Grading the Prospects: Brandon Ropati

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

This is the sixth in an UnderGround Blog series by Daniel Caton, on grading the prospects in MMA, similar to the way the NFL grades prospects, based on strength of competition, size, speed, agility, and martial arts background, among other factors.

Caton’s previous piece was on Elvis Mutapcic. Today he analyses Brandon Ropati, using a unique Prospect Grades formula, detailed at bottom.

In rating prospects, I allot points for the skill set+age+size+strength of competition to determined an Overall Score. The grade indicates potential for a particular prospect. It is determined by SOC+Size+Age/3= Potential Grade. The potential gives an outlook on the growth of the athlete and where they may be in the future. 

A fuller breakdown of how Prospect Grades work appears at bottom.

Brandon Ropati
Height: 6’1’’
Weight: 205 lbs 
Range: 74”
Age:  23                                   
Record:  7-0
Strength of Competition: Legends Fighting Championship/Shuriken MMA
SOC: 5 (0.9)
Size: 25   (2.5)
Age: 14   (4.0) 
•Boxing 2
•Clinch work 0
•Kickboxing 3
•Footwork 1  
•Positioning 1
•Chin 3
•Composure 0
•Cardio 4 
•Takedowns 2 
•Top Control 3  
•Transition 2
•Submission 4
•TD defense 2 
•Guard Work 2
•Escape ability 2
•Sub Defense 3   
Total Grade— 78 C

Build:  Brandon’s frame is that of an NFL running back.  A stocky bullpen frame with thick thighs and a roadmap back.  His shoulders and upper body are well defined and strong.  Unlike some with his frame, he’s not top heavy.  He carries good balance and spring in his legs.  The New Zealand native isn’t encumbered by his muscle stature.  If he wasn’t still growing his future might have been at 185, but he’ll continue to pack on more mass and compete at light heavyweight.   

Pros:  Ropati has a great base of gifts to work with.  His frame will be able to carry around ten to fifteen more pounds of muscle and not affect his speed.  He’s already quite strong and carries great balance, possessing a nice hip base for grappling.  Brandon hails from a land renowned for kickboxers and he’s no exception – gifted with power in both hands, particularly the right).  He has a nice clean right leg with which he targets legs, midsection, and even the head.  The New Zealander does a wonderful job of using it to gauge range.

The real gift for him is that he’s learned the ground game.  He’s an accomplished grappler internationally, notching wins at Abu Dhabi and No Gi medals in Vegas.  Ropati has a great submission arsenal from the top.  He’s able to transition well and uses his strength to gain leverage.   He also does a wonderful job of throws when he clinches up. He has good cardio and could use it to his advantage in the future.

Cons:  Brandon is young and still needs refinement in areas.  His takedowns lack the pop that someone with his size should have.  And they lack technique.  In his most notable win over Sam Alvey he showed lapses in open singles and trips.  Moreover, he showed he can get caught out of position.  At times, he let Alvey push the pace and influence his direction of attack.

We also see that he’ll need improvement from the bottom.  He has a good guard, but he doesn’t use it to attack.  His BJJ game is purely a top game.  He’ll need to be able to escape from his guard and get back to his feet in the future, because in the light heavyweight division, some of those guys end fights with GnP.  The other issue is time; he’ll need to just develop more overall.  He had Alvey worked in the conditioning of the fight, but he didn’t use it.

Overall:  Ropati is strong and young.  He’ll continue to grow and his competition will get better.  The future is bright, as the weight class he competes at doesn’t have many blue chip prospects.  His age is going to allow him to grow over the next few years.  We’ll see improvements in his wrestling and striking for sure.  He already has knockout power and a solid kicking game.  His takedowns and bottom game should develop as well. 

His scores are indicate where he is now.  Four fights from now, he’ll be a different prospect. He’s already a talented big young prospect with a bright future.  He’ll be able to use his size for defense and offense.  And he’s willing to develop his submission game which is always a plus.  He’ll be a top 20 fighter for sure, possibly a top 10 guy if given time to develop.   I think an MFC or Legacy should give him a look now and snatch him up before he catches the eyes of the UFC.  We should see an influx of New Zealand talent over the next three to five years.  He’ll be the first wave thanks to Mark Hunt and TeHuna.

Prospect Grades uses a numerical building block system of grading, where fighters are awarded points based on:
•Strength of competition
•Skill set

Strength of Competition:
30 base points: UFC (four or more fights)
20 base points: Strikeforce
16 base points: Bellator (who have done an astounding job at signing young talent)
12 base points: TitanFC/OneFC/MFC/KOTC/LEGACY
5 base points: Any shows below

Prospect points for size range 10-40
Size points potentially weighs heavily in the score total, as size is frequently the attribute that separates the Jon Joneses from the rest of the stable.

Skill Set:
1-7 Prospect Points are awarded in a number of categories. If there is a glaring hole, negative points can be awarded.
Striking (Offense)
Clinch Work:__
Striking (Defense)
Grappling (Top Game)
Top Control:__
Transition Ability:__
Submission Ability:__
Grappling (Bottom/Defense)
Takedown defense:__
Escape ability:__
Submission Defense:__

The retirements of Chuck, Tito, Randy, etc, which are being followed by the retirements of Pride legends signal a new age.  There is new crop of athletes to cheer for. Understanding the room to grow, and when they will peak, is key.  Age hugely determines where they will be five to ten years from now.
From 14 to -10 Prospect Points are awarded for age.
18-21              15      
22-23               14     
4-25                 10         
26-28                 5      
29-30                 0      
31-32                -2
33-36                -4
37+                  -10