Daniel Vreeland takes a deep dive into one of UFC 266‘s prelim fights. This week: Nick Maximov vs. Cody Brundage.

The Stats

Cody BrundageNick Maximov
6-1 (0-0 UFC)6-0 (0-0 UFC)
Englewood, ColoradoChico, California
6’1” – 72” Reach6’0” – 76” Reach
Factory X Muay ThaiNick Diaz Academy
Cody Brundage vs Nick Maximov – Tale of the Tape

Leading Up

Maximov will be making his UFC debut in this fight, and he also comes to us by way of The Contender Series. He took a short notice fight on the show up at heavyweight, despite middleweight being his natural class. Weighing only 209lbs, he still managed to beat Oscar Cota, but didn’t look good enough to win a contract. Dana did extend an invite for him to be part of the middleweight division of TUF 29, but he seemingly passed on the opportunity. That move seems to have worked out as he hasn’t taken another fight, but still finds himself making his debut here. Before fighting Cota, most of his bouts were against low-level pros with very little experience. While being the most experienced opponent, Cota was the only one who was not finished by him.

Cody Brundage comes to us by way of late replacement. This fight originally was supposed to be Maximov against Karl Roberson, but Roberson pulled out of the fight on Wednesday. Brundage is one of those names the UFC has had on standby after appearing on The Contender Series. Arriving at that fight at 5-0, he fought up a weight class at 205lbs against William Knight. While he didn’t win the fight, he looked excellent in the early going before getting caught with some elbows. He got right back at it after that fight and took a fight at LFA 99 against Joseph Kropschot. He picked up an arm triangle finish in the third round, which undoubtedly put him right back on the UFC’s radar.

Styles Make Fights

Maximov

From what you can see in the limited moments Maximov has been both on his feet and on a camera, he isn’t too comfortable striking. He does the fundamental things right – he keeps his hands up, is light on his feet – but he lacks the ability or confidence to string all that much together. While on the Contender Series, we saw a big overhand right and a decent lead head kick. Both of those strikes were followed with a takedown attempt within a second. Some may make the assumption that his striking has more depth thanks to his work with the Diaz brothers. However, I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption at the current moment.

I’ve outlined all the reasons to doubt the striking of Maximov at this stage in his career. On the other hand, his grappling leaves very few questions to be answered. When in on the legs, Maximov drives through exceptionally well. This even happens when he’s been initially stuffed. He cuts angles expertly to aid in finishing the takedown. He’s also shown that, when he is on the bottom, he can reverse the position with relative ease. The lone problem he seems to have with his grappling comes from his striking. Because he does not spend hardly any time disguising what he’s looking for, the shots are sometime telegraphed or from too far away. He managed to work through that on the Contender Series, but it remains to be seen how that will work with faster and more skilled opponents.

Brundage

The striking of Brundage is really not all that different from that of Maximov. In the majority of his bouts, it appears to be a means to an end. It’s all there to try to get the takedown later on. What we do see out of him on the feet though is a much more comfortable striker than Maximov. His kicks don’t seem particularly concerned with leaving him open. He throws an overhand right with bad intentions. However, like Maximov, most of those are regularly followed up with one of those takedown attempts. The overhand typically had the takedown attempt right after it. The kicks, on the other hand, are a bit more varied. He’ll double up on kicks with one to the legs and one to the body. I’m not even sure he’s not thinking about a takedown when he throws them, but he doesn’t look like he’s panicked for one at all times at least.

While his desire to be on the ground is of a similar magnitude to Maximov, their styles once getting there are quite a bit different. Both greatly prefer to be on top, but Brundage relies on it a bit more. From his back, he appears to have a lot fewer ideas or just less of a willingness to use them. You’ll also see a lot heavier of a ground and pound game from Brundage, with less reliance on submissions. In addition, the submissions you will see from him are a lot less varied. He has the standard wrestler’s package of submissions – leaning most heavily on arm triangles and rear-naked chokes.

The Clash

The dynamic of this fight is one that will largely be placed on the shoulders of Cody Brundage’s intent. Should he decide that they are not actually going to spend any time grappling, I think he’ll have a pretty easy time in this fight. He is a far more polished striker and the gap in their skills is clearest there. He not only looks more comfortable up there, but the fact that he isn’t constantly two seconds away from a takedown attempt means that there is more guesswork for Maximov. His kicks are his best weapon, but if he recognizes the match-up here and looks to avoid the ground, he’d be better served to abandon those and just light Maximov up on the feet.

Some people might say that Brundage is a better wrestler. I’m not 100% sure that is true, but even if it is, it seems like the wrong move to lean on it. Maximov is well-versed off his back thanks to loads of submission grappling experience on Submission Underground and other shows. He also has some solid counters and sweeps, which Brundage had trouble with when facing William Knight. If it does hit the ground, I don’t think it matters who instigates the action, because I think Maximov is going to find an advantage.

Final Verdict

Taking this fight on just three days’ notice means that Brundage has had little time to gameplan or review tape. Luckily for him and his team, Maximov is about as easy to read as they come. With a brain behind him like Marc Montoya, I expect Brundage to come in with a willingness to throw and intention to stay out of trouble on the ground. I also expect to see some improved striking working with a striking guru like Montoya. If my assumptions about his strategy and development are true, he should cruise to a victory here. I’ll take him by late (T)KO with Maximov waning late in the fight due to all the failed takedown attempts on shots from too far away.

Daniel "Gumby" Vreeland has been an MMA writer for over a decade. He currently hosts The Top Turtle Podcast and is a member of the UFC's ranking panel.