When Russell Doane vacated his KOTC title back in 2012, immediately after winning it, I assumed it was because he was on his way to the UFC's bantamweight division. Instead, it was PXC and, frankly, a mixed bag of results. Doane, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, went 1-2 fighting in PXC, but in-between losses he managed to pick up a few wins as well, fighting under Destiny MMA, and most recently defeating former UFC fighter Jared Papazian at Tachi Palace Fights. Following this most recent win he was picked up by the UFC, Fight Sport Asia has the news of his signing.
27 year old Doane is a product of one of Hawaii's more notable gyms, the 808 Top Team, which is home to regional standouts Harris Sarmiento and Falaniko Vitale. He'll carry a 12-3 record with him into the octagon, with his only recent losses coming to current PXC champ Michinori Tanaka via submission and a split decision to recent PXC title challenger Kyle Aguon. His record is otherwise pretty well split between submissions and TKOs/KOs, with only two of his victories coming via decision.
Watching him fight, a few things are notable. Doane has really fast hands, even for a bantamweight. And he not only throws with power, but moves his head as he throws. he ducks a bit, which better fighters will take advantage of, but isn't a terrible flaw. His wrestling, on the other hand, is really systematic (and not in a good way). He's not afraid to get in to the clinch and work for takedowns, but is better working trips from the body lock than going for pure shots where he tends to muscle guys. He has a very competent ground game, scrambles well and sticks with dominant positions. He needs some defensive work as he tends to get caught backing up and trying to shell away from strikes. It should be noted as well that Doane seems to have almost no kicking game, which turns him into something of a poor man's Eddie Wineland.
Doane's opponent for his UFC debut will be another newcomer in Evolve MMA product Leandro Issa. The 30 year old Issa is 11-3 in his seven year MMA career. He has a couple of big wins over Masakazu Imanari and Soo Chul Kim, but Kim was later able to avenge that loss via second round TKO. He's had a win over the decent Yusup Saadulaev since, but it's hard not to take notice of his poor showing against Kim in their second go-round.
Issa trains out of Evolve MMA alongside regional prospects Eddie Ng and Leandro Ataides. Like many successful MMA grapplers, he appears to be a bit of a front runner, with almost all of his submission victories coming early in the first round. He has however, only seen the judges three times in his 14 fight career.
Watching Issa fight, he definitely comes from the Brazilian ideology that sees striking as nothing more than a free-form method of chucking your body at someone. He throws the kind of right hand that can only be called "overhand" because he stops himself before turning it into a full revolving windmill. He backs straight up when defending and tends to look away when getting hit. Of course there's a flipside to all this (and a point to the wild offense) which is that he's pretty slick on the ground. He's exceptionally clingy, which is tough for bantamweight, where fighters tend to all be fantastic scramblers, and as is evidence by his many wins, he's got an aggressive submission game. Eventually I worry about how strong his takedown game is as there are very few fighters who find success in the UFC's bantamweight division with his skill set.
To get us better acquainted, here are videos of each of their last fights.
Russell Doane vs. Jared Papzian (This is the full Tachi Palace Fights 17 card. Doane vs. Papzian is at the end):
- Watch Fight Nights: Battle in Minsk as Andrei Arlovski takes on Andreas Kraniotakes
- Shogun Rua: Pride rules safer than current unified rules
- The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale: Diaz vs. Maynard weigh-in video
- Cain Velasquez opens as betting favorite over Jon Jones in possible superfight
- TUF 18 Finale: Chris Holdsworth vs. David Grant preview and the prognostication