Octagon Oracles: Benoit Saint-Denis

Drew Beaupre

Grade: A-

Undefeated welterweight Benoit Saint-Denis will look to continue his torrid finishing streak when he steps into the UFC Octagon for the first time on Saturday.

At twenty-five years old, Saint-Denis has already managed to put together an 8-0 record after only starting his career in 2019. While his Brave CF debut against Pawel Kielek in late 2019 originally ended as a loss due to doctor’s stoppage, it was later changed to a no contest when it was ruled the cut Saint-Denis sustained was caused by a clash of heads.

Following that bout, “God of War” finished his next four opponents in Brave. His most recent fight in August against Arkaitz Ramos ended by arm-triangle choke in the first round, giving Saint-Denis his seventh submission win and eighth stoppage from his eight pro wins.

The Frenchman’s MMA game is built around his wrestling and submissions, and though he’s willing to stand and trade he typically uses his striking to force opponents to the fence so he can look for takedowns.

A natural southpaw, on the feet his best strike is his left kick to the body. He’ll throw it two or three times in a row if he’s having success with it, and occasionally throw it high as well. His hands tend to be a bit less precise, as he swings a little wildly at times and tends to carry his guard rather low. While he’s been hit solidly a few times in his career he’s yet to be rocked, and his chin has aided him well in striking just long enough to be able to get the fight to the mat.

While Saint-Denis has shown patient striking in order to set up his takedowns, in some of his bouts he’s been happy to shoot a double leg straight after the opening bell. As mentioned previously, he’s at his best when he can get his opponent to the fence and work for takedowns from there.

“God of War” is always looking for submissions from any grappling exchange, whether it’s from his own takedown attempts or those of his opponents. While he’s obviously had great success with this given the finishes on his record, he does occasionally give up dominant positions in order to chase submissions. It hasn’t caught up with him thus far, but some opponents have been able to reverse position and/or look for their own takedowns in those scenarios.

He certainly has some holes in his game that need to be addressed, but given that he’s twenty-five and has only been a pro for two years I’m very high on Saint-Denis’ potential. Now that he’s in the UFC I’d love to see him move to a bigger camp where he can develop his game further, particularly his striking.

Zaleski dos Santos is a tough opponent to debut against, but welterweight is an extremely strong division and Saint-Denis isn’t going to be handed any easy matchups. With his current skillset I think he can have some solid success mixed in a few losses he can learn from, but I’m hoping his overall game really starts to come together in the next couple of years.

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

James Colwell

Grade: B+

Benoit Saint-Denis is a young and talented submission artist out of France who was ranked as my #14 welterweight prospect in the world before the UFC signed him. He made his pro debut early in 2019 and has finished all 8 of his fights so far, with the majority coming by way of a variety of submissions.

He’s faced pretty good competition so far, as his opponents’ records were: 0-0, 4-0, 2-0, 7-1, 38-34, 13-4, 15-4, and 6-2. Those last 4 fights were all for Brave, and he was almost certainly in line for a title shot in his next fight for the promotion if the UFC hadn’t come calling.

Saint-Denis is in incredible physical condition, even by the high standards of MMA fighters, and his explosiveness is apparent when he moves around the cage or engages in grappling. He has some power in his strikes and will throw some heavy kicks, but his technique is not very refined in that area and he could use some time with a boxing coach to sharpen his jab and other fundamentals.

What makes Saint-Denis such an exciting prospect is without a doubt his submission ability. He is always looking for submissions and is often unpredictable in what he targets, as he may be setting up a choke then suddenly decide to attack an arm or leg instead. He will sometimes sacrifice dominant position to chase the finish but so far his strength and skill in scrambles have prevented any of his opponents from taking advantage of those openings. His wrestling is also very good, as once he gets his hands on someone he is able to take them to the fence with relative ease then use a variety of trips or throws to take the fight to the ground.

The only real problem I have with this signing is that I think it may be a couple fights too soon into Saint-Denis’ career. He’s 25 years old and has only been fighting professionally for 2.5 years, so he’s still raw in some areas that could easily be improved if he were given time to challenge a few more high-level prospects in Brave. His striking is particularly concerning given that his first opponent is Elizeu Zaleski, a dynamic and creative striker who will attack in ways that Saint-Denis has never seen before.

It should be a very exciting fight, as I see Zaleski getting the KO if it stays on the feet but I think Saint-Denis could steal the victory by submission if he can manage to take his opponent down. If he does lose, I expect he would get matched against a slightly easier opponent for his second fight, and I see him sticking around the UFC long-term thanks to the constant submission threat that he offers.

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