Previewing the Newcomers for UFC Fight Night 45 and 46
The UFC is rapidly expanding and putting on more and more shows, and the increased number of events means an increase in roster size.
This week, the UFC has two events. UFC Fight Night 45 takes place in Atlantic City on Wednesday and is headlined by Donald Cerrone vs. Jim Miller, while UFC Fight Night 46 takes place in Ireland on Saturday and is headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao.
There are seven fighters who are making their official UFC debuts this week. Let's take a look at every new fighter.
Note: Returning UFC vets Leonardo Mafra and Naoyuki Kotani will not be previewed, as they have had official UFC fights already.
Record: 11-0 (2 KO, 6 SUB)
Camp: Nova Uniao
Undefeated Brazilian Claudia Gadelha is one-half of the first-ever strawweight bout in the UFC. This comes as a result of her not participating on The Ultimate Fighter 20 because of weight-cutting concerns over six weeks.
Gadelha is a ground fighter with improved ground-and-pound and a great submission base. She trains out of Nova Uniao, which should make sense since she fights like a typical fighter from that gym.
She has fought some of the best competition in Brazil throughout her career. She owns wins over Kalindra Faria and Herica Tiburcio in her home country, as well as UFC fighter Valerie Letourneau and Japanese legend Ayaka Hamasaki.
She is a top-three strawweight in the world and will probably get the first shot at the title, if she wins, once it's decided after TUF 20.
Record: 5-0 (1 KO, 2 SUB)
Camp: RNC Sports Club
Tina Lahdemaki will be dropping from the flyweight division to make her UFC debut at 115 pounds. It will be interesting to see how she handles the weight cut, especially under the bright lights for the first time.
Lahdemaki, like her opponent Gadelha, is a ground fighter, though I would venture to say that Lahdemaki is not as refined on the ground as Gadelha. That said, she has solid ground-and-pound that she uses to open up submission attempts.
Don't count her out, though she is probably a heavy underdog. She can surprise you with her underrated skill set.
Record: 14-1 (2 KO, 6 SUB)
Camp: American Top Team OKC
Jerrod Sanders is a wrestler with tremendous physical strength and explosiveness. That will come in handy when he takes on striker Yosdenis Cedeno.
Sanders has been very good since his only loss in his third pro fight. He has used timely takedowns and heavy top position to keep opponents down, where he can use his underrated submission skills.
In his only appearance with World Series of Fighting, Sanders won a easy decision over Jeff Smith. However, he has more finishes than decisions, thanks in part to his anaconda-like squeeze when he grabs a neck.
Expect Sanders to impress on Wednesday night.
Record: 9-0-1 (1 KO, 7 SUB)
Camp: SBG Ireland
Patrick Holohan is just another member of the SBG Ireland gym that has burst on the scene lately. He is also unbeaten if you don't count his one-and-done stint on TUF 18.
He hasn't fought since 2012, which may result in some ring rust or a feeling of being fresh. That said, he is a pretty well-rounded fighter, as he has knockout power if he connects and is very solid on the ground.
Of his seven submission wins, all have come either by rear-naked choke or triangle choke (one triangle kimura).
Holohan is also dropping from bantamweight, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the weight cut.
Record: 13-2-1 (6 KO)
Camp: SBG Ireland
Speaking of SBG Ireland, TUF 19 vet Cathal Pendred will be making his official UFC debut at this event. He will take on castmate and teammate Mike King.
Pendred was somewhat criticized on the show by many fans for his lackluster performances. However, he made it to the semifinals after beating Hector Urbina before losing to eventual TUF winner Eddie Gordon.
He has decent boxing skills, though he shines with his dirty boxing and clinch work on the feet. He also uses the clinch to get takedowns and gain heavy top position.
He is taking this bout as a middleweight, though he is normally a welterweight. He will have to make up his lack of size here against a much bigger man in King.
Record: 5-0 (1 KO, 4 SUB)
Camp: SBG Ireland
Mike King is a great talent, so I am personally happy that the UFC decided to give him a shot. He does have his work cut out for him, though, in the form of Cathal Pendred.
King is a wrestler with good dimensions for the middleweight division. He is 6'3" and long, which means he can use his jab and reach to keep Pendred on the outside.
He has a granite chin as well. His fights with Nordine Taleb and Eddie Gordon showed he can take a huge punch and continue to walk forward.
His wrestling will be key here. Pendred will try to make this a grimy fight, so King will need to sprawl-and-brawl to be successful here.
Record: 10-1 (2 KO, 3 SUB)
Camp: Cold Steel MMA
Chris Dempsey will be fighting up a weight class on late notice when he makes his UFC debut against Ilir Latifi.
Dempsey is a top-game grappler with good ground-and-pound and chokes. He is on an eight-fight surge currently while competing in the East Coast MMA circuit.
His wrestling is an important part of his game, so fighting Latifi will be tough. The Swede is physically imposing and has great wrestling as well, so whoever has the better striking may be the one who prevails.
It'll be interesting to see how Dempsey fares after this fight when he goes back to 185.