It’s often said that wrestling is the best base for mixed martial arts. The idea is that a wrestler can select whether to keep a fight standing or take it to the ground. If the wrestler builds a great striking arsenal, he can focus on defending takedowns and keep the fight standing. If the wrestler builds a polished submission game, he can take the fight to the ground and overwhelm his opponent there.
The problem is that the success of a wrestler depends on him doing one of those two things. When a wrestler fails to develop either his striking or his submissions… well, then you get Charlie Brenneman.
Consider that Brenneman has landed just as many significant strikes as he’s absorbed in the UFC: 112 strikes landed, 112 strikes absorbed. Now consider that Brenneman has landed 19 takedowns while his opponents have landed just two. Brenneman has spent the bulk of his time in the UFC in top position on the ground, but is even in significant strikes with his opponents anyway. Whatever advantage he gains in striking by being in top position is completely given back as long as Brenneman is standing.
To make matters worse, Brenneman has been knocked down five times for a ratio of 22.4 significant strikes per knockdown. To put this in perspective, Shane Carwin landed 32.8 significant strikes per knockdown in the UFC. Brenneman has such a glass jaw that it’s imperative for him to land takedowns quickly or risk being seriously hurt by strikes, as he was against Beneil Dariush, Kyle Noke, Erick Silva, Anthony Johnson, and Johny Hendricks.
Brenneman has one realistic path to victory against UFC-level opponents: land takedowns frequently and grind out a decision victory with exhaustive top control. To Brenneman’s credit, he did showcase a more polished submission game before his return to the UFC, but he has yet to even attempt a submission in nine UFC fights while his opponents have attempted 13 submissions despite just two takedowns.
It’s unclear if Brenneman will have a decisive edge in takedowns against Danny Castillo. On the surface, Brenneman and Castillo are nearly equals in terms of how accurately they land and defend takedowns. Brenneman has landed 42 percent and defended 71 percent; Castillo has landed 44 percent and defended 71 percent. They’re both good enough offensively to be capable of landing a takedown against each other.
However, those numbers need to be put in context. While Castillo has been fighting mostly non-wrestlers at lightweight, Brenneman has taken on a series of very tough wrestlers at welterweight. Castillo’s takedowns have been against opponents like Tim Means and Paul Sass while Brenneman has taken down opponents like Rick Story and Johny Hendricks. That’s enough for me to give Brenneman the edge in takedowns in this particular matchup.
Of course, this would hardly be the first time Brenneman has the edge in takedowns, and that hasn’t always served him well in the past. At the very least, Castillo should prove difficult to take down, and if Castillo can keep this fight standing for any length of time, there’s a very good chance he hurts Brenneman with strikes. Castillo is no knockout artist – he has just two knockdowns landed in his UFC/WEC career – but Brenneman has a way of making fighters look like they have serious knockout power.
At this point, Brenneman is just too fragile for me to pick him to beat any opponent who can adequately defend takedowns. As long as Castillo can keep the fight standing, it’s very likely that one of his strikes will drop Brenneman and lead to a finish, or that Castillo will have a decisive edge in points at the very least. Brenneman’s path to victory is too narrow for me to consider him a favorite to win.
Pick: Danny Castillo by TKO