Octagon Oracles: CES Vet Kris Moutinho

Kris Moutinho walking in the CFFC cage after his win. Kris Moutinho is getting the UFC call-up following a win in CFFC. Photo Credit: CFFC / UFC Fight Pass

UFC 264 wasn’t initially set to have any newcomers. The 13-fight card is packed full of experienced UFC fighters and will be headlined by lightweights Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

That plan, however, changed dramatically a week ago when Louis Smolka (17-7) had to pull out of his fight against “Sugar” Sean O’Malley (13-1). O’Malley needed a new opponent, and many were quick to call out the bantamweight prospect. With little time to spare, UFC landed on promotional newcomer Kris Moutinho (9-4) as his opponent.

Moutinho enters the UFC after five years on the regional scene. The majority of his career has taken place in notable regional promotion CES, where he has attained eight wins and challenged for their title.

Moutinho earned his ninth pro win earlier this year, submitting Bellator alum Andrew Salas on a CFFC card. Now, he gets a chance at the big stage.

The Octagon Oracles crew assessed Moutinho before his pay-per-view debut.

Zac Herbison

Grade: C
Moutinho is an aggressive striker who’s at his best when he’s pressuring. He throws damaging strikes without overcommitting often. When he’s in control, he puts out an impressive volume of strikes. He has strong cardio, which appears endless due to his rationing of power. He hasn’t demonstrated a very strong takedown game, but he’s shown an active top game when he has ended up on the ground. He’s also a BJJ threat off his back. He can be very dangerous. When he’s not in control, however, and has to rely on his defense, the danger shifts in the opposite direction.

Moutinho hasn’t shown much propensity for or even interest in checking kicks or blocking strikes. He relies on either backing away from strikes in a straight line, or just eating it on the chin until his own strikes can make his opponent stop throwing. While backing up straight is pretty effective in MMA, it’s his only line of defense. Someone like Sean O’Malley is able to exploit that. If Moutinho can’t shut his opponent down with volume and aggression, his game becomes pretty thin.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion

Kristen King

Grade: C
Kris Moutinho has a tall order to fill. He is making his promotional debut on perhaps the biggest pay-per-view event the UFC will put on this year and it is against Sean O’Malley, a fighter that has been pegged as a future star in the bantamweight division. The fight between Moutinho and O’Malley was also pulled together on about a week’s notice, so this definitely isn’t the most ideal situation for the newcomer. However, I believe it is a little unfair to completely write off Moutinho as some sort of sacrificial lamb being led to slaughter. We have heard this adage used repeatedly in the sport, but it remains true: anything can happen in MMA. Moutinho has a chance to do the unexpected come Saturday night. The question now is very simple: will he?

Moutinho has a scrappy approach to his fights. He likes to keep things standing, but he allows himself to get caught up in the “take one to get one” game and that can either be a good or a bad thing depending on the opponent. If necessary, then Moutinho will incorporate his wrestling and he does a pretty solid job up against the cage and on the ground. As fun as he is to watch, I have some concerns about the kind of damage Moutinho takes and what that means for his UFC career. For now, I see him getting a few more fights before his departure from the promotion.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
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A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
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Title Contender
Champion

James Colwell

Grade: D-
Moutinho is the sort of fighter that you’d love to see highlighting a local show in your city, as he is an aggressive fighter and is not scared to take risks in his pursuit of a finish, even if it sometimes costs him (all of his career losses come by finish). Despite his exciting style, seeing him signed to the UFC was a shock and seeing him matched against Sean O’Malley was an abject disappointment. Moutinho’s only faced two real top-level opponents in his career, those being current UFC bantamweight Tony Gravely and recent Bellator addition Johnny Cambell, and both men finished him with strikes during his only two fights in a very disappointing 2019. He’s since recorded a second-round TKO over 3-0 Ashiek Ajim, who had a little bit of hype but had proven nothing as a prospect, then got a third-round submission over 6-5 Andrew Salas in his debut for CFFC. That last fight was booked as the main card opener out of five fights, so even a regional promotion thought they had numerous fighters more worthy of highlighting in a relatively average card.

The matchup against O’Malley feels like a set-up fight in the hopes of getting another highlight-reel knockout for the “Sugar Show” so that the UFC can justify continuing to give him prominent spots on their cards without truly testing him against a well-rounded veteran. Moutinho is far from a bad fighter, but he was nowhere to be found in my top bantamweight rankings or prospect rankings coming into this week, and those lists contain over 500 bantamweights around the world. Given the number of UFC roster members and unsigned top bantamweights around the world who took to social media to offer their short-notice services after Louis Smolka withdrew, Dana White and the UFC could have signed many more competitive fights, or if they really wanted to give O’Malley an easy win they could have gone with younger, less-known prospect who offers more hypothetical upside for the future. Unless Moutinho pulls off the upset of the year, I see him losing this week then likely being matched against other prospects expected to beat him for as long as his UFC tenure lasts.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion

Tom Albano

Grade: C+
Moutinho gets a heck of an opportunity to make his UFC debut, though it’s going to be an insanely difficult challenge against Sean O’Malley. But after this fight, win or lose, will Moutinho find long-term success in the UFC?

Moutinho has spent nearly all of his professional MMA career so far in CES, which includes losses against current UFC fighter Tony Gravely (21-6) and current Bellator fighter Johnny Campbell (21-13). He was most recently in action in May, competing at CFFC 96 and submitting Andrew Salas (6-6).

Moutinho has a jiu-jitsu and wrestling background, but he seems to prefer to keep fights standing and get into striking battles. In fact, he has just one win by submission in his career thus far.

It’s great to be a well-rounded fighter, but Moutinho may find himself in trouble if he tries to bring this approach of a striking-heavy skillset, rather than use what he’s best at. Just because it works for someone like Justin Gaethje doesn’t mean it will work for Moutinho.

Moutinho is decent but he still feels like he’s got more to learn and needs some more experienced opposition. The UFC isn’t doing him any favors by starting him off in this matchup with O’Malley. Moutinho feels more like just a body rather than someone we should be excited for, and that’s a bit of a shame considering he’s a former CES title challenger.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion