UFC 166: 4 Promising Fighters Make UFC Debuts in Houston

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UFC 166: 4 Promising Fighters Make UFC Debuts in Houston
Jessica Eye/ufc.com

UFC 166 is absolutely stacked from the top of the card to the bottom. Not only does it feature the rubber match between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos for the heavyweight title, but it also has a bevvy of top fighters today including Daniel Cormier, Gilbert Melendez and John Dodson.

For those who care about more than just the top of the card, there are a handful of fighters making their debut who all come with great hype behind him. These men (and woman) occupy the lightest of the weight divisions in the UFC and will add great depth to those classes.

The four fighters who are set to make their UFC debuts after recently signing with the company are Kyoji Horiguchi (135), Andre Fili (145), Jessica Eye (135) and Darrell Montague (125). Let's take a look at each of these promising warriors.

 

Kyoji Horiguchi (11-1)

Japanese fighters have not always fared the best in the UFC for some reason. However, I have a feeling that bantamweight standout Kyoji Horiguchi could be a long-term staple with the company.

Horiguchi has to be considered a top 25 bantamweight in the world. The striker has blitzed through a number of talents overseas, owning seven of his 11 wins via knockout.

Horiguchi has especially looked good since taking his first first career loss to Masakatsu Ueda back in January of 2012. In fact, he has notched to key victories over Japanese prospect Shintaro Ishiwatari and UFC veteran Ian Loveland.

The Japanese prospect enters UFC 166 opposite of a man in desperate need of a win in Dustin Pague. The 11-8 American is 1-4 in the UFC with three of those losses coming in a row.

They say a man is most dangerous when he has nothing to lose and his back is against the wall. That makes "The Disciple" especially dangerous to Horiguchi.

Pague likes to strike, but he will likely try to avoid that with the kickboxing Japanese fighter. It will be interesting to see if Pague can drag him down and how Horiguchi will respond to a grappling match.

Keep your eye on this guy.

 

Andre Fili (12-1)

Filling in on late notice after a slew of injuries, many fans (including myself) were ecstatic when Andre Fili got the call to make his UFC debut. Though it will be on about two weeks notice, there is high expectations for Fili coming into his fight with Jeremy Larsen.

Fili has been a top featherweight outside the UFC for a while. The Team Alpha Male rep is equally exciting and skilled, which will allow for him to have a long shelf life.

He is a long, lanky fighter with good striking and an unorthodox ground game. He obviously has a decent wrestling game training with Alpha Male, but he is incredibly comfortable fighting off his back.

Fili uses relentless submission attacks and smooth sweeps to gain position on opponents. He also has some sharp elbows and good ground-and-pound should he get on top.

Going up against Jeremy Larsen, Fili should have a nice stylistic matchup. Larsen is a striker, but can be put down via strikes, as seen against Joe Proctor and Lucas Martins.

This could be a Fight of the Night contender. In the aftermath, look for Fili to make a name for himself at 145.

 

Jessica Eye (10-1)

When Bellator folded its women's division, many wondered where Jessica Eye would end up. Most people assumed Invicta, as Eye normally competes in the women's flyweight division, but the UFC snatched up the top 10 pound-for-pound female to compete up a weight class.

This was a great signing for the UFC. Eye is exciting and technical, something you don't always see with women in this embryonic stage of the game.

Most of Eye's wins have come by decision, but that's because she methodically picks apart the competition. Her boxing is her crowning piece, though, as she uses effective striking to make her opponents' faces look like a bloody mess.

That being said, she is no slouch in the submission department, either. Her latest sub saw her put Zoila Gurgel to sleep with a standing arm-triangle choke.

While she may be at a size disadvantage moving forward, she is incredibly athletic and quick. That may help her in some fights, especially against a technical boxer like Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman looked uncomfortable in her last fight against Leslie Smith, who has a similar style to Eye and was a tad smaller than the Canadian boxer.

We will see if she notches another win under her belt or if she takes her second career loss.

 

Which debut fighter are you most exciting to see?

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Darrell Montague (13-2)

There was a collective sigh of relief when the UFC finally signed Darrell Montague, who despite being outside the UFC, is ranked in the top 10. That's just how skilled this guy is.

Montague is a wrestler, but don't take that statement as if he's a lay-and-pray fighter. This guy throws hammers from top position and has a solid submission arsenal.

His only two losses have come against a natural 145er in Robbie Peralta and top five flyweight Ian McCall. Other than that, he has terrorized the competition at 125 pounds.

For a little guy, he actually has some knockout power. That has been seen in knockout finishes of Taylor McCorriston, Luis Gonzalez and Jeremy Bolt.

Plus, look at Montague's resume. He has beaten UFC veteran Ulysses Gomez, Japanese legend Mamoru Yamaguchi and tough-as-nails Jesse Miramontes.

He has a tough task ahead of him in taking on former title challenger John Dodson. Dodson is one of the quickest men in MMA, and a tough guy to plant on the mat.

We will also see how Montague copes with Dodson's dynamic striking. While "The Mongoose" is no slouch on the feet, Dodson is known as "The Magician" for a reason.

Now that the UFC has Montague in its ranks, they are continuing to add legitimacy to the growing division.

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