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Welcome to the UFC, Lopez & Rinaldi

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A former RFA featherweight standout is on his way to the UFC for a fight with longtime veteran Rani Yahya in South Dakota and a new lightweight fighter meets Abel Trujillo in Vegas.

Something about matching new talent with strangely difficult tests early in their career; it's not always the UFC's way, but when they decide to do it, they really seem to go all in on the idea. The latest fighter to find himself in that position is Matthew Lopez, who's signing was announced via press release. Lopez is set to face longtime bantamweight veteran Rani Yahya at UFC Sioux Falls on July 13th. Alongside Lopez's signing the UFC has apparently brought in lightweight Jordan Rinaldo, who Mike Chiappetta reports will face Abel Truillo at UFC Las Vegas on  May 29th. Rinaldi replaces Carlos Diego Ferreira who was removed from the card after being flagged by USADA for a failed drug test. Rinaldi's signing was announced when he was added to the roster. So...

Who is Matthew Lopez?

The 29-year old Reign MMA fighter will make his way to the UFC with an unbeaten 8-0 record, having competed largely for top flight regional promotion Resurrection Fighting Alliance. His time in RFA has been spent fighting fellow rising prospects, and he's grabbed first round wins over Kevin Clark, Justin Linn, and Eli Finn. Lopez actually serves as the wrestling coach at Reign MMA which has played host to Jake Ellenberger, Brendan Schaub, Jessica Penne and many many other rising fighters. Outside of MMA, Lopez was a 4x state champion wrestler in high school, but injuries seem to have derailed his college wrestling career.

What you should expect:

Lopez is a respectably powerful southpaw, who tends to press forward behind big, torquing hooks. He does a nice job not overextending himself and getting off balance, but can put himself in danger of catching shots on the return just with his pressure and aggression and offensively minded game. So far, he's been tough enough that that hasn't cost him, but he's been wobbled a few times. Lopez's striking meshes nicely with a solid wrestling game as you'd expect from a coach. He's got the natural knack for grappling flow to do well in scrambles and to lock down advantageous positions while still throwing strikes. Lopez looks like he really puts work into his ground and pound and an aggressive submission game, both of which have made him a dangerous early finisher. He's excellent at finding opportunities as opponents are looking to get out from under him on the mat.

What this means for his debut:

It's tough to say, because his opponent, Rani Yahya is so difficult to get a bead on. Yahya is one of those fighters that can drop rounds to just about anyone, but has a real knack for slowing the fight and freezing his opponent, sort of the "Jake Shields effect." Lopez is almost certainly the better striker of the two (or at least the more natural one), but Yahya  is tough enough to survive there. I feel like I should just lean Yahya on resume, but I wouldn't be shocked if Lopez pulled an upset, just because Yahya can be so anemic offensively.

To get us better acquianted, here's Lopez's recent RFA fight with Justin Linn:

Who is Jordan Rinaldi:

A competitor on the one-off TUF: Live season back in 2012, Rinaldi lost his chance for a UFC slot when he was tapped out by Joe Proctor for a spot in the house. Since then, Rinaldi's career has been a mix of hot and cold streaks., going 2-4 after his TUF loss, only to bounce back for a 5 fight win streak, which has brought him to this opportunity in the big show. Now 28, he enters the UFC with an overall career record of 12-4, with an early win over top UFC featherweight Dennis Bermudez and a recent victory over Clay Harvison as his most notable moments. He trains out of Team ROC in Charlotte, North Carolina, home to Rodney Wallace among other regional talents. Outside of MMA, Rinaldi wrestled in high school.

What you should expect:

Rinaldi is a willing striker with a reasonably deep bag of tools that he likes to throw at range. He moves well and mixes his strikes nicely, although he doesn't seem to go in for combinations striking much beyond the occasional 1-2. He shoots a decent power double from outside, and does well to maintain control once he gets an opponent to the ground. Mostly it seems like his movement and striking diversity are tools to mask the rhythm of his takedown entries. Rinaldi does a decent job changing approaches once he gets in on an opponent's hips, but his tendency to start at long distance may cost him against opponents who aren't concerned with his striking.

What this means for his debut:

I'm not sure I'd place any bets on Rinaldi scoring the upset win. The biggest problems in Trujillo's career have tended to come when opponents can really stay with him standing and either hurt him or frustrate him (or in Tibau's case out-hulk him). Otherwise, Trujillo is athletic enough to usually stay on his feet, throws hard even when tired, and hits like a truck. If Rinaldi is forced into a wrestling only gameplan, he could struggle to get Trujillo down early and really feed Trujillo's confidence of fighting someone unwilling to stand with him. And if he stands with Trujillo, he risks getting one-shot KO'd like he did against James Moontasri. Tough fight, especially on short notice.

To get us better acquainted, here's Rinaldi's recent battle with UFC vet Clay Harvison: