Thu. Sep 29th, 2022

When was the last time someone lost a fight in the UFC and subsequently gained over 100,000 followers on social media? It isn’t often that an athlete’s stock rises after losing, but that’s exactly what is happening to Kris Moutinho, a replacement fighter who debuted on Saturday at UFC 264. 

Moutinho (9-5 MMA, 0-1 UFC) of Massachusetts was offered a fight on 11 days’ notice. The opportunity was presented after Louis Smolka was forced to withdraw from his bout against rising prospect, Sean O’Malley (14-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) in the opening matchup of the main card. Considering the circumstances, Moutinho became the largest betting underdog on the roster. 

You can’t teach heart

Several minutes into the first round and it was evident that Moutinho was focused and well prepared. O’Malley landed shots, but so did Moutinho. As the fight progressed, Moutinho trailed behind significantly in strikes, but continued to display heart and grittiness. Now being dubbed the “Zombie”, Moutinho’s pace and pressure were relentless, causing O’Malley to take deep breaths while apprehensively glancing at the clock between combinations. Still, Moutinho absorbed 230 significant strikes over the course of nearly 3 rounds.  

With only 27 seconds remaining in the fight, the bout was waived by veteran referee Herb Dean. Though Moutinho remained standing and engaged, Herb clearly had seen enough. As the outcome was declared a TKO victory for O’Malley, the audience roared with congragulatory cheers for not only the victor, but for Moutinho and his incredible display of character and resolve.  

Kris Moutinho (Blue Shorts) and Sean O’Malley (Green Shorts) exchange blows in the first round at UFC 264.

What’s next for Moutinho?

Moutinho nearly went the distance with one of the promotion’s biggest rising stars on short notice. Despite the outcome, it’s hard to imagine the praisable fighter hasn’t earned himself a UFC contract. Kris Moutinho has an exciting style, and one that would stand well against other contenders in the UFC 135 pound division. 

In addition to his base pay earnings, Moutinho’s performance was so impressive that he received a $75,000 bonus. Along with the extra prize money has come the approval of the MMA community at large, including UFC president Dana White, and even his opponent, Sean O’Malley. Perhaps many of us are now Moutinho fans for the same reason we love the Karate Kid and Rocky Balboa. The world needs an underdog, and the occasional reminder that a loss can be just as valuable as a win. 

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa 

Moutinho (Right) reacts as the referee stops the fight in the third round. (Credit: finance.yahoo.com)

By Jared Moehring

Growing up, I was never a big fan of other professional sports. While most kids inherited the NFL, NBA, and MLB teams rooted for by their tribes, I found joy in watching old Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. At the age of 13 I fell in love with the sport of wrestling, and that same year I watched my first ever MMA event, UFC 151: Brock Lesnar vs Cain Velasquez. My eyes glued to the TV in awe as the smaller man imposed his superior wrestling, which ultimately led to a TKO victory for Velasquez. As they say, the rest was history; I was hooked. Throughout the years, I've grown from "casual fan" to "doesn't miss a single round from early prelims to the main event." However, when I'm not creating or indulging in fight-content here in my home of Omaha, Nebraska, I enjoy camping and and exploring various national parks and forests throughout the country. Get to know me on Instagram: @jaredmoehring, or email me with any inquiries: jaredmoehring@gmail.com. Cheers!