With the departure of a significant number of fighters from the UFC's books the time for new talent is nigh. To fill up those newly created roster spots the UFC is bringing on five new fighters. The first is highly touted Chechen prospect Adam Khaliev, who's signing has been rumored for months, if not years, since an electric tornado kick KO. Following Khaliev will be Finland's Tom Niinimaki, team Alpha Male fighter Andre Fili, Sweden's Andreas Stahl, and Tri-Star fighter Alex Garcia.
First and foremost, Adam Khaliev's UFC signing has been rumored for close to a year now; I believe it was in November of last year that a smattering of Chechyn sites posted that he was making his way to the UFC. Their reports ended up being premature, but after Khaliev's latest opponent Krzystof Jutko was signed by the UFC MMA Fighting reports that the worlds largest MMA promotion has seen it fit to give him a chance as well. Khaliev is relatively untested in MMA, with a record of 6-0. In fact he hasn't fought since August of 2012. In the intervening time he's been kickboxing and competing in Kudo tournaments. It's sort of an amazing journey to see the UFC's
second third Daidojuku champion (Minoki Ichihara and Semmy Schilt being the other two) come 20 years after it's first, but there you have it. Obviously he's got great striking credentials, but it's hard to tell where his grappling is. Much of his S-70 fights took place on a mat that was slicker than snot on a doorknob; I would say however that he appears to default to the guillotine as a method of takedown defense and that's not a good thing. No debut date or opponent have been named.
The second long rumored UFC signing to come to fruition is of Finland's Tom Niinimaki. MMAjunkie reports that Niinimaki will be making his UFC debut at the TUF 18 Finale against longtime vet Rani Yahya. The touted submission specialist and Shooto vet has been on the fan radar for quite a while. Rumors about his spot on the UFC's radar stretch all the way back to 2011, when he was listed as the #6 prospect on BE's featherweight scouting report. He made the move to the Blackzilians last year and I don't know if it's that transition or just an extention of the fighter he's always been, but his striking looks crisp and fluid, and a perfect compliment to his already formidable submission game. As a 26 fight veteran on an 11 fight winning streak, this is Niinimaki's chance to make an immediate impact at featherweight. Yahya is certainly not a gimmie fight, and if Niinimaki can get past him he may find himself in spitting distance of the top of the division.
As announced last week, Charles Oliveira had to withdraw from his fight against Jeremy Larsen due to injury. In his place, MMAjunkie reports, will be coming Team Alpha Male fighter Andre Fili. "Touchy," as he is nicknamed, brings a 12-1 record into the cage with his only loss coming due to a knee injury. He has 6 TKO/KO victories and 3 subs to his resume for a very well rounded finishing game. Fili is a very tall featherweight at 5' 10", but he tends to wade in a bit when striking. He does however throw a nice arsenal of kicks and jabs well to the body. His ground game is slick and formidable, he transitions well and hunts for submissions and strikes aggressively. At only 23 and with four years of cage time he's at the perfect "prospect" point to make his way into the UFC and develop. Jeremy Larsen will be a good test to see what he can show against the lower end of UFC talent. He'll be fighting on the undercard of UFC 166 on October 19.
The report of the last two signings comes to us via Norran.se, UFC newcomers Andreas Stahl and Alex Garcia will face off at UFC Fight Night 33: Hunt vs. Silva. Stahl is a teammate of recent TUF cast member Tor Troeng; he's undefeated at 9-0 with 3 TKOs and a submission win to his name. At only 25 years old he's definitely in prime prospect territory. Much like Troeng, Stahl appears to possess an aggressive GNP arsenal, coupled with a good sprawl and redirect method of takedown defense. His striking is a bit more rudimentary and centers more on getting into the clinch than doing damage from the outside. He took a year and a half off between 2011 and 2013 and I can't find any footage of his most recent fights, so it's tough to say how much he may have advanced in the interim.
His opponent for his UFC debut will be Alex Garcia. "The Dominican Nightmare" is a Tri-Star product with a 10-1 record, his only loss coming via KO to the hard hitting Seth Baczynski back in 2011. Since that loss he's 4-0. Only one of his ten wins has been via decision, with the five submissions and four knockouts to his name. At 5' 9" he's a bit undersized for welterweight, so lightweight may be his long term future, but he also seems to cary a lot of muscle. There's very little footage out there on Garcia, but it appears that he's a submission first fighter who uses powerful single strikes to set up a strong double leg. He definitely has a good shot in his fight against Stahl who appears to have a similar, but less powerful and dynamic gameplan.
That's all for the new signings. As always here's some footage to get us acquainted to them.