Born February 21, 1991, in Los Angeles, California, Brian Ortega is a standout contender in the talent-stacked UFC Featherweight division.
Nicknamed “T-City” due to his triangle submission proficiency, the BJJ specialist finishes high-level opponents standing and grappling. He’s been a featherweight champion in Respect In The Cage (RITC), Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA) and UFC title challenger; all in a relatively short time span of sixteen professional fights. This is a martial artist that has consistently produced entertaining wins throughout his rise to the heights of the MMA world.
Ortega grew up in San Pedro, California in section 8 project housing, his parents having moved there from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. He has talked frequently about how being raised in the L.A. harbour area meant that he saw a lot of violence from a very early age.
At thirteen years-old, Ortega began training BJJ (he now has a 1st degree black belt) under Rener and Ryron Gracie at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy, which was to become a lifelong source of stability for him. After a year of training, Rener Gracie offered to cover Ortega’s training, providing he helped out at the academy. When Ortega dropped out of school, Rener told him that he could only continue training if he stayed in school until he graduated.
He progressed quickly in MMA, having his first amateur fight in an underground show aged fifteen, with Rener and Ryron Gracie cornering him. When he was sixteen, Ortega’s cousin was murdered and he lost multiple close friends in the years that followed. BJJ, MMA and the relationships formed through these arts were an escape at points of tragedy.
At seventeen, Ortega found another crucial mentor in the boxing coach James Luhrsen. As someone who had grown up in the same environment as Ortega, he had a different approach to the now highly touted BJJ ace. Upon meeting Ortega, Luhrsen told him that the friends he was associating with were holding him back and dragging him down.
He offered to train him and made clear that having been in the same circumstances he was intent on helping him find a way out. Ortega faced a baptism of fire in going straight into 3 rounds of hard sparring with Luhrsen and two of his brothers. Yet the outcome was mutual respect, with Luhrsen shortly afterwards agreeing to join T-City’s corner for his final amateur bout. After that, they made a pact to seek championship gold in professional MMA.
Ortega began working his way up through the Southern California professional circuit. Despite his grappling advantage, he seemed more inclined to turn his bouts into standing fights.
The chaotic violence in his upbringing is evident in the cage, however, his composure remained as the fights got crazier. Ortega won the RITC belt in his fifth pro fight, enduring the championship rounds with a dislocated shoulder. After winning the RFA featherweight championship T-City signed with the UFC and rose quickly through the featherweight rankings.
Having tapped out elite black belts such as Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson, Ortega is one of the few successful practitioners of traditional Gracie Jiu Jitsu fighting at the highest levels of MMA today.
In his title fight against then champion Max Holloway, T-City demonstrated the grit and toughness that has characterized his entire career. His comeback against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung saw huge striking improvements and returned him to title contention.
Now you’ve got the back story on the featherweight contender, after a few biographical details, let’s get into the hotlist of “T-City’s” best and most vicious finishes – as we breakdown Brian Ortega’s Top 5 MMA Finishes (in descending order)!
Brian Ortega’s story is one of martial arts offering someone an alternative to so many of the challenges in their environment. While not everyone can imagine the circumstances he lived through, many can relate to the stability that martial arts brought Ortega through such trials. T-City continues to teach and train at the Gracie Academy, orienting his life around the pursuit of martial arts. OK, so onto the list!
- Vs. Thiago Tavares — UFC Fight Night 68 (June 6, 2015)
- Vs. Diego Brandão — UFC 195 (Jan. 2, 2016)
- Vs. Clay Guida — UFC 199 (June 4, 2016)
- Vs. Cub Swanson — UFC Fight Night 123 (Dec. 9, 2017)
- Vs. Frankie Edgar — UFC 222 (March 3, 2018)
Tavares was only T-City’s second fight in the UFC and as a highly experienced opponent, marked a significant step-up in the competition stakes.
Ortega was able to take the fight to the ground quickly, threatening an armbar in the first minute of the fight. Working off his back, he was able to successfully secure a sweep to mount.
The fight was highly competitive, Tavares as a skilled grappler with strong wrestling control was able to land heavy ground and pound in the second round. Part of what makes this fight so impressive is how long Ortega worked from the bottom position without success before the fight went his way.
