With a UFC event seemingly every week it’s pretty easy to get confused with whose fighting on the main card much less on the preliminary portion of the event. Every fight card also features a crop of debuting fighters that have the aspirations of becoming the next George St. Pierre or Jon Jones.
Unfortunately for MMA fans, the constant flow of debuting UFC fighters throws a wrench into their fight predictions which is understandable because differentiating whether a guy has the potential of being the next Jon Jones or the next Rolles Gracie takes a lot of time with the numerous UFC events that are taking place.
I’ll try to lend a hand to those MMA fans that actually, well… you know… do things outside. The purpose of this column is to give some insight about the newcomers to the UFC, analyze how they contrast with their opponents, and discuss their potential upside. With that being said, let’s talk about some newbies!
Photo: Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com
WW - Chris "The Menace" Clements (10-4)
Just when fighting in the UFC didn’t seem possible, the 36-year old Canadian got the call to fight Keith Wisniewski at UFC 145. Clements has piled together four straight wins, most notably over Jonathan Goulet with a 2nd round KO and over Rich "No Love" Clementi with a 3rd round TKO.
Clements also has a GIF-worthy three second knock-out win over Lautaro Tucas at TKO 25. "The Menace" is a powerful puncher that has finished all of his ten bouts in KO/TKO fashion. Formerly a member of Team Tompkins, Clements is now honing his craft at the Adrenaline Training Center which is basically where all of the past members of Team Tompkins train.
VS Keith Wisniewski (28-13-1)
The take-down defense of Chris Clements is going to be tested here. If the fight stays on the feet for an extended period of time Clements should be able to finish the fight because he is the more skilled and powerful striker. Wisniewski’s return to the UFC will probably be marred by him being on the receiving end of a knock-out of the night contender.
Clements has enough striking skills to compete at the UFC level, but he doesn’t have much upside aside from fighting on the prelims. That’s not to say that he won’t find himself a niche in the UFC by weeding out youthful welterweight prospects.
Photo: Dave Mandel from Sherdog.com
HW – Chad "The Grave Digger" Griggs (11-1)
It’s really hard not to like Chad Griggs. He represents the everyday Joe with his brawling fighting style. He’s gets in the cage, punches his opponent, puts his opponent on their back, and then punches them some more. The awesome side-burns also don’t hurt.
Griggs pulled off a big upset over Bobby Lashley when he was practically brought in to lose to the former WWE wrestler. Since then he’s finished his next two opponents continuing the streak of never being in a fight that goes to a decision. Griggs promises an action-packed fight, and it’s going to be a fun ride for however long the Gravedigger is in the UFC.
VS Travis Browne (12-0-1)
Griggs would continue his career of playing the role of the spoiler if he were to beat the undefeated Travis Browne. Unfortunately for fans of "The Gravedigger" that’s not likely. Unless he is able to catch Browne with a blitz early, Griggs should be outclassed with Browne’s more refined strikes. Browne also has the ability to put Griggs on his back where he is not comfortable.
It also isn’t likely that Griggs sticks around in the UFC for that long. I think the best case scenario for Griggs is having a run like Joey Beltran by sticking around just based on his ability to have entertaining fights and "bringing the pain".
Photo: Taro Irei for Sherdog.com
FW - Maximo "Maxi" Blanco (8-3-1, 1 NC)
Maximo Blanco made his name known on the MMA scene with impressive wins in Pancrase and Sengoku. His debut in American soil in September against Pat Healy left more to be desired after he lost in the second round due to being choked out by Healy. A loss to Healy shouldn’t derail Blanco because Healy is a scrappy, underrated fighter who holds submissions victories over Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, and Dan Hardy.
Moving down to the featherweight class should help the Venezuelan fighter who suffered a size disadvantage against Healy. Blanco is a quick, talented striker with quality wrestling that could frustrate a lot of 145ers.
VS Marcus Brimage (4-1)
If there is a prop bet for the shortest bout on UFC 145, I’d place my money on Maximo Blanco vs Marcus Brimage. Brimage does not match up well with Blanco who is better at nearly every facet of the game. Even if Brimage survives the first blitz, the following onslaught from Blanco should retire Brimage in the first couple of rounds.
Out of all the "newbies" to the UFC, Maximo Blanco has the most upside. Blanco has the skill set to do well in the featherweight division. He poses a lot of problems for some of the top featherweights, and he could end up as one of the top ten best featherweights in the world at some point.