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UFC 253: Kara-France vs Royval Breakdown

On Saturday evening, we are treated to a double title fight, but just before that, we get to see 2 surging Flyweight prospects. Royval, a contender series alumni, and Kara-France, an Ultimate Fighter contestant. Both men are coming off a win, although Kara-France is the more experienced, Royval went through a former title contender in his debut, Tim Elliot. Kara-France vs Royval broken down below.

Kai Kara-France

Kai Kara-France is a 27-year-old Kiwi mixed martial artist. 9-1 in his last 10, he’s a surging prospect, losing to only the obvious #1 contender at the weight class, Brandon Moreno. It was a hotly contested match, with the judges being required to determine the victor. After the Moreno defeat, Kara-France went on to defeat Tyson Nam in a fantastic 3 round battle.

Fighting in the UFC is a dream come true for Kai. A Maori, Kara-France comes from the native people of New Zealand, where he trains with some of the world elite at City Kickboxing. Joining him there, he has UFC Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, Lightweight contender Dan Hooker, Featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, another featherweight in Shane Young and another lightweight in Brad Riddell. 2019’s Gym of the year winners, Kara-France has the best to learn off of.

Whilst preparing for this next bout, Kara-France has gone to his own extremes to ensure success. Recently announced to be living at the Gym due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, it only shows the commitment levels from the Maori warrior.

Brandon Royval

Brandon Royval is a 28 year old former LFA Flyweight Champion and current UFC Flyweight contender. Fighting out of Colorado, Royval is a product of the Factor X Muay Thai team. Another large Gym, he gets to train along side Ian Heinisch, Youssef Zalal and others.

After getting the call-up to the UFC, Royval was scheduled to face Tim Elliot in his debut. Whilst most people have an unranked or even another debutant in their first fight, Royval had a former title contender to face. Despite it being a closely contested match, Royval ran away the victor with a beautiful arm triangle.

Somewhat wholesomely, Royval announced after the fight that with a $50k bonus, he would be able to make MMA his full-time job and hand in his notice. Since then Royval has been able to commit full-time to MMA!

Fight Breakdown

Whilst coming from City Kickboxing, you come to expect a certain degree of striking prowess, and that’s exactly what Kara-France brings. He’s an orthodox kickboxer, usually with a lower wrestling-like stance. Similar to teammate, Volkonovski, Kara-France has a few City Kickboxing traits.

He likes to start low, orthodox and work off of his jab. As well as a brilliant stabbing jab, he’s got similar footwork to the Feathweight champ as well. The most obvious City Kickboxing traits are his false entries. Everything is set up with a feint or a false entry, usually to draw a minute reaction from his opponent.

Here, you see the false entry, followed by another level-change and a low straight right into the body was fired. Another combo well-liked by France is the Jab-Uppercut. Usually set up by another false entry, it will be thrown as a feeler a few times, with the intentions of forcing the opponent into a level change, so that they’re coming down into the uppercut.

To avoid this, Royval would do a lot worse than to initiate a grappling exchange. Welcome the level-change and force a clinch, and reach for the single/double leg takedown. If the former LFA champ can get the fight to the mat, then he may have considerable success. Whilst not a poor grappler, France will be looking to keep this standing. Royval made his UFC debut against former high school wrestler and BJJ black belt, Tim Elliot. After some beautiful grappling exchanges, Royval sunk in a beautiful head and arm triangle to force the Vet to tap.

If he can’t get the fight to the ground, he needs to be early of the lead leg of Kara-France. Instead of using it to poke and prod his opponents, with Teeps or front kicks, it’s used almost identically to Volkonovski. Mostly leg and body kicks, it’s almost exclusively his front leg used. This is usually less powerful, but it’s a sneaky shot. It comes up from the opponent’s blindside and is incredibly hard to predict.

Here, Kai throws the lead leg kick, however, Nam counters it with the low right hook. Whilst being a good weapon, Kara-France tends to leave his head on the centre line whilst throwing it, so Royval could look for a counter, or even fake the counter and shoot for the take down.

Another shot that Kara-France likes is the Body roundhouse. As good a shot as it is, again, it leaves him open for a counter as his head is right down the centre line.

Prediction

I think Kara-France keeps it standing and runs out with a decision victory. If it goes to the mat I see Royval dispatching of France early on, however I don’t know if he will be able to get it there.


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