The Severe Spotlight: Brandon Royval

May 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Brandon Royval celebrates his victory by submission against Matt Schnell during UFC 274 at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At this moment the UFC are in a strange place. Cards do not feel as personal, as thought they are not given as much attention to detail. The production of the cards feels tailored toward the vast schedule of events, over the once intimate nature of telling the story of the fights and the fighters. The roster itself is being diluted of the most exquisite talent in the world, in favour of taking chances on outside fighters in the hope of finding a self-made star. It feels, as though we are rapidly declining away from a fight card, and more into a fight show.

UFC 274 in the valley of the sun, in some ways felt as though an apt place for the sun to set between the valley of the old and the valley of the new eras in the UFC. Charles Olivera after being stripped of his title due to his controversial weight miss, stepped into Justin Gaethje’s world. He met him in the depths of the fire and the brimstone, and met the volcano with nuclear fusion, dropping Gaethje 3 minutes into the third, and finishing him with a rear naked choke shortly after. Dana White stated after the weight miss that Oliveria would be number one contender, but don’t hold your breath.

Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza contested a strange affair for the strawweight title. In the preview show with Ian O’Neill it was discussed that Rose was the superior fighter almost everywhere, and that played out in the fight. But Rose refused to engage after taking the first two rounds to make reads and frustrate Esparza. She, whilst being the more skilled fighter, did not implement a gameplan that allowed her to land damage. Esparza, whilst largely failing to implement her wrestling style, was able to land more.

Sadness is the emotion left in the mouth after Tony Fergusons loss to Michael Chandler. Tony Ferguson has never been knocked out in his career, being stopped only due to accumulation of shots in the hellacious beating he took at UFC 249. He rode into this fight with a point to prove. The once owner of a 12-fight win streak in the 155lb division now with just a 3-fight losing streak to his name. In the first round he fought well. Standing his ground and landing well with his counter shots. The beginning of the second round, Chandler right out of the gate landed a front kick as perfect to the jaw as you will see, crumpling Tony face down on the mat. The camera panned over him, as he was rolled over by the medical team, panic and confusion tattooed across his face. The future is uncertain for Tony Ferguson.

OSP won a split decision over legend Shogun Rua in a poor fight. Randy Brown took a win over Khaos Williams, showing his ever-growing skillset. Francisco Trinaldo whilst showing some horrendous fight IQ, took the win over England’s Danny Roberts. Macy Chiasson took a split decision win over Norma Dumont, in a fight that could have gone either way and Blagoy Ivanov out steeled Marcos de Lima.

After a stale set of early prelims, the crowd were saved by a nailed-on barn burner. Brandon Royval does not understand what a measured approach to fighting is. Matt Schnell is no stranger to seeing if his fireworks make a louder bang than the neighbours either. From the referee telling them to fight, they met in the middle bearing their arsenal. Royval opening with a front kick right hand, Schnell countering with straight shots.

Royval’s chaotic style, and his fluid shot selection is primarily rooted in his trust in his scrambling ability in the grappling exchanges. His fights with Tim Elliot and Kai-Kara France are fine examples of this. He leaps and bounds in his southpaw stance, an array of low kicks, setup, and naked, high kicks, melded with a viscous volume of straight and looping shots. He constantly looks to disrupt the rhythm and pace with awkward head snaps, clinch exchanges.

The deficiency is the same as his strength, the reckless abandon means that he gets hit, it means he fights with his chin up. It means that he often throws oddly angled shots over the top of straight shots, knowing he’s going to take them, just to give them. It means that he throws shots when he is off balanced, leaving him in detrimental situations. Matt Schnell warned Royval with a slip left uppercut, snapping the head back. Moments later, Schnell countered a Royval right hand with a right hand of his own, Royval’s head in no mans land, and landing clean on the jaw, sent Royval crashing to the canvas.

Such chaos however is a place Royval prides himself on thriving in. His back has yet to hit the canvas and he is looking to reap Schnell’s leg, looking for leg locks. Failing to find a bite of the heel, he finds himself in a leg drag, so up he gets into turtle, immediately granby rolling, regarding and getting back on the offensive. He is looking for omoplatas, gogoplatas, a guillotine. After failing to wrap up the omoplata due to Schnell’s good posture, he transitions immediately to a far side K-guard, again looking to invert on the legs. Schnell did a good job of clearing the knee line and attempting to high step out, however Royval still manages to knock him to a hip.

Schnell Is turning in, Royval is coming up. Royval runs right into a guillotine attempts from Schnell, who re-adjusts for the arm-in variation and rolls up to mount. Using the momentum of the roll to mount, Royval posts on the hips, bridges and turns in. This takes the forearm from the oesophagus, loosening the tightness of the choke. Royval’s reversal allows him to end up in a lateral position to Schnell, meaning that Schnell will have a tough time engaging his shoulder and lat, to break the posture of Royval, and finish the choke.

Recognising this, Schnell releases the choke, gets his frames in, and creates space, looking to come up. What does he come up into you say? A Brandon Royval guillotine. Royval shoots the arm-in guillotine and sits his hips immediately under Schnell. The conventional leg configuration to finish a guillotine is the same side leg as the choke is being applied, the shin is across the hips – this is to act both as a barrier to stop the person being choked get close, but also as a method for the person applying the choke to extend their opponent out, and break posture even further. The second leg is draped over the back, this is to stop the person being choked running round to a lateral position, taking the pressure off the choke.

Royval creates space with his hips and digs his arm through further for more of a high-wrist variation of the choke. It is likely he felt Schnell’s shoulder engaged well defensively, making it hard to finish the arm-in variation. Engaging his lat and crunching his bicep into the side of his lat, Schnell is tapping before Royval locks up a “Buddha” style hand configuration, which goes to show how tight that guillotine truly was. Really slick work from Brandon Royval.