem like a world beater.
Ortega is only 26-years-old and could be described as a work in progress and barring any kind of injury, fans should expect more entertaining fights whenever he gets the call. You can bet the division has taken notice of “T-City” and his bag of tricks.