Photo by Jeff Sherwood for Sherdog.com
At this Friday's UFC on FX 2 show, fans will finally have their first glimpse of the new UFC Flyweight division. The card features two fights in the 125 pound division, with winners moving on to face each other for the new UFC Flyweight title. With a new division comes new names as we'll see two UFC newcomers in the show. Both men may be fresh faces to UFC fans, but they are valuable additions to the roster and more than capable of competing inside the Octagon. Here, to get fans familiar with these new contenders, we'll profile both men, starting with Demetrious Johnson's opponent - "Uncle Creepy" Ian McCall.
McCall is a 27 year old fighter based out of California. He's nearly a 10 year veteran of the sport, though only has put together an 11-2 record in that time. His early career was largely inactive with only 4 fights in the first 5 years as a pro. He's very candid about his earlier years which were marked by drug abuse and some very scary near-death overdoses, all of which you can learn more about here.
In 2007 his career began to pick up steam as he was signed by the WEC to compete in their Bantamweight division. There, he went 1-2 with loses to Charlie Valencia and future Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Those remain the only loses on his record.
Last year, McCall made the move to the Flyweight division in Tachi Palace Fights. His first fight there was against Jussier da Silva, widely considered the world's #1 Flyweight at the time. McCall immediately got into trouble, with da Silva controlling his back for round 1. But in round 2, what looked like a relatively easy da Silva win turned around. McCall adjusted his game, focused on boxing, and began taking the fight to his top ranked opponent. Over the 2nd and 3rd rounds, McCall poured on the pressure. At the end there was no doubt - Ian McCall had defeated the world's #1 Flyweight. That win remains the crown jewel in McCall's career, and is a great example of a fighter making adjustments to succeed. Watch the full fight in the complete article.
He followed that up with a win over David Ortiz and then won the TPF Flyweight title from Darrell Montague last August. That title win was his last fight before being signed by the UFC. With those three wins in 2011, McCall is now often ranked #1 at 125 pounds.
Stylistically what can fans expect from Uncle Creepy? That depends. McCall started his career with a strong wrestling base. His early fights show good takedowns and takedown defense. Typically, McCall favors a heavy takedown, often with a slam, and then an immediate transition to side control where he looks to land a series of short elbows. His submission defense is solid, so while he has few submission wins of his own, he is comfortable grappling.
But starting with the da Silva fight, McCall has become more focused on his boxing, and that boxing game has shown serious improvements. On the feet, McCall uses his speed to build a striking game reminiscent of his former foe Dominick Cruz. McCall jumps in to land punches, then swiftly moves away. He's tightened up his boxing defense over the years as well, bringing his hands up to block and adding good head movement to slip punches.
What separates McCall from Cruz is his footwork. Where Cruz moves in a more herky-jerky motion, McCall is much more fluid. His footwork is really exceptional, as he maintains his stance while rapidly moving in and out, never getting caught up as Cruz sometimes does. Also like Cruz, he uses head movement, but his is less exaggerated, as McCall instead dodges just enough to avoid the blows. While Cruz's striking may be more unorthodox and therefore a bit harder to predict, I would argue that McCall implements the same style but with a higher level of technical superiority. There are great examples of this striking skill in round 3 of the da Silva fight (below).
Other offensive weapons from McCall include some nice leg kicks, both inside and outside, as well as great body work with punches. McCall is one of the few fighters to really utilize attacks to the body, which he will focus on using hooks, straight jabs, and more. He also is a fan of the headkick, which is effective at throwing opponents off their game for a moment, but has not proved to be one of his more reliable strikes.
Against Johnson, expect to see McCall try to use that boxing to outstrike his opponent, while using his takedown defense to keep the fight standing. If he has trouble in the boxing, he may switch gears and focus on outwrestling Johnson, much as Cruz did in his UFC Bantamweight title defense.
Johnson is a tough opponent who gave Cruz all he could handle, so this is a very difficult introduction to the UFC. But anyone unfamiliar with McCall and therefore writing him off is making a big mistake. Uncle Creepy has all the tools to become UFC champion - we'll see if he takes the first step on that journey this weekend.
Watch McCall vs. da Silva from Tachi Palace Fights below: