UFC 177: Previewing the Newcomers
The UFC is rapidly expanding and putting on more and more shows, and the increased number of events means an increase in roster size.
Despite a championship bout in the main attraction, UFC 177 is relatively low on star power. In fact, many of the participants are prospects looking to establish a name.
Apart from the recognized names, there are some fresh faces on the card. In fact, a handful of fighters are set to begin their journeys with the UFC.
A half-dozen fighters are making their official UFC debuts this week. Let's take a look at every new fighter.
Camp: Long Island MMA
Ring of Combat veteran Chris Wade comes into the UFC with a good amount of hype behind him. He should, as he's the champ of that organization and has just one blemish on his record to date.
Wade, a wrestler who has developed his stand-up with Long Island MMA and East Islip Kickboxing in New York, is a staple of the East Coast MMA scene. He has been a pro since 2011, and in that time, he has used superior ground work to outhustle those who oppose him.
For the most part, he has won his fights via decision. Though he has submissions in his arsenal, he has been known to stay with a position rather than sacrifice that for a finish.
His striking has gotten better, though it's definitely not his strength at this point. However, against Cain Carrizosa, he would be wise to avoid a submission battle with a guy who possesses good jiu-jitsu.
Camp: Central Valley Combat Academy
A veteran of Bellator, Cain Carrizosa has all the tools to make a long career in the UFC. He is well-rounded and tough, two things that will make him a tough task for those who stand opposite of him.
He has knockout power, cardio, toughness and good jiu-jitsu. He is coached by Cleber Luciano on the ground, which explains why Carrizosa is not only a good takedown artist and top-position fighter, but possesses a good guard.
He is also physically strong, which complements his good gas tank. He has the ability to maneuver deep waters successfully, as seen in his late-fight triangle-choke victory in Bellator.
His fight with Chris Wade, a man we mentioned in the previous slide, has the potential to be a fun little scrap between two well-regarded prospects.
Camp: Central Valley Combat Academy
Many people have wondered how former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Soto would fare in the UFC. Now that he is signed, they will get a glimpse into what was formerly just their imagination.
It appeared as if Soto had peaked too early in his career when he was knocked off the top of the mountain. After getting his Bellator strap forcefully taken away from him by Joe Warren, he was quickly submitted by Eddie Yagin, causing the speculation that Soto was overrated and potentially done.
However, Soto has stormed back by rattling off six straight wins. There have been noticeable improvements in his game, especially his submissions, as he has won four of his last five via tapout.
He can still strike, too. That makes this former world champion and now-UFC debutant a dangerous commodity in the waters of 135 pounds.
Camp: Rise Combat Sports
Not only do we have a former Bellator champion debuting on this card, but we have a former MFC champion debuting as well. And wouldn't you know it, those two men are set to collide in the cage.
Birchak, the former MFC bantamweight champion, enters the UFC on a five-fight surge, beating the likes of Tito Jones, Matt Leyva and UFC employee Ryan Benoit.
Birchak is a wrestler and submission fighter known for his suffocating chokes, underrated transition ability and takedowns. He is very aggressive as well, as he makes opponents uncomfortable while he tracks them down.
In taking on Joe Soto, he fights a man who mirrors many of the things he does well. It should make for a nice chess match between bantamweight's two newest assassins.
Camp: Fight Ready
You probably have heard it a million times, but Henry Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. He's a world-class athlete.
That is why he enters the UFC with such hype. He has undeniable grappling chops, speed, athleticism and strength that should be a scary commodity at 125 pounds.
Though his weight cutting and outside influences have hindered what should be a blemish-less career, he is still undefeated, a credit to his abilities. If he can focus, be professional, make weight and keep his head in the game, it's hard to see who can stop this Olympian from becoming a top contender.
Of course, his striking could use some work. Thus far, he has relied on relentless takedowns and heavy top pressure to keep opponents reeling and to score wins.
However, focus and dedication could make him a certified star.
Camp: Octagon MMA
Although he is fighting up a weight class on less than two weeks' notice, don't sleep on Damon Jackson. He was a top-three prospect outside the UFC before the company scooped him up.
Jackson is a relentless wrestler, using aggression, strength and drive to scoop guys up and throw them down. That said, he is not a lay-and-pray artist when that happens.
Jackson is very skilled on the ground when it comes to position and submissions. He is good from side control and mount, where he secures arm-triangle chokes. He is also solid from the back, where he mixes punches and arm position to secure rear-naked chokes.
His striking is not going to blow anybody away at this point, but that's okay. As long as he is able to ground, pound and tap an opponent, he is going to be a very tough opponent for anybody at 145 (and Yancy Medeiros come Saturday).