The UFC's slow and steady progress toward market domination continues with the signing of another three bantamweight fighters. All three were added to the UFC roster and upcoming fight cards on April 14th. Former TUF 18 contestand Chris Beal will make his debut at UFC 172 against another newcomer in Patrick Williams. Following shortly on their heels will be Legacy FC champion Matt Hobar, who will step in for the injured Wilson Reis against Pedro Munhoz at the TUF Brazil 3 Finale. All matches have been made official by the UFC.
Who is Chris Beal?
28-year old Chris Beal fights out of the Knuckleheadz Boxing Gym, known for producing some solid boxing talent, as well as being the home of former TUF winner Tony Ferguson. It's not a consistent producer of great MMA fighters, but it's more solid than some of the really small camps fighters come out of. As for record, Beal is undefeated at 8-0, but has really only beat middling journeymen and inexperienced, or really terrible opponents. Considering his level of competition, the fact that he has a pretty poor finishing rate is not a good sign.
What you should expect:
Beal is very much a boxer first and foremost. No surprise there, considering his home camp. He stands tall, he doesn't kick a whole lot and his takedown defense leaves a lot to be desired. But, his hands are sharp and accurate and his technique is good. He has some power, but obviously isn't a dominant power puncher, given his low KO, ratio (and probably mostly due to how one dimensional he is).
On the ground, his top control is limited, in part because he's usually looking for a way to get the fight back to the feet and back to boxing range, but he doesn't exhibit much control from dominant positions either.He will throw up a few submission attempts from his back, but his game isn't aggressive enough to force many sweeps or controlling enough to get many standups. Finally, and perhaps most unfortunately, he's not much of a defensive wizard when he's boxing, often leaving his head and torso on a straight line when he punches, leaving him fairly open to counters, even from more basic strikers.
Who is Patrick Williams?
A former Division I wrestler for Arizona State University, Williams was part of the class of ASU wrestlers who've moved on to successful MMA careers. His path to the UFC has taken a little longer than the likes of Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, or C.B. Dollaway, and he started his MMA career much later (debuting in 2010) but with a 7-3 record he's found some reasonable success. A win over WEC vet Rafael Dias is his biggest to date, although each of his three losses have come to decent regional competition. The rest of his wins are without note. He trains out of Freestyle Fighting Academy in Miami, the website for which appears to be little more than a sales advert.
What you should expect:
Williams is the definition of an action fighter. He moves well, he's fast, he's powerful, and he likes to stand and trade. He throws kicks well, although he doesn't necessarily mix them into his combinations. He switches stances often and moves his feet well, but at times I get the feeling that he doesn't necessarily have the highest level of cage awareness, getting overly relaxed or overly sure of himself while still in positions where his opponent can take advantage. He does have a ton of KO power though, and almost every fight he hasn't lost, he's finished. If I had to venture a guess, I'd assume that his grappling is his biggest weakness, but his last loss because of it was long enough ago that I can't say off video evidence alone, except that it's obvious that that's not what he's looking to do when he fights.
What this means for their debut?
It's easy to say that Beal should be the odds on favorite here. He's younger (Williams is 32), he comes from a better camp, and his TUF experience means that he's had a little more time in the bright lights. But, he has exactly the kind of holes in his game that Williams' style exploits, being that he's hittable mid combination. Williams isn't a rock-solid world beater himself, but his power, dynamic movement, and solid wrestling, give him a lot of opportunities to take advantage of a fighter with some fundamental flaws in Chris Beal.
Who is Matt Hobar?
In the other major bantamweight signing news, the UFC has signed Legacy FC 135 lb champ Matt Hobar. Hobar, 27, fights out of Octagon MMA, a camp he shares with UFC welterweight Sean Spencer. He'll be entering the UFC with a solid 8-1 record, having avenged his only loss (due to injury) against Steven Peterson. He doesn't have any big names on his record, but as of late has been fighting other decent regional talent at Legacy FC. His martial arts background is largely in wrestling, where he was a fairly successful in high school, but doesn't appear to have pursued it past that point.
What you should expect:
Hobar may not be an exceptionally dynamic striker, but he is patient and reasonably technical. He keeps his chin down, his hands up, he moves his feet well and maintains a strong base. He even throws well in combination. If he's not terribly fast or powerful with his hands, he tends to come correct. He could stand to kick more in combination, as he tends to use it more as a distance tool and distraction, throwing front and leg kicks to hold his opponent off and then punch behind them. He doesn't close distance as well as he could, but once he can get into the clinch, he tends to favor big slamming double legs. It's a technique that could serve him poorly at a higher level, given his lack of more technical wrestling. Once on the ground his top game hasn't always been especially dominant or controlling. He can get caught and nullified in the guard and his ground and pound isn't consistent.
What this means for his debut:
Hobar has his hands full with Pedro Munhoz. Munhoz is pretty equal to Hobar as a technical striker, both men have a strong, if unexciting base, but Munhoz exhibits a lot more technique in his takedowns and is much more polished on the ground. I would even say he's a bit more dynamic, but that doesn't tend to show in his striking too much. If both men decide to spend a lot of time striking at range it's a fairly even contest, but if Munhoz makes this a grappling battle he has a really clear advantage.
And Williams' most recent fight against Rafael Dias:
And finally, Hobar's rematch against Steven Peterson from a couple years ago: