Written By Dylan Knostman
Ricky Simón is perhaps the finest mixed martial artist the Pacific Northwest has to offer at the moment. A lifelong wrestler, he currently sits at #10 in the UFC Bantamweight division and is set for a massive fight on April 29th in, 2023 in a main event against fellow contender Song Yadong. These two were slated to be the co-main event on April 22nd, but after the fight between Arman Tsaryukyan and Renato Moicano fell through, this fight was moved a week and is now the main event headliner at the UFC Apex. Growing up in a Mexican immigrant family in Pendleton, Oregon, he and his brothers all became wrestlers from a young age. After an extremely successful high school career, Ricky made his full-time transition to Mixed Martial Arts. Simón is a former LFA Bantamweight champion. Despite back to back losses early in his UFC career to Uriah Faber and Rob Font, he currently owns a 6-fight winning streak, and in his UFC career, he owns wins over Jack Shore and top contender Merab Dvalishvili. Simón is an extremely talented fighter and a contender to watch in 2023 and beyond.
It is common knowledge in MMA circles that the UFC Bantamweight division contains the most high-level talent of any weight class. This is evident with Ricky Simón, as he currently sits at #9 in the Bantamweight rankings, with a record of 20-3 and currently on a 6-fight win streak with finishes in three of his last four fights. Long prior to his UFC success, Simón was born and raised in the eastern Oregon town of Pendleton. A place commonly known for ranching and livestock, his family who emigrated from Mexico made this rural town their new home. He and his brothers began wrestling at a young age, and in interviews Simón recounts watching VHS tapes of early UFC fights with his father, which led them to pursue a membership at Team Quest, one of the most historic gyms in American Mixed Martial Arts .
He graduated from Union High School in Camas, Washington and soon transitioned into Mixed Martial Arts after his college wrestling plans fell through due to various reasons. After a successful amateur and early pro career, he got his shot on Dana White’s Contender Series and, despite a win, he fell short of getting signed. Disappointed, but not discouraged, Ricky Simón found his spotlight when fellow Oregonian Chael Sonnen invited him to what would become ATT Portland, and introduced him to now LFA President Ed Soares. This led to Simón’s stint with Legacy Fighting Alliance, where he had tremendous success and became their Bantamweight champion at LFA 36 in 2018. This led to his UFC signing, where he defeated current #1 contender Merab Dvalishvili in an absolutely wild fight. Ricky Simón later dropped back-to-back losses to Uriah Faber and Rob Font, but has since put together five straight wins and is scheduled to face fellow contender Song Yadong on April 29th, 2023.
Ricky Simón holds a professional MMA record of 20-3, with a promotional record of 8-2 in the UFC. He has four wins by knockout, six by submission, and ten by decision. His three losses have come by a knockout, a submission, and a decision. As of April 21st, 2023 Ricky Simón has won five consecutive fights.
Ricky Simón is mechanically and technically one of the better fighters in the UFC. Built like a fire hydrant, his short stocky frame is perfect for his style as a brawling wrestler with an insane gas tank. While he has strengths in various disciplines, Simón is a true mixed martial artist as he does an outstanding job of mixing his wrestling, boxing, jiu jitsu, and kicking game. As wrestling was his foray into combat sports, this is the primary area Simón tends to dominate his opponents. Between constant chain wrestling, elite footwork and angle creation, and a relentless type of pressure, Simón is able to dictate where and how he wants the fight to occur. He’s able to get the fight to the ground in the open, but much prefers to drive his opponents to the fence and then shoot for either a double leg or a high crotch, almost always set up by punches. Like many good wrestlers, Simón never settles for the first takedown and is always looking to keep his opponent guessing. Mechanically, Simón is low to the ground, wide, and strong, making it difficult for opponents to change their level and stuff takedowns. Once the fight does settle on the mat, Simón maintains his relentless pressure with ground and pound, transitions, and ridiculous top pressure. Speaking as someone who trains, there are fighters and wrestlers like Simón who use similar styles of top control and despite weighing probably about 155 pounds on fight night, Simón weighs on his opponents like a ton of bricks. This style of top pressure is literally suffocating, and makes it difficult to do anything, let alone stand up.
On the feet, Simón possesses excellent footwork, and keeps everything very tight and centered. Every step and movement is simply a micro adjustment, until he sees his opportunity to explode. His footwork was especially on display vs Raphael Assuncao, who is one of the hardest fighters to hit in history. Simón walked him down, mixed his level changes well, and cut off all angles of escape until he landed a massive shot that put Assuncao out in the second round. Whether it’s with a right hook, a strong overhand, or a powerful double leg when Simón hits the gas, few people can withstand the barrage. Everything Simón does in the striking and grappling links together in a beautiful web of skill, and because his pressure is so good it opens up ground and pound, which in turn opens up transitions and submissions. In his most recent fight with Jack Shore, he landed a gorgeous right hook that knocked down Shore, and immediately jumped on top. He takes mount, and uses his strikes to make Shore pick between mount or back, he turns, and Simón locks in the arm triangle choke and finishes the fight. This sequence happened all within about ten seconds, showing the explosiveness, quick decision making, and submission squeeze Simón possesses. Ricky Simón is an outstanding example of how a wrestler learned to strike as a complement to his wrestling, as opposed to someone like Justin Gaethje who learned to strike and abandoned his wrestling altogether.
When looking at a fighter as well rounded as Simón, it’s very hard to pinpoint many weaknesses in his skillset or gameplan. His last loss came in 2019 to Rob Font, a very close decision in which Rob Font was able to outstrike Simón, keeping him on his back foot and even mixing in some wrestling of his own. This is hardly representative of Ricky’s current skill set as this fight was four years ago. Simón’s main weakness seems to be his chin, although it’s hardly a problem. He lost to Uriah Faber in his retirement fight In Sacramento, a fight that lasted less than a minute. This is a complete anomaly for his career and has never been finished otherwise in 23 professional fights. What is worth noting is that at times, his opponent is able to pick up on Ricky’s rhythm and time big shots over the top, which can hurt and interrupt him and his gameplan. This is bad news as his next opponent, Song Yadong, has the strongest punching and some of the best takedown defense in the Bantamweight division. Simón will need to be using all his tools to get a victory in the co-main event, as this is definitely his toughest test to date.
Ricky Simón is a treat to watch for anyone who’s a fan of the sport of MMA. Utilizing a wide skill set, Simón is a high-paced fighter who always looks for the finish, and even if he doesn’t get it there won’t be much time in the fight that isn’t action packed. Representing the Pacific Northwest and rocking perhaps the finest mullet in all of combat sports, Simón has all the makings of a fan favorite fighter and is a name that all people should have on their radar in 2023 and moving forward.