Good news and bad news for regional MMA fans. On the good news side, two of the better welterweight prospects in the world are on the way to the UFC. On the bad news side, Cage Warriors seems to be bleeding fighters and may be on the rocks. Undefeated former bantamweight champion Brett Johns is now fighting for Titan FC, and now welterweight champ Nicolas Dalby has left. With no 2015 events planned and no current CEO manning the helm, this could be a bad sign for what has been one of Europe's very best MMA organizations. In the mean time, no opponents or debut dates have been announced for either fighter, but they have been added to the UFC's webiste. So...
Who is Nicolas Dalby?
Fighting out of Rumble Sports in Denmark, the 30-year old Nicolas Dalby has been on the radar of MMA fans as one of the top prospects at welterweight for some time now. He just missed out on the top ten of Bloody Elbow's 2015 welterweight scouting report, but has improved even in the short time since that list came out. He trains alongside the recently retired Mats Nilsson and Cage Warriors bantamweight women's champ Pannie Kianzad and will be bringing an undefeated 13-0 record into the Octagon with him. It's really strong record with wins over rising talent like Glenn Sparv, Mohsen Bahari, Sergei Churilov, and vets Ivica Truscek and Morten Djursaa. To go with his impressive resumee, Dalby is also a practiced Karateka.
What you should expect:
I bring up Dalby's karate background, because it's a major ingredient in how he fights. He has a not-quite-side-on stance, keeping his hips cocked for a pretty high output kicking game. That doesn't mean that he's just a kick focused fighter however, Dalby has worked a lot to make his boxing dangerous, using slick combinations to pepper away in the pocket and at range. He couples all of that with a really nicely developing wrestling game and solid grappling game as well. The wrestling is the latest addition, and takes him from a Saffiedine-esque striker to a more well rounded three-dimensional threat. My biggest concerns for Dalby are that he can still be pretty hittable on the feet, for someone that strikes as much as he does, and that he doesn't pack a lot of power. In that way, he reminds me a lot of Tarec, but will hopefully stay on a more consistent fighting schedule.
To get us better acquainted, here's his last bout against Mohsen Bahari at Cage Warriors 74:
Who is Tom Breese:
The second addition to the UFC's roster this week, "Fearless" Tom Breese is a fast rising prospect on the UK scene. At only 23-years old, he brings a solid 7-0 record with him to the Octagon, fought entirely in BAMMA and CWFC. He recently made the move to Tristar for his training, working alongside all the great UFC caliber talent there. His resume isn't the prettiest I've seen, with his latest win over Thibaud Larchet probably the high watermark, but it's still solid with most of his bouts being over similarly experienced, competitive opponents. Outside of MMA, Breese is a BJJ purple belt.
What you should expect:
There are regional MMA grapplers, and then there are MMA grapplers. Breese is definitely in the latter catagory. Some fighters rack up easy wins getting low percentage, exciting submissions. Leg locks, armbars, triangle chokes, things that don't always translate well to the higher levels of MMA, because they're not necessarily part of an offensive grappling process. Breese is definitely a UFC caliber grappler, a fighter that is great at finding and securing positions and then aggressively hunting for submissions. He's got a big, wiry frame that he uses well inside to create suffocating clinch battles. And while he may not be a power wrestler, he's really good at finding takedown angles and riding positions on the ground. He throws a lot of single strikes at range, but doesn't loop on his punches too much and has a sharp kicking game when he goes to it. Not a dangerous striker, but with his ground game he doesn't have to be. Breese has a really exciting skill set as a grappler in the UFC, now it's just a question of how far that can take him.
To get us better acquainted, here's his last bout against Thibaut Larchet: