Kron Gracie had one of the most puzzling performances in recent history with his lackluster outing against Charles Jourdain at UFC 288.
Best known for his world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the son of famed grappler Rickson Gracie took nearly four years off between fights yet appeared vastly underprepared for an MMA fight in his return. Gracie barely engaged in any striking exchanges and his best offensive move was grabbing onto Jourdain and pulling guard, which didn’t really didn’t offer any positive results either.
Gracie ultimately lost a lopsided unanimous decision with UFC president Dana White later commenting that watching the fight made him feel like he was “coming out of a time capsule in 1995.” White didn’t say if he would offer Gracie another fight after a second straight loss in the promotion and veteran analyst Alan Jouban believes there’s an extremely wide gap to fill before the 34-year-old fighter could legitimately hang with elite competition in the UFC.
“He would have to evolve tremendously to keep a long career in the UFC,” Jouban said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Because he can go back from this and really sit down with a boxing coach and say ‘I want to really polish my game.’ But there’s technical attributes you can add to your game and then there’s just natural physical attributes and you can see physically, he’s not a natural striker or an evasive, elusive guy. He’s very flat footed.
“He’s a jiu-jitsu guy. He’s one of the best jiu-jitsu guys in the world and he’s warranted a lot of respect from that and that kind of inserted him into the UFC and these opportunities that he’s had. But when you come out like that and you look like you’re watching Royce Gracie at UFC 2 right here with the stance and the flat-footedness and pulling guard, it’s not a good look.”
Jouban definitely understands White’s criticism regarding Gracie’s performance because he had almost the exact same reaction during UFC 288.
“I was watching the fights and I’m going I can only imagine what Dana is thinking right now,” Jouban said. “Dana’s got to be pissed. Dana’s got to be on that red phone right now going what the hell? He’s got to be upset.”
Even in the moments during the fight when Gracie managed to pull guard, he never seriously threatened with submissions off his back but instead the featherweights often came to a stalemate before Jourdain inevitably escaped.
Jourdain obviously recognized that Gracie’s only chance to pull off the upset was to somehow drag him into deep waters in those grappling exchanges but latching onto him and falling to the floor was the only way the fight ever got to the ground.
The inability to even set up a takedown with strikes and then essentially just trying to goad Jourdain to engage with him on the ground alarmed Jouban, especially for a fighter competing in the UFC in 2023.
“When you see butt-scooting in the UFC, it’s not a good look,” Jouban said. “It doesn’t look like he’s evolved. You’ve got to at least be able to roll and grab a single leg. You’ve got to be able to do something or throw some better hands.”
That said, Jouban isn’t ready to close the book on Gracie forever because he still believes there’s at least one more compelling matchup out there for him.
It may ultimately be a one and done type situation but Jouban knows there’s another Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner with similar skills that could make for a fun fight if Gracie does get the chance to return to the UFC.
“You know what they need to do with him? They need to give him a jiu-jitsu guy and just make it a fun fight and see what happens there,” Jouban said. “Ryan Hall. Give him Ryan Hall and let’s see some crazy ass technical jiu-jitsu. Make it one of these featured fights where it’s like I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in this position and that position and make it fun. From there, we could see what happens but you can’t give him another very well-rounded UFC guy that’s going to stuff his takedowns.
“I say give him Ryan Hall. Give him one more opportunity to entertain the crowd with some kind of slick jiu-jitsu fight and go from there.”
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