Kris Moutinho accomplished every goal he set out for himself at UFC 264, with one glaring exception.
He wanted to finish the fight.
“That’s what I wanted,” says Moutinho, who took a fight against Sean O’Malley on only 11 days’ notice. “I wanted that for my team, my coaches and everyone that helped me get to this point. I was out there, laying my heart on the line, to show them that their sacrifices were not in vain.”
Moutinho was deprived a chance to go the distance, as referee Herb Dean stopped the bout with 27 seconds remaining, awarding a TKO victory to the heavily favored O’Malley.
O’Malley put on an offensive clinic in the fight, landing an outrageous 230 strikes, more than tripling Moutinho’s 70. To put that in perspective, had the Dustin Poirier–Conor McGregor main event kept the same pace as the first round and gone all five rounds, Poirier would have connected on roughly 180 strikes, with McGregor hitting somewhere in the vicinity of 135. O’Malley landed his 230 in only three rounds, with Moutinho taking a staggering 177 shots to his head.
O’Malley simply did not miss. Inexplicably, Moutinho kept coming back for more every single time.
“It didn’t hurt that bad,” says Moutinho. “It felt like a punch, but that’s what I do. So many of my training partners were bigger guys, so I knew I could handle it.
“Those shots didn’t hurt as much as losing the fight. This is the only thing I’ve ever loved to do. It’s done so much for my life. So losing hurts like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s going to hurt until I get in that cage again and show the world who I am.”
The trip to Las Vegas was like playing with house money. The 28-year-old Moutinho was not originally scheduled to be on the card, yet was chosen to replace Louis Smolka after he pulled out due to injury. With less than two weeks to prepare, Moutinho embraced the chance to fight O’Malley, a rising star in the bantamweight division. That gamble paid off, as he gained a legion of new fans in his UFC debut with his outrageous performance.
“This was God giving me a chance to go out into the world and do something,” says Moutinho, whose was awarded Fight of the Night honors. “I am so grateful I got the chance to do something I truly love.”
Despite all the blows to the head, Moutinho says he did not suffer a concussion.
“I was very fortunate—my Portuguese head is the thickest thing in the world,” says Moutinho. “I pray before every [match] that me and my opponent come out all right and get to go home to our families. After the fight, I was so excited to see my girlfriend and my little brothers.”
After being on the receiving end of nonstop punishment from O’Malley, there is now nothing but optimism for Moutinho. He signed a multifight contract with the UFC before the O’Malley fight, and the southpaw will look to improve his 9–5 record in MMA’s most established promotion.
“My job is to win the next fight,” says Moutinho. “I’m going to spend the next six, seven months with my team adding new tools. We have a lot in the works. This past fight was a lottery ticket, and the next one is going to be my real debut.”
And whether fate continues to have its way, Moutinho is even open to a rematch down the road against O’Malley, fulfilling his destiny by going the distance.
“I’m not afraid of any man on this earth,” says Moutinho. “The only thing I’m afraid of [is] God, and none of these men I’m fighting are God.
“Of course I would love to fight O’Malley again. But I’m not here to call out fighters. I’m taking it one day at a time, working hard, and setting myself up for my next UFC fight. I can’t wait.”