As is so often the case, an injury, as undesirable an outcome as that may be for a fighter, does have one very real, positive upside. It gives the UFC an opportunity to sign a new fighter that they might otherwise have overlooked, had necessity not dictated the moment. So it may be for Aaron Phillips as he gets the call-up to take on Sam Sicilia at UFC 173 on only three weeks notice. The UFC has made the bout official as an update to their official UFC 173 card.
Who is Aaron Phillips?
There's a little confusion here as to just who Aaron Phillips is in terms of raw numbers. If Sherdog is to be believed (as the go to home for most baseline fighter stats) Phillips is an unbeaten 24 year old sporting a 5-0 record. Of course, with new prospects, it's rarely wise to depend on one source for all your info. And mixedmartialarts.com, who keeps the official records for the ABC, has Phillips listed as 29-years of age, and while still unbeaten, holding a record of 7-0. between the two of them he should have a total record of 8-0. A quick check of his Facebook page shows him as born in 1989, so it's likely the ABC's age information is incorrect.
Hopefully the truth of the matter will be sorted out by the UFC before his debut. Looking at his quality of opposition, it would be generous to call Phillips' record thin. His best opponent, 6-1 Tyler Shinn, came in his most recent bout, and took Phillips to a split decision. It will be interesting to see how battle tested he is come fight night. Either way, he's training out of Tim Credeur's Gladiators Academy, the same gym that produced Dustin Poirier. So, he should have a solid camp behind him.
What you should expect:
Phillips comes to MMA with a competitive Muay Thai background as his base skill set, and it should be said that he really appears to be a quality striker. His form is solid, both offensively and defensively, he throws kicks and punches with great power and accuracy at range, and looks to have a solid grasp of footwork and movement. What he doesn't quite appear to have yet, is volume. He can let opponents get inside on him, and get in on his legs, purely through inactivity as he looks to set up high percentage strikes.
Fortunately for him, he does have a pretty good sprawl and has the basics for some quality takedown defense on initial shots. But, it feels like he gets lost a little in prolonged wrestling exchanges and gives up unecessary takedowns, purely because he stops trying to defend them. On the ground, he's active off his back and good at scrambling back to his feet, but isn't a serious threat to create his own wrestling or grappling offense.
What this means for his debut:
Sam Sicilia's style is more or less made to take apart a guy like Phillips. If Phillips had more of a volume striking game he could probably stay outside and pick Sicilia off, the way Cole Miller did, but inactivity is the bane of untested fighters and Sicilia's bullish attacks should probably let him get into the clinch where he can rough Phillips up and take him down. Now, there's every opportunity that that doesn't happen. Phillips has the kind of power and technique that could put Sicilia on the defensive, but it's probably not going to be enough.
To get us better acquainted, here's a look at Phillips most recent bout against Tyler Shinn: