At UFC 253 Fight Island, Brandon Royval (12-4) showed up as new blood in the shallow ranks of the men’s flyweight division. Royval took on The Ultimate Fighter 24 veteran Kai Kara-France (21-9). “Raw Dawg” had complained about not having a chance to show his striking in his debut against Tim Elliott (16-11-1). Luckily Kara-France was happy to oblige Royval on the feet, and we got to see one of the craziest first rounds in 2020.
UFC Fight Island: Brandon Royval vs. Kai Kara-France
“Don’t Blink” came out with a few feints. Royval began throwing kicks, his first connecting but being mostly blocked. Kara-France managed to land a counter low-kick as Royval tried to land another high kick causing the UFC newcomer to land on his backside. Kara-France let Royval get back up and conceded ground as Royval pushed him to the cage. Royval started opening up once Kara-France hit the cage. Kara-France could have circled out, but Royval rushed forward into a naked low kick, and Kara-France cracked him with a straight right hand. Royval dropped but immediately posts up and tried to get back to his feet. He lost balance once again, and Kara-France rushed in. Brandon Royval regained balance and threw a spinning elbow, connecting on the New Zealander and hurting him. This all happened in the first 30 seconds of the fight.
Kara-France was dropped and stared to shoot for a double leg. Royval charged forward, nearly landing a knee to the head of a downed opponent. Luckily Royval only hit Kara-France in the neck and shoulder. Don’t Blink managed to secure the takedown, but Royval started working on an omoplata. Raw Dawg managed to isolate Kara-France’s right arm with his left leg. Royval then moved his upper body into a position where he could better threaten to tear the shoulder. Kara-France defended well by grabbing the inside of his right leg.
Madness from the Beginning of the Bell
Kara-France then tried to peel Brandon Royval off of him while getting to his feet. Royval changed the angle of attack to an armbar and then back to the omoplata with his legs while at the same time attacking Kara-France’s right leg with his arm, forcing Kara-France back down. Kara-France tried to reverse position into a single leg takedown. Royval was able to deny the takedown attempt and maintain top control, cutting through and trying to get into mount but maintaining side control. Eventually, Royval maintained top position with Kara-France continually trying to get back up.
Royval followed Kara-France in top position and managed to take his back as Kara-France tried to shrimp and escape. The New Zealander kept active and stopped Royval from taking his back. Kara-France then managed to avoid further scrambles and made space to get back to his feet.
Royval followed Kara-France up. The two began measuring space before exchanges. Royval did well to mix up boxing with kicks and started to use knees as well. Kara-France continued to give ground, blocking and avoiding most shots but eating a knee now and then. Don’t Blink tried to rush forward but ate an elbow from Royval. Kara-France tried his best to punish Royval as he came in, but he was continuously overwhelmed. Royval thred a body kick and then followed it up with a knee as the New Zealander was backed against the cage. The knee landed flush and sendt Kara-France down. Royval snatched onto a guillotine but was stuck against the cage and struggled to find the leverage.
Pressure Breaks All
Kara-France escaped and wound up in Royval’s guard. Royval started attacking his arms, so Kara-France stood up. Raw Dawg felt an opportunity and managed to trip Kara-France by grabbing the back of his legs as he tried to escape Royval’s arm attacks. The two men separated and got back to their feet. The American continued to pressure his opponent. Kara-France tried to fire back with some kicks but was counter kicked by Royval.
Raw Dawg was firing without concern, and Kara-France could have taken his feet out from under him with a counter kick. Royval got back up, and Kara-France rushed in, eating a knee in the process. The New Zealander stayed in the pocket and tried to deliver damage, but Royval answered with offense. Kara-France was forced back once again. The two men continued trading, with Royval managing to get the better of Kara-France through sheer output. The final shots of the break-neck paced first round were both men throwing elbows in the clinch.