The second round saw Tavares have more success, landing heavy ground and pound yet Ortega seemed undeterred. While both fighters were landing heavy shots in the third round, it was T-City that got the knockdown at 3 minutes 48 seconds.
From here, he secured mount to get the TKO finish via some solid punches.
Brandao, a veteran of 35 professional fights at the time offered a significant threat armed with speedy and powerful striking.
In response to this, Ortega demonstrated more patience than he had previously, evasively circling out and away from danger. In many instances T-City sought to implement his game plan through bringing Brandao into his guard.
At 3 minutes 51 seconds into the third round, he established head and arm control. He then quickly dropped to the ground, rolling into an anaconda. From there Ortega transitioned into a mounted guillotine before switching to a triangle as Brandao attempted to stand up and escape. This allowed Ortega to put more pressure on the choke forcing Brandao to tap.
Guida presented certain stylistic difficulties in being a good wrestler with a crouched stance that would be very difficult to shoot on, or tie up.
Again in this fight, Ortega demonstrated the durability of his chin, taking hard overhand shots then returning fire. T-City began to increasingly pick his shots as the fight progressed, finding the openings in Guida’s high guard and the timing on his own counterstrikes.
As the punches that he normally relied upon were not getting through, Ortega began implementing more kicks and knees. He connected with a knee at 4 minutes 40 seconds of round 3 (just as Guida was ducking) to score the knockout.
As a BJJ black belt with a diverse striking arsenal, it was unclear where exactly Ortega would find consistent success in this, his first 5-round UFC fight. This makes it all the more impressive that this fight effectively has two submission finishes.
At the end of the first round, Ortega secured head and arm control then wrapped Swanson up in an anaconda at 4 minutes 48 seconds Swanson gets saved by the bell.
In the second round, Ortega went from clinching against the cage to establish control over Swanson’s head then jumping to a guillotine. T-City then readjusted his grip mid-submission to apply more pressure causing Swanson to tap.
Facing a former UFC title holder in Frankie Edgar was Ortega’s toughest challenge to date. It was a late notice one, with Edgar’s title fight having fallen through. The combination of difference in experience and the fight being late notice was thought to give Edgar a significant advantage.
The former lightweight champion had been preparing for a longer, 5-round fight and had the requisite knowledge to break down Ortega’s game as the fight progressed.
Stylistically, it was a difficult match-up in that Edgar had never actually been ‘finished off’ by anyone at this point in his career. Bringing a wrestling background, good footwork and striking that left few openings, it was thought that Edgar negated many of Ortega’s usual advantages. Additionally, Edgar’s last win had been a dominant display against another highly touted prospect – striking ace, Yair Rodriguez.
The first round starts with both fighters looking to stay relatively safe and establish their range. Edgar was pressing the action early, initiating with leg-kicks while Ortega was looking for his jab while switching stances and circling round. Edgar took the centre of the octagon early, occasionally blitzing forward to bring the action close to the cage. Yet Ortega’s movement and his high rear hand proved largely effective at preventing Edgar’s four punch combos from landing.
The first clinch came from Ortega throwing a leg kick that Edgar caught and sought to turn into a single leg takedown. Ortega immediately goes for his neck, seeking control to set up a guillotine. Edgar hand fights against Ortega’s grip and they both disengage.
Having consistently landed his jab, Ortega began to see openings when Frankie was blazing forward in straight lines. Edgar went for a double-leg which Ortega blocked with underhooks under Edgar’s arms late in the round. Rather than circling out, he stepped forward as Edgar kept moving in. Switching to orthodox stance, T-City landed a very clean lead elbow across Edgar’s face at 4 minutes 29 seconds of round 1 that clearly wobbled him.
To maintain this momentum, Ortega followed up with a flurry of punches and a head kick that crashed against Edgar’s guard. This was followed by a right hand that had Edgar backpedalling. It was a complete switch-up from the careful and evasive way he had fought thus far. As they clinch and Edgar looks to survive the round, Ortega finds space for a perfectly placed uppercut that takes Edgar off his feet. Ortega follows up on Edgar with strikes as he is down but the referee quickly steps upon seeing that Edgar is out.