Sunday, May 22, 2022

How ‘Green Zombie’ Kris Moutinho Achieved Victory In Defeat at UFC 264

In his UFC debut against Sean O’Malley, Kris Moutinho absorbed 230 significant strikes—the second most for a three-round fight in the franchise’s history. 

177 of those were to the head, mostly to Moutinho’s face, which during the fight was described by commentator Joe Rogan as “looking like roadkill.” 

Such was the punishment absorbed by the Portuguese-American that “Kris Moutinho face” is now one of the top-ranked auto-suggestions upon punching his name into Google—a search result that generates plentiful images of the 28-year-old’s features being mashed into a gnarled, bloody mess by the fists of “Suga.”

But this only tells half the story of what transpired during Moutinho’s debut at UFC 264. The other half involves the “Green Zombie,” as Moutinho was dubbed by Rogan during the fight, putting on a performance, which might go down as the most impressive debut losses in UFC history.

Sean O’Malley and Kris Moutinho face off at UFC 264: at T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Before a packed T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and millions watching at home, Moutinho was not only beaten savagely. He walked fearlessly into O’Malley’s buzzsaw of clinical strikes like a man possessed, constantly pressing forward and showing the heart of a warrior.

It must have been a jarring experience for the mammoth -800 favorite O’Malley, seeing this puff of green hair stalking him around the cage, the increasingly disfigured, dead-eyed face below casually eating his best shots, and even at one point dispensing some trash talk.

Moutinho looked like a smaller, younger Nate Diaz—feeding off his opponent’s precision strikes and lurching forward into power shots that usually send lesser mere mortals into the land of wind and ghosts. There were even fleeting moments where he placed O’Malley in genuine trouble.

For this, the “Green Zombie” has captured the hearts of fans and fighters worldwide.

Less than a week removed from the fight, followers of Moutinho’s aptly-handled @kris_is_souless Instagram have skyrocketed to 138,000, up from just over 3,000 prior to the O’Malley fight. And he’s received praise from a raft of fighters, including Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, and Daniel Cormier.

Cormier went so far as to express his fandom in person, telling the “Green Zombie,” at the time digging into a well-deserved ice cream sandwich, that he’s “the most savage son of a b*tch” he ever met.

And to think, none of this would have happened were it not for an unlikely alignment of circumstances that saw Moutinho plucked from obscurity and thrust into the brightest of limelights on the second-highest PPV-selling UFC card in history.

How The Stars Aligned For Kris Moutinho

For Moutinho, making his UFC debut against one of the franchise’s most popular stars in Sean O’Malley, on the main card of the infinitely more popular Conor McGregor, was a once-in-a-thousand-lifetimes opportunity. This is a man who, only a month prior, was working in a paint factory.

“I had a job where I was working 80 hours a week and literally this beginning of June, I decided I’m done with this,” Moutinho told reporters during UFC 264 fight week (h/t Essentially Sports). “I was working in a paint factory. I just ran a line, filled paint cans. Made okay money. But it’s not what I love. The only thing I have ever been happy with is fighting and training.”

Since 2013, the Massachusetts-raised Moutinho had been pursuing this passion for fighting professionally, to mixed results. He had amassed an 8-4 record in the Rhode Island-based Classic Entertainment & Sports MMA promotion before claiming a submission victory in the Cage Fury Fighting Championships on May 28 this year—a feat which Moutinho celebrated, curiously, by flopping to the canvas like a dolphin.

A month after his fifth career win, the stars aligned for Moutinho like he would never have imagined, when Sean O’Malley’s UFC 264 opponent, Louis Smolka, dropped out through injury. On June 30, Moutinho received the calling of a lifetime — the chance to fight one of the UFC’s biggest stars on 11 days’ notice, on what was billed as the biggest card of the year.

Given his underdog status, it seemed almost fitting that Moutinho was heralded of the news not by his manager or the UFC. Rather, he learned about this dream come true from online trolls, who let the 28-year-old know that because of it, he would soon be knocked out cold, before an audience of millions.

“I was getting DMs from random people telling me I’m gonna get knocked out and get beat up,” Moutinho told reporters during UFC 264 fight week. “And I was like, ‘Oh, man, what are you guys talking about?’ Five minutes after that, [my manager] called me back and was like, ‘Yeah, man. We got it. Just get ready, cut the weight, and let’s go show the world who I am.’”

Kris Moutinho — A Man Who Seized The Day

If Moutinho doesn’t already have a tattoo of “Carpe Diem” (Latin for “seize the day”), he should. Because that’s exactly what he did on July 10 in Las Vegas, in front of the city’s first live UFC crowd since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Catapulted so swiftly from regional MMA obscurity onto the sport’s biggest stage, many fighters would wilt under the pressure. Not Moutinho, however, who stepped onto center stage at UFC 264—an event that boasted ringside celebrities like Justin Bieber, Mel Gibson, and Donald Trump—like a fighter ready to shock the world.

Keep in mind that this is a guy who a month prior was jamming lids onto cans of paint for a living, in between losing every second bout on a regional cagefighting circuit whose spectatorship likely consisted of Moutinho’s parents, a man, and his dog. 

Add to this that Moutinho went into the fight against O’Malley an overwhelming +550 underdog, the “Green Zombie needed to pull off an upset of Buster Douglas-like proportions to gain victory.

Kris Moutinho O'Malley

But when the fight started, the roaring Las Vegas crowd quickly realized that this chest-tattooed, green-haired kid —known simply by most as the next victim to appear on Sean O’Malley’s KO highlight reel—was the real deal. Where Moutinho couldn’t match his opponent for striking, he more than did so for heart and relentless forward-moving pressure.

In the end, the fight was mercifully stopped with only 27 seconds left. In featuring as walking Wing Chun dummy to O’Malley’s clinic of precision striking, Moutinho was outlanded by 160 significant strikes—the highest differential ever in the UFC bantamweight division. His lack of evasive movement was glaring. Had you taped a level against the “Green Zombie’s” head, the bubble wouldn’t have moved for most of the bout.

Post-fight, for once, it wasn’t O’Malley stealing all the headlines. Sure, many proclaimed in sensational terms what O’Malley did to Moutinho. He had “crushed” him, “battered” him, left his face “looking like roadkill,” but they were equally complimentary of Moutinho, describing him as “granite-chinned” and his performance “Rocky Balboa-esque.”

To top it all off, Moutinho earned himself a handsome $75,000 cheque for his Fight of The Night performance along with legions of new fans.

Is Kris Moutinho A Star In The Making?

On a card that was dominated by flashy social media influencers like O’Malley, not to mention half-mad, Forbes list-topping Irish whisky magnates, Moutinho provided a refreshing contrast: a guy without pretensions who simply came to bang.  

Had he made his UFC debut in less favorable circumstances, Moutinho likely would have done so in the first fight on the early prelims, on one of the least viewed cards of the year. Now, he could legitimately command a place on the main card of a Fight Night. 

And if he’s victorious in fights to come, displaying the same grit which saw him steal the limelight on debut, the “Green Zombie” could fast become a fan favorite.

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