Octagon Oracles: Mike Malott

Grade: B+

Mike Malott’s thirty-nine second submission of the previously undefeated Shimon Smotritsky on Contender Series 2021 earned him a UFC contract, and he’ll make his promotional debut against Mickey Gall at UFC 273 on Saturday.

The quick finish of Smotritsky on Contender Series was nothing new by Malott’s standards; all of the Canadian’s wins have come inside the first-round, and the latest of those was only two minutes into the fight. His lone loss came against Hakeem Dawodu in 2014 when he was finished by strikes in the first round, and in his next fight he went the distance for the first and so-far only time in a majority draw with Thomas Diagne.

The Team Alpha Male-trained fighter keeps his hands relatively low and uses a lot of bouncing, in and out movement when striking. He relies heavily on his jab, frequently doubling it up before throwing a right hand behind it as he gets a better sense of his opponent’s timing. “Proper” will also show some stance switches but is clearly most comfortable fighting from orthodox, and he’ll mix in a variety of kicks to keep his opponents at range and allow him to work that jab. In close Malott also has shown effective knees from the clinch, which allow him to both deal damage and encourage opponents to return to exchanging with him at range.

While he’s certainly comfortable on the feet, Malott does a good job of mixing in takedowns and is especially good at timing double-leg attempts in space when his opponents come forward. Ideally Malott will look to take the back straight away and either get hooks in or establish a body triangle to control his opponent while hunting for a rear-naked choke. The speed he showed in locking up a choke after rocking Solomon Renfro was particularly impressive, and with four submission wins Malott is as much a threat to finish on the ground as he is on the feet.

Malott made his pro debut in 2011 as a nineteen-year old featherweight, so with a 7-1-1 record the now thirty-year old welterweight hasn’t been especially active in his career so far. He went 5-1-1 from 2011-2017 before a nearly four-year layoff, but returned with a massive win against the undefeated Renfro. Presumably Malott spent that layoff developing his game, but given the quick results against Renfro and Smotritsky it’s tough to gauge any improvements without seeing him go a bit deeper into a fight. That being said, one potential advantage of having fought so infrequently is that he may not have the same type of mileage that can catch up to fighters that make their pro debuts as young as he did.

“Proper” is well-rounded and definitely appears UFC ready in terms of his skill and athleticism, but the competition in the UFC’s welterweight division will push him a lot more than he has been up to this point in his career. Quick-finishes are obviously a good way to get attention for yourself, but I’ll need to see Malott go deeper into fights before I can gauge what his ceiling will be in the UFC. The Canadian absolutely dominated Thomas Diagne in the first round of their fight in 2014 and earned 10-8 scorecards from two of the judges, but noticeably slowed down as the fight went on which resulted in the eventual majority draw.

Malott has also been a bit vulnerable to having his lead leg kicked and has been knocked down a few times (including against Renfro) but has shown good recovery aside from the bout with Dawodu, so hopefully that’s not a major point of concern going forward. In some of his earlier bouts he showed a tendency to overextend and leave himself open to counters, but in this matchup with Mickey Gall the Canadian should have a pretty clear advantage on the feet.

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