Add another top prospect to the UFC's welterweight ranks. Considered one of the best up and coming fighters at 170 lbs in the world (Our own Mr. Wyman has him listed as one of his top 25 fighters likely to win a title), Mike Rhodes will be vacating his RFA title and making the short notice jump to the big stage. There he will meet another debuting combatant in George Sullivan. After the loss of two bouts on the prelims of UFC on Fox: Henderson vs Thomson, the UFC promised fans that they'd be getting a fight back, bringing the January 25th card up to 11 total bouts. MMAWeekly has the report.
When these two debut, Rhodes has every right to be considered the odds on favorite. A Roufusport fighter, the 24 year old has gone 6-1 in his two years as a professional. His only loss a short notice fight against fellow top prospect and current UFC buzzsaw Brandon Thatch. His biggest win to date is over fellow RFA prospect Alan Jouban, but his competition level has been generally befitting of a fighter at his early career level. In his 7 pro fights, Rhodes has 3 first round stoppages and has only seen the judges twice. His most recent bout, a five round decision over the aforementioned Juban saw him capture the RFA welterweight title. As expected RFA is quickly turning into a funnel for young talent on their way to the UFC.
Watching Rhodes fight it's pretty obvious that his time with Duke Roufus is doing him a lot of good. He moves exceptionally well in and out of of range and his strikes are short and crisp. He's shown the ability to counter well with tight combinations inside of wilder strikes, and has a nice thai plum game along with some brutal ground and pound. What he isn't showing yet is the ability to generate offense outside of counter striking, and consistently with his kicking game. These are skills that he will need to improve in if he wants to reach the potential that many think he's capable of. His loss to Thatch was a prime example of a fighter waiting too much on his opponent to strike first and having too few options to return fire.
His opponent for his first UFC fight will be Pellegrino MMA fighter George Sullivan. Obviously, the 32 year old Sullivan trains alongside Kurt Pellegrino and alongside former UFC competitor Greg Soto, who Sullivan defeated in 2012. He is the current (although now former) CFFC welterweight champion and has a record of 14-3-1, currently sitting on a 6 fight win streak with 3 straight TKOs. He hasn't lost since 2011, but none of his three defeats are to particularly strong competition.
Watching Sullivan fight he's a bit of a pawing striker. He keeps his chin up and his arms somewhat stiff when he strikes and has a tendency to wade in with punches. Once he settles down he actually has a very good straight right hand and a half decent jab. His footwork isn't fantastic, but if he finds his rhythm, his size and natural power are big advantages at 170 lbs. Coupled with his striking, Sullivan has a very good sprawl and takedown defense. He moves his feet well when threatened by singles and does an excellent job not only sprawling on doubles, but moving his opponents off the line of their shot, allowing him to step out and land big strikes.
As an interesting aside, Sullivan was one of the fighters interviewed as part of the Star Ledger's multi-part story on the dangers of MMA. Sullivan's brutal weight cut was detailed, along with stories about getting rocked, and the heavy demands of MMA training. Shortly after the article was published, Sullivan's lawyer contacted numerous media publications with an official letter detailing how Sullivan felt that the project had been misrepresented to him. In light of all this, is somewhat surprising that he's on his way to the UFC so quickly.
There's not a lot of good embeddable footage for the two men, so here's a quick breakdown of the current fight card:
- Ronda Rousey and Daniel Cormier talk pro wrestling
- Dana White gives rundown on the UFC going in to 2014
- Sara McMann talks about personal loss and her relationship with the UFC
- Michael Johnson wants fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, tweeting 'let's make this happen'
- UFC Fight Night 35: Sicilia on how Dana White saved him & bar brawl over Julianna Pena