The Beginning of the End
The second round began, and Royval continued to pursue Kara-France. He pawed at him with his lead hand, occupying Kara-France’s hands and attention before unloading with a high kick. Royval threw and connected with a one-two before Kara-France circled out off the cage. The American intercepted Kara-France and landed an elbow. Both men threw hands and Kara-France had some success in the boxing exchanges. Royval landed a knee to the body that forced Kara-France back and triggered the beginning of the end. Kara-France was forced to backpedal by Raw Dawg coming forward. The New Zealander hit the cage as Royval continued to pour it on. Kara-France, looking to change the dynamic, somehow hit a double leg shot on Royval. Royval jumped on the guillotine, securing it while Kara-France was still standing. Royval cinched up too quickly for Don’t Blink. Raw Dawg finished Kara-France 49 seconds into the second round.
UFC Fight Island Brandon Royval vs. Kara-France Analysis
At UFC Fight Island, Brandon Royval got to showcase a great deal more of his skill set in his fight against Kara-France. We learned that Royval is a must-watch. Raw Dawg came forward relentlessly. He is a man with no fear of what’s coming back at him and an ever-increasing desire to hit his opponent whenever he can. His grappling game is uniquely oppressive within the context of the men’s flyweight division, as he was able to ride out Kara-France for significant portions of their fight. He repeatedly attacked Kara-France when placed in bad positions and tried to advance his positions whenever possible.
Royval’s pace and fearlessness overwhelmed the New Zealander. But it’s also clear there’s a measure of craft and intention hidden within the madness. For instance, his use of knees on a shorter fighter as an answer to pocket exchanges. His hand fighting to deny Kara-France the jab and subsequent feints. Kara-France is forced to concede ground by Royvals feints, Kara-France is pushed closer to the fence. Royval is a force to be reckoned with in the division. He has the height and reach to bully many smaller fighters and comes forward without the fear of God or any man.
Brandon Royval Shows Us What He’s Got
Kara-France showed great heart and an ability to hang within the fire. While Royval was able to back him up, Kara-France made sure Royval had to pay for it each time. Don’t Blink also had extraordinary success in the pocket exchanges, before Royval used his elbows. Kara-France made sure everyone knew who the striking specialist was, despite the skill gap in the grappling exchanges. Like always, Kara-France made a good showing of himself, and his stock has been maintained despite the loss. Royval is something to be excited about in the flyweight division, but there are some things we should be concerned about.
Royval Shows Promise and Some Things to Worry About
While there is a lot to look forward to in the career of the self-deprecating fighter, there is some cause for alarm. Brandon Royval’s tendency to throw low kicks in boxing range should have fans worried. Kara-France was able to catch him on one leg early in the first and hurt him. Royval was able to survive through grit and his crazy offense. Royval also lacks finesse in pocket exchanges. He often throws his punches with bent elbows, which means they don’t have the range or speed they would if he threw correctly; heavy-handed counter punchers like the current flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo (19-1) would be a nightmare for Royval.
The American needs to come forward, and disregard for the consequences makes beating the sitting champion quite tricky. Figueiredo’s ability to counter opponents coming in means that Royval would get tagged hard and often. Getting hit a lot doesn’t help win fights. Figueiredo is a difficult man to grapple and will have the athletic advantage. Raw Dog could use his pace as a weapon and try to tire the champ out, but that would still require him to survive the first few rounds.
The aptest comparison to Royval’s game would be former lightweight interim champion Tony Ferguson (25-4). Both men are unorthodox strikers and grapplers. Both weaponize pace and try to overwhelm their opponents. Finally, both men use spinning attacks at moments when their opponents come onto them and land with devastating consequences. Even their defensive flaws and ability to recover are the same. The main difference between the two is that Ferguson is by far the better athlete. Ferguson has a more significant reach compared to his height. He is more durable and has a better gas tank. Royval seems to have a more systematic approach in which each action works in conjunction with one another, but the goal is to produce a chaotic fight that pushes the pace on the opponent.
If the UFC doesn’t ruin this prospect, he may be an exciting new addition to the upper echelons of the flyweight division.
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