Octagon Oracles: Chris Curtis

Drew Beaupre

Grade: C-

Three years after an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series and thirty-four fights into his MMA career, veteran Chris Curtis will finally get his UFC opportunity at UFC 268 against Phil Hawes.

Following a win on Contender Series that failed to earn him a contract, Curtis competed in the 2019 season of PFL and has most recently put together a five-fight win streak on various regional promotions. Four of those wins have been in 2021, and he’ll look to end the year on a high note with this UFC debut.

“The Action Man” doesn’t have an especially complex MMA game, but it’s served him well in a pro career that dates back to 2009. A natural southpaw, he rarely throws kicks and prefers to get things done with his boxing.

Curtis will double up with his jab in order to set up his left hand, occasionally mixing in straight punches to the body as well if opponents leave it open. His head movement can leave fighters hitting air when he’s confident, but he also has a habit of covering up with a high guard and leaving his body open when opponents put volume on him. Likewise, his boxing stance leaves his lead leg particularly susceptible to leg kicks.

While his takedown defense is far from airtight, he’s able to stuff obvious or desperate attempts and will try to create space to stand up when he is taken down. One area Curtis has excelled in is knowing when to go to the mat in order to get a finish. Even after a knockdown he’ll avoid chasing his opponents to the ground unless he’s sure they’re compromised enough for him to set up his ground and pound.

It’s great to see a journeyman like Curtis finally get a chance in the UFC, but Hawes is 3-0 in the promotion and will likely come into this fight looking to utilize his wrestling. At thirty-four-years old and with the same number of fights under his belt, hopefully the UFC will keep Curtis around for at least a few more bouts beyond this one.

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: D+

Chris Curtis is a dynamic striker, and his nickname “The Action Man” tells you everything you need to know about his intentions in the cage. He was originally signed as a short-notice replacement back in October to take on Phil Hawes after Deron Winn pulled out of the fight, but that fight got delayed until this weekend to give both fighters more time to prepare.

Curtis has compiled an impressive 26-8 record during his 12 years as a professional fighter, but the problem is that most of those losses have come against all the best opponents he’s faced. A notable exception came in his 3rd-round TKO win over Andre Fialho during the 2019 PFL season, but his overall record of 1-3 for PFL is a better representation of how he matches up against top talent. He had a previous shot at the UFC with a Contender Series appearance in 2018 but wasn’t signed despite getting a highlight-reel KO with a hook kick because his opponent was relatively low-level but still exposed some holes in Curtis’ game plan.

To put it bluntly, Curtis just isn’t that great at wrestling his way out of bad positions on the ground or against the cage. He’s never been submitted but has a number of decision losses on his record where he was controlled throughout the fight by better grapplers. He’s always a threat to land a big shot with his crisp boxing and will sometimes pull off unconventional and unexpected strikes, but he’s not set up for long-term UFC success.

Adding to the problem is that Curtis is most naturally a welterweight. He’ll fight at middleweight or even as high as light heavyweight on the regional scene because he’s a showman before anything and never seems to turn down a fight offer, but in the UFC middleweight division that lack of size could be a real issue. The Hawes fight should be a perfect test of whether he can hang with the big boys, as Hawes is a large and muscular 185er with a strong wrestling pedigree. I expect Curtis to come out on the wrong side of a lopsided decision in this one, but he does always have a puncher’s chance thanks to his natural power. He’s always fun to watch and should earn some new fans during his UFC run, but I just don’t see him lasting very long in the promotion.

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