[Ed. Note — This feature originally appeared on Combat Press prior to the scheduled fight between Jimmy Flick and Cody Durden at UFC on ESPN 19. After its publication, the fight was rescheduled for UFC on ESPN+ 42. The article has been lightly edited here to account for the change in events.]
The UFC flyweight division is currently experiencing a renaissance, with two consecutive pay-per-view cards headlined by the smallest male weight class in the company. Champion Deiveson Figueiredo has had an emphatic 2020, and rising contenders such as Alex Perez and Brandon Moreno have helped keep the division exciting. This weekend, the division delivers another stellar fight at UFC on ESPN+ 42, where Jimmy Flick clashes with Cody Durden.
The fight between Flick and Durden offers a chance for the winner to establish themselves in an already heated, but still nonetheless shallow division. It could even catapult the victor into a ranked fight.
Flick has been a pro for a decade now and has been wrestling since the age of three, “The Brick,” who has had a frantic 2020 campaign, imposes a submission-based style. After tapping Jesse Bazzi at Freestyle Cage Fighting 60 in February, Flick was signed by the Legacy Fighting Alliance and scheduled to fight for the organization’s flyweight title in July opposite Greg Fischer at LFA 86. Flick immediately got the fight to the ground. In just 38 seconds, he secured the win courtesy of an arm-triangle choke. With this, Flick recorded the second-fastest finish in LFA history, behind only fellow UFC flyweight Brandon Royval.
After capturing the belt, Flick was offered the chance to fight on Dana White’s Contender Series. He was matched against Nate Smith in September. Flick dominated the fight in which an immediate takedown was paired with sharp transitioning and relentless submission attempts. Moreover, when the fight was on the feet, Flick used his powerful kicks to hurt Smith. “The Brick” was two rounds up going into the final stanza, but his persistent pursuit for the finish was evident. Three minutes in, Flick transitioned to side control and locked up his patented arm-triangle once again. With no escape, Smith tapped, granting Flick his 15th pro win. As a result, Oklahoma’s Flick was awarded a UFC contract. He officially debuts with the company on Saturday.
With 13 of his wins coming by submission, Flick has undoubtedly demonstrated his grappling prowess. He looks to take all his opponents to the ground, submerging them with pressure and submission attempts. He has a preference for the arm-triangle, a technique that has garnered him three of his last four victories. Flick also has solid kickboxing fundamentals, and he is not afraid to stand with his opponents. Both his leg and body kicks are of particular potency.
Durden, Flick’s upcoming opponent, began his career in 2016. He amassed a 11-2 record and held a seven-fight winning streak coming into the UFC. His last five wins on this run were stoppages. He was offered the chance to step in against Chris Gutierrez at UFC on ESPN+ 31 in August. However, there were two issues: the fight was at bantamweight, and it was only one week away. Neither of these details fazed Durden, who stepped in on seven days’ notice and held the established Gutierrez to a draw.
The first round was all Durden. He got an early takedown, controlled Gutierrez’s back, and landed strikes as he searched for a submission. With over four minutes of control time, all three judges saw the first round as a 10-8 for Durden. However, with the fight being taken on short notice, Durden’s cardio waned. He was unable to get Gutierrez to the ground in the remaining two frames. Gutierrez controlled the stand-up, winning the two final rounds. As a result, the fight was declared a unanimous draw, with all three judges scoring the bout 28-28.
Whilst Durden didn’t get the win, it was always expected to be a challenge. If his performance in the first round can be emulated in the future, though, he will be a force to be reckoned with. His decision to move down to flyweight, if done correctly, could have massive benefits in terms of the strength and size advantage he will have over his opponents.
In a revamped flyweight division, both Flick and Durden have an opportunity to insert themselves in the mix. As demonstrated with the aforementioned Royval’s meteoric rise in 2020, the 125-pound weight class serves as a place where prospects can quickly turn into contenders. Flick and Durden each have finishing tendencies, and a first victory in the UFC for either on Saturday could spark their own ascent. With grappling expertise on each side, don’t be surprised if this fight hits the mat at some point.
Whilst the fight begins early, positioned on the prelims, it’s one to watch if you’re looking to scope out a new potential flyweight contender.
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