UFC 166 provided a lot of talking points from the main card, but the early preliminary bouts set the tone for the evening.
The four Facebook preliminary bouts all ended in finishes, and two of those featured UFC newcomers. Andre Fili came in on short notice to defeat Jeremy Larsen by TKO in the second round, while former Shooto product Kyoji Horiguchi ousted Dustin Pague by second-round TKO.
These two newcomers made an impression, but what kind of upside do they have in their respective divisions? Let's take a look.
Horiguchi is in the bantamweight division, but when he was a Shooto champion, it was at 132 pounds. He is an undersized bantamweight who may serve himself better by cutting to flyweight. Until he does, let's assume he stays at 135.
Pague gave him some trouble in the first frame, and that's not a great sign in a wrestling-rich division.
Horiguchi is only 23 years old. Thus, he has plenty of time to improve. Wrestling has to be a point of emphasis in this division. It's key.
His hands were solid, and he possesses some good power in his mitts.
For such a young kid, he has plenty of upside, but I don't view him as a potential contender yet. Stylistically, he does not match up well with the rest of the division. If he can add some more tools, we can re-evaluate his prospects at bantamweight.
Fili is also a 23-year-old stud, but he competes in the featherweight division.
He came in highly touted, and it is easy to see why. He performed very well in his UFC debut. Larsen isn't a top-level talent, but he has UFC experience against quality opposition. Fili tore right through him.
The biggest advantage for Fili is his team, as he is a member of Team Alpha Male. Unlike his teammates, he is not a wrestling-based fighter. His striking will improve under Duane Ludwig, but his work alongside Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes will boost his wrestling ability. That makes him a good prospect to watch.
The featherweight division is stacked. That will be Fili's biggest issue to overcome. Even if he wins a couple of bouts to move close to the top 15 of the division, he will run into the killers of the weight class. That's how potent 145 is.
If the UFC allows Fili to grow slowly, then it will reap the benefits later. He has a high ceiling, but he needs time to season. And at 23 years old, he has time to do so if the UFC books him properly.
